High Expectations Fuel Iconic Design When All Angles Align in Denver, Colorado
by Sean O’Keefe, professional writer for the construction & design industry
Architecture is a many-sided conversation, and the best of it is inspired by place, purpose, and point of view. In design, the term parti describes the central organizational thought driving a conceptual solution. Shortened from parti pris of 15th century, a literal translation means the decision taken, expressing the resounding confidence of a choice made well. Prism is a sleek new office building that dazzles like a gemstone at 17th and Curtis in the Central Business District of Denver, Colorado. Unmistakably, Prism’s exterior is distinguished by six angled glass planes that shatter conventional thinking and establish a high-profile presence unlike any other.
“The word prestige embodies the design and development goals we established for Prism from the beginning,” says Peter Culshaw, executive vice president of Shea Properties, a diversified real estate company with holdings in Colorado, California, and Washington. Only nine-stories tall, Prism is a small floor plate building offering a sense of exclusivity across 94,583 sq.ft. of leasable office space. For architects Davis Partnership, Denver, establishing a careful balance of presence and purpose led to the creation of the building’s iconic presence along 17th Street.
“The high-activity corner connected to a vibrant, global business threshold and the small floor plate dictates premium-rate tenants. Everything here pointed toward a bold, dramatic expression,” said David Daniel, Davis Partnership principal, who was a key figure in the sharp design. “When everything aligns and it makes sense to really push boundaries, it’s very exciting.”
Readily recognizable from the street, tenants will enjoy working in a building located in the center of the city that is hard to overlook. Prism’s folded glass curtainwall conspires with Hotel Monaco next to it to unify the block visually. Prism’s five diagonal folds use the hotel’s massing and fenestration as organizational reference points to subtly align with existing context while maintaining a sharp, independent presence.
Prism’s edgy appearance is no illusion. Structural engineers at S.A. Miro, Denver, were challenged to design structural columns that bend and slope to create the building’s form, rather than straight columns merely faced with a jagged curtain wall. The building’s structural skeleton is made of structural steel beams and a composite concrete slab on metal deck. Headed anchor studs are welded to structural beams and concrete is cast over them allowing the concrete to take compression forces and the steel to take tension forces.
“Prism joins The Quincy in revitalizing an entire city block, one of two very different design expressions within the same overall redevelopment,” said Daniel. Both buildings were designed by Davis Partnership and built by GE Johnson Construction Company, Colorado Springs, Colorado, in a two-phase development process. The Quincy, delivered in phase one is a 28-story, residential tower offering 359 units of luxury living in studios, apartments, and stunning penthouses. High-end finishes and expansive views of the city and the Front Range join a best-in-class amenities package to deliver exceptional downtown living. The Quincy adds a thoughtful, destination living environment to Denver’s Central Business District. The building’s signature feature is the amenity plaza boasting a swimming pool distinguished by a fully transparent exterior wall eight stories above Curtis Street. An elegantly styled rooftop lounge surrounding the pool includes multiple hot tubs, grilling, and fire-pit gathering areas all framed by the towers rising above.
While Prism incorporated structural steel, The Quincy is built on a cast-in-place concrete structure supporting a pre-cast exterior skin. The combination allows a lot of design flexibility for varying floor heights and minimizing column locations to create large internal spans and open units while also contributing to a cost-effective, buildable solution. The site development strategy for the two properties leveraged a shared 534-stall parking structure as a dual-building solution, by which the two properties are conjoined. This allows Shea to offer Prism tenants parking by demand. Along with upscale, ground-floor retail in both buildings, Prism and The Quincy uniquely offer a downtown lifestyle tailored to live, work, play expectations.
“Success in development is a team effort,” said Culshaw. “We rely on in-house professionals, financial partners, and, of course, creative architects, smart contractors, and an awful lot of skilled craftsmen to develop exceptional properties like Prism and The Quincy.”