Design review is the way to go

Quality courthouse at stake

Denver wasted no time in naming a high-level architectural peer review panel for the new courthouse that will be part of the Justice Center complex. It was the wise thing to do given public concern about the design once the original lead architect, Steven Holl, jumped ship and left the project in the hands of the local partner, klipp Architecture.

The courthouse will be one of the enduring buildings that help define the city. So it’s of great importance for its design to be successful in its own right while complementing the other buildings in the complex and enhancing the Colfax Avenue corridor. The panel will include three other architects who are working on the Justice Center: David Owen Tryba, who is the master urban design architect; Lee Becker, lead architect for the detention facility; and Ranko Ruizic, a lead designer with the firm responsible for the post office and parking garage building. They’ll be joined by three distinguished architects independent of the project, and the panel will be overseen by Peter Park, the city’s manager of Community Planning and Development.

Such review panels are commonly used on major projects, including federal courthouses. Federal guidelines say the purpose “is not to mandate solutions but to highlight opportunities to strengthen the design and fulfill project requirements.”

James Mejia, the project’s policy manager, said panel members “should have an interest in assisting the design process, rather than merely critiquing it.”

They’ve already begun. The courthouse plan is about halfway through the “schematic” phase, in which the basic outlines of the building are set, and it works well with the detention center, Mayor John Hickenlooper said. The city has solicited the first round of comments, and there will be several more, as well as workshops and on-site visits, by the time the process wraps up toward the end of January.

Hickenlooper praised Brian Klipp of klipp Architecture for his effective collaboration with the panel. He too recognizes the importance of the project.

It looks more likely than it did just a few weeks ago that Denver will get the kind of building it deserves. Keeping faith with the public, Hickenlooper said, means delivering what voters were promised when they approved the justice center, and delivering it on time and on budget.

If the review panel can contribute to that outcome, the city made a wise move in bringing it into the process.

Rocky Mountain News, November 26, 2006

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~ by anick on November 26, 2006.

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