When a building is demolished, our memory of the architect begins to fade

1 Muchow 990 Bannock facade IMG_2360

For the past few months, I have been following the long and miserable demise of a building in the Golden Triangle.

The photos show a 1982 building at 990 Bannock Street, and one showing an excavator gnawing away at the building. Let’s call it the jaws. The building seems to be spilling its guts as the jaws bite away.

When the remains are finally cleared away, the site will become a staging area for an apartment building to be developed by Lennar Multifamily at West 10thAvenue and Acoma Street. That land is now a parking lot.

The building being demolished was designed by William Muchow, known as the dean of architects in Denver. He died in 1991, but his firm – W.C. Muchow and Partners – was what we now would call an incubator.

Architects who worked for Muchow included a dean’s list of prominent and respected architects based in Denver. Think George Hoover, Karl Berg, Dayl Larsen, G. Cabell Childress, Paul Hutton, William Dilatush, Peter Dominick, and Jeff Sheppard (I’m sure there are many more). In my research, I learned that Muchow and his team designed more than 850 buildings.

Even as I write this, I know how many architects in Denver have watched their buildings get scraped or remade to resemble something else — some buildings as little as 20 years old.

The building at 990 Bannock was occupied for several years by workers at Denver Health. But the building, constructed by Public Service (now Xcel), began as the first step to create a large mega-block corporate office development that was going to revitalize that end of the Golden Triangle. 990 Bannock would have been part of that project.

Back in the day, I’ve been told, Public Service and US West (later Quest and now CenturyLink) could spin off real estate divisions to develop property and then lease back to the utility at above-market rent. That economic gold mine was shut down by the state, and only one building – 990 Bannock — was constructed to be part of the complex. This left the building sited in an awkward direction. Still, 990 Bannock exhibited a forward-thinking and competent design.

Later, a major developer in the Triangle bought up land after the Black Monday debacle in 1987. At the same time, the Golden Triangle was vying for the city’s convention center to be built in what was then a sleepy part of town, but that project was selected for the Silver Triangle downtown.  The 1990 version of the convention center was expanded more than a decade later, and in the process, brought about the demolition of Muchow’s Currigan Hall.  It’s not quite bad karma, but…

The photos below show Muchow buildings that have been demolished (or had a new mini-façade glued onto it), and three remaining buildings by the firm.

For more on Bill Muchow, here’s a link to a biography and list of his firm’s buildings: https://www.historycolorado.org/sites/default/files/media/document/2017/Architects_muchow.pdf

3A Muchow Screen Shot 2019-03-27 at 2.09.58 PM

4A Muchow Screen Shot 2019-03-27 at 2.10.31 PM

 

 

2 Replies to “When a building is demolished, our memory of the architect begins to fade”

  1. That is a shame – didn’t realize it was being torn down. The project won a Denver AIA Honor award in 1983. I was on the project team headed up by Herb Roth, FAIA. The project went through an internal competition with one inward focused courtyard scheme, headed up by Herb Jensen, and the other built version which focused all of its energy on the south end with an extruded structural frame, waterfall, exposed elevator cores, bridge entry and much more. You are correct, the building rightly or not, turned away from the street based on an unrealized master plan. In hindsight, the design was flawed in its relationship to the street and the Alucobond skin was not aging well, but the building had great potential for repurposing. And as you point out, another lost legacy of what was one of the most important architectural firms in Denver’s history.

    Incubator is an apt description of the culture of W.C. Muchow and Partners. I would add Michael Barber, Mike Jacoby, Harvey Hine, Lisa Gallun, Margie Snow, Steve Schonberger, Steve Juroszek and Herb Roth (among others) to your list of distinguished alum.

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    1. Thank you, Alan. I followed that demo for many weeks. The building fought back, but couldn’t win against that jaws-wielding machine. I know some people cared, and some people (like you) know how important the Muchow firm was, including the architects who worked there and then carried on to their own firms. The city doesn’t care, and I would assume that many people in Denver don’t care, either. It will be a staging area for construction catty-corner on Acoma, which I am sure will be absolutely superbly overwhelming….. And make some people a lot of money.

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