With the Rocky Mountains as its backdrop—and inspiration—Daniel Libeskind's titanium-clad extension to the Denver Art Museum, a joint venture with local firm Davis Partnership Architects, makes a bold silhouette in the Denver skyline. The largest art museum between Chicago and the Pacific Coast, home to more than 60,000 works, the DAM doubles its exhibition space with the new 146,000-square-foot Frederic C. Hamilton building, which opens October 7.
Libeskind sketched the structure's jagged, sculptural façade on his boarding pass after flying over the peaks that surround the city, en route to an interview for the job in spring of 2000 (several years before he was chosen to reimagine the World Trade Center site and months before the 2001 opening of his most famous work to date, Berlin's Jewish Museum). More than $90 million and 2,740 tons of steel later, Libeskind's futuristic five-level space in Denver's downtown—his first completed project in North America—now serves as the museum's main entrance and houses its collection of 20th-century and contemporary art and a selection of Oceanic, African, and Western American art. Special exhibitions and traveling shows occupy three galleries on the first and second floors. DAM's renowned collections of pre-Columbian and Spanish colonial art and vast holdings of Native American art remain in the original 1971 museum building, designed by Italian architect Gio Ponti. The expansion connects to the crenellated towers of Ponti's museum via a second-story bridge.
Libeskind's wing joins a confluence of notable buildings located in downtown Denver's east end. Michael Graves's 1996 redesign of the public library is just beyond the museum complex. Due west, construction is under way on another cultural addition: the Museum of Contemporary Art, by British architect David Adjaye, set to open in fall 2007.