All it takes is a glance at the cityscape to see that Denver is buzzing with growth.
With new buildings, new businesses and new people, it can be hard to keep track of the changes happening in and around the city. Organizations such as the Denver Architectural Foundation (DAF), which has a program that connects Denver Public Schools (DPS) students with architecture professionals, are committed to inspiring residents to get out and explore the city.
As part of this mission, CU Denver Instructor Maria Delgado, a doctoral candidate in the Design and Planning program in the College of Architecture and Planning (CAP), along with RMH Group President Bill Green, and Bill Myhren, architect at EV Studio, set up a series of monthly hard-hat tours beginning in 2012. “As Denver’s skyline grows rapidly, the tours allow the public to access exclusive sites to learn and experience the change firsthand,” said Delgado.
In the most recent hard-hat tour, CU Denver students and the surrounding community got a close-up look at the Confluence building, where some of Denver’s newest residents are living. Overlooking Confluence Park and the South Platte River, the Confluence is a 35-story, luxury high-rise, sporting an impressive set of amenities, including a frameless window pool with resistance jets and valet parking.
The hard-hat tours are more than just a preview of Denver’s newest building projects; they’re a chance for CU Denver students to engage with the city and its community – CU in the City.
Getting hands-on experience
Every construction crane dotting the horizon is another sign of the rapidly expanding Denver community. However, while the community is growing, the space is not, making it more important than ever to have innovative architects who can make the most of city spaces. Fortunately, CU Denver students are ready to step up to the plate.
“What makes CU Denver so great is that the city is right in the backyard,” said CU Denver alumnus Alexander Person III. “There are so many opportunities to engage and become a part of Denver’s close-knit community.”
Person graduated from CAP with a master’s in urban design. Since then he has continued to work in the Denver area as a project manager with Van Meter Williams Pollack LLP.
An important part of working in any field is getting hands-on experiences that inspire innovation. “The hard-hat tours give us a chance to see other architects and designers experimenting with new materials and new technologies, and that’s really exciting,” said CAP graduate student Lauren Sherman-Boemker.
The design and construction of a new building requires more than an idea and the tools to build it. Architecture is a synthesis of skills – a balancing act between creative design and the realities of construction. Choosing materials, budgeting, and coordinating with construction crews are only a few of the skills required of an architect. Learning these skills requires gaining the knowledge as well as knowing how to apply it.
“Opportunities like the hard-hat tours give us the kind of hands-on experience not always available in a classroom setting,” Sherman-Boemker said.
Contributing to the community
Sitting in the heart of the city, CU Denver is a big part of what makes Denver such an enriching place to live. “One of the reasons I chose to live in Denver and go to CU Denver was because of the intellectual diversity and the opportunity to connect with different kinds of people who strive to make themselves and our city better,” Person said.
When classmates become neighbors, and neighbors become business partners, a tremendous sense of community is created. The more students can engage with that community, the more connected they become. “The hard-hat tours give me a chance to network with people in the field and with community members,” said Sherman-Boemker. “It really brings the Denver community full circle.”
As the city provides opportunities for CU Denver students, so too do the students give back to the city. The funds raised by each hard-hat tour contribute to enriching the learning experience of DPS students. “Over five years we have fund-raised a gross of nearly $24,000, which supports the DAF nonprofit 501(c)(3) Cleworth Architectural Legacy Program that links DPS students to construction and design professionals,” Delgado said. The Cleworth Architectural Legacy Program is DAF’s flagship program that brings architecture into the classroom to connect DPS children with the built community.