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Architectural Installations at the Biennial of the Americas, Denver

Draft Urbanism: Four temporary structures are inserted in downtown Denver acknowledging and embracing urban space in flux

Draft Urbanism is a celebration of the diverse ways we can address the urbanism through the arts, while maintaining a deep understanding and respect for the city’s rich history. Artists and architects from the North American and South American continent were asked to design large scale installations responding to key site-specific urban issues in downtown Denver, offering residents and visitors to the Biennial the opportunity to reflect on the evolving relationship we have with our cities.

MINE PAVILION by Pezo von Ellrichshausen

Pezo von Ellrichshausen’s Mine Pavilion addresses the gap created by an 8-lane artery between Denver’s vibrant city centre and isolated University of Colorado’s Auraria campus. The installation mixes architectural typologies, each echoing particular aspects of the site’s history and context. It is seen as a monolith by drivers and experienced as a tunnel by pedestrians. According to the architects, the installation is tower-like because of its height and proportions, bridge-like because of its intermediary site and like a mining building because of its façade and structural detailing. Mine Pavilion prominently occupies the urban void it sits in, endowing the grassy site with new value and fusing multiple city narratives into one.

Penzo von Ellrichshausen's Mine Pavilion, 2013

Pezo von Ellrichshausen’s Mine Pavilion, 2013
© Cristobal Palma

THE HOTEL REHEARSAL by Alex Schweder

Schweder’s Hotel Rehearsal is a prototype for an alternative take on the transformation of Denver’s surface parking lots into hotels. The automobile, icon of suburban sprawl, is merged with the elevator, icon of urban density, to create a traveling hotel room. Sitting atop a minivan, the transparent inflatable room ascends into the sky and provides its single occupant with shower, sofa-bed and magazines, as well as a view onto the surrounding high-rises, mountains and plains. Rather than adopting a uniform approach for the conversion of all downtown parking lots, Schweder’s hybrid structure suggests a customised response to each site, arguing for the benefits of temporary installations and enabling guests to experience hotel spaces before they exist.

Alex Schweder's Hotel Rehearsal, 2013

Alex Schweder’s Hotel Rehearsal, 2013
© Cristobal Palma

SKYLINE CLOUD by Plan:B Arquitectos

Plan:B’s Skyline Cloud transforms an underutilized park in downtown Denver into a public space favouring informal gathering and interaction. The hard-packed dirt, leaves and empty bottles are removed to make room for upturned umbrella-like canopies. The installation’s cluster of teal coloured nylon fabrics on steel provides residents and visitors with shade, calling for civic participation and social activities, planned or spontaneous, to take place. Plan:B’s installation humanizes the city backdrop and grim buildings surrounding the site: conceived as a stage set, it is activated by people eating lunch, playing table tennis, attending a beer festival or watching a movie.

Plan:B's Skyline Cloud, 2013

Plan:B’s Skyline Cloud, 2013
© Cristobal Palma

THE MIRROR STAGES by June14

June14’s The Mirror Stages hopes to confront the unarticulated tensions between Denver’s various subcultures. The installation is located on a tree-lined plaza in a diverse area with many economic and ethnic backgrounds. Benches, phone booths and other pieces of urban furniture are enclosed by nets and a new species is introduced to the existing urban ecology: butterflies. As pedestrians enter the cages, they cannot help but engage with the technicolour flying insects. June14’s structures enable passers-by to share a delighted common experience and offers shelter from the mall’s cacophony.

June14's Mirror Stages, 2013

June14’s Mirror Stages, 2013
© Cristobal Palma

FACT FILE

Draft Urbanism at the Biennial of the Americas in Denver, ended September 2nd
Curators: Carson Chan, Gaspar Libedinsky, Paul Andersen
Photographer: Cristobal Palma
Artists and Architects: Pezo von Ellrichshausen, Alex Schweder, Plan:B Arquitectos, June14

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