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Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.

Lowenstein Cultural Center in Denver, Colorado by Semple Brown Design

April 3rd, 2011 by Sumit Singhal

The prominent urban site located along East Colfax Avenue was the first anchor development for the City of Denver’s Colfax Redevelopment Plan. The idea was to create a vibrant urban center incorporating anchor tenants with a focus on Music, Books and Movies.  It was envisioned that the synergy created between the two retailers and the movie theatre would help to invigorate the neighborhood and work as a catalyst for the revitalization of East Colfax Avenue.  A cinema was originally cast to go into the vacated historic Lowenstein Theatre, but after a programmatic change the historic Theatre was renovated to for the local bookstore Tattered Cover.  This left the new building, which houses a local music venue Twist & Shout and Denver Film Center, to reinforce the urban edge of Colfax and Elizabeth streets.

South West View

  • Architects: Semple Brown Design
  • Project: Lowenstein Cultural Center
  • Location: Denver, Colorado, USA
  • Total Size: 92,000 square feet
  • Core & Shell Cost: $5.1 million
  • Completion: 2007

South View Promenade

Semple Brown Design, P.C. – Architect

  • Principal –in-Charge: Russell L. Brown, Jr.
  • Architect/Designer: Kevin Stephenson
  • Designer/Job Captain: Leila Schwyhart
  • Theatre Design Expert: Chris Wineman

South East View


  • Structural Engineer: McGlammery Structural Group
  • Electrical/Mechanical/Plumbing Engineer: Belfay Engineering
  • Civil Engineer: JVA Incorporated
  • General Contractor: Swinerton Builders
  • Signage Consultant: ArtHouse
  • Photography: Ron Pollard

Promenade Courtyard

The project’s components consist of new retail (25,920 square feet), a 203-space parking garage and a renovated historic theatre. The design team’s intent was to reinforce the Esplanade (parking and fountain), which fronts East High School and connects to East Colfax Avenue, by placing the project on axis with it. A smaller Esplanade was created by vacating the alley and converting it into an urban pedestrian street which connects the two buildings with the garage.


MASSING: To meet the developer’s needs, the site needed to be built-out on all sides as well and the building’s height was maximized to a bulk plane of 55’ above the street.  The resulting massing was an ominous partner to the historic Lowenstein Theatre building which steps down from the fly tower to a much lower massing at Colfax Avenue.

North West Corner

In order to resolve massing issues the design team took small shifts to the garage structure, visually breaking it down into smaller pieces.  These elements were either completely solid, open, or became part of the art piece.


Homage was paid to the original Lowenstein lobby façade by taking critical datums from the old building over to the new. For example, the metal clad entrance to the music store was a direct translation from the theatre’s roof line on Colfax Avenue.  Also, the prominent gallery windows on the Lowenstein were measured and reinterpreted into a louvered truss/screening element on the upper level of the garage.

Before Photo of Site

Time was also a major challenge.  To meet the needs of the bookstore’s required move-in date, the garage needed to be completed within 7 months from the time the program was first given to the architectural team. The Architects and Structural engineers had little more than a week to commit to the overall structural layout and grid which meant that the architectural design of the building needed to be resolved as well.  The move-in date was achieved, though at the cost of many sleepless nights for the designers.

North West Cornerdone

With a core and shell construction cost of $55/sf the design team was forced to find inexpensive materials for the building structure and skin while also trying to make a comfortable pedestrian experience on three sides of the building.

East Elevation

MATERIALS: Three colors of cementitious stucco, standing seam metal wall panels, precast concrete panels (acid washed and standard finishes) and expanded aluminum panels were used as cladding for the building.  The 4’x10’ expanded aluminum panels were layered to provide both visual interest and screening for cars on the upper decks of the parking garage.  The aluminum panels cost less than 25 cents a square foot for materials which makes it one of the most economical screening elements available.  Charcoal colored standing seam panels were used to identify the record store’s entrance.  Acid washed precast concrete panels were used with standard storefront system for a restaurant along Colfax.  The change in materials along Colfax from precast to metal panels helped to give identity to the individual tenants while also helping humanize the scale of the building for pedestrians.


North Plan

Contact Semple Brown Design

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Category: Cultural Center

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