Newspapers now usually don’t write very much about a preservation issue, but when they do, it can be eye-opening.

That’s eye-opening because in a story in today’s Denver Post, the first paragraph reads: “The brute stands five stories tall at the intersection of Speer Boulevard and Lincoln Street in Denver, wrapped in panels of red Colorado sandstone and concrete, its grids of rectangular windows facing every direction but north.”

Brute? Really? Like the Incredible Hulk or Frankenstein or a Marvel comic movie? 

The actual architectural style is Brutalism, which is based on solid materials, mainly concrete, and the overwhelming sense of importance and strength. Just about every city I’ve worked in (a lot), there have been examples of Brutalism in civic and educational purposes. Denver has some fine examples, but Channel 7 is captivating because of the use of crushed Colorado Red Rock that complements the gray concrete. (And when viewing the Barbican in London, I fell in love with that style, and it still reverberates.) 

(Please note: The photograph above shows the west side of the office tower and stair tower, camera facing east. Photo by Brad Cameron, February 2021.)

But this is a better way to explain the style, in the application for designation for saving this building, submitted in February. I’ve been calling it the Channel7 building at 123 Speer Boulevard, rather than the 1969 KLZ Communications Center, but now it houses KMGH-TV:

“The KLZ Communications Center is significant as a rare and distinctive example of mid-century Brutalist architecture in downtown Denver. Among recognized examples, the KLZ Communications Center is outstanding for its strong adherence to Brutalist principles, unique form, and extensive use of native Colorado Red Rock, a creative and purposeful decision that strongly ties the building to the local landscape. 

“In early 1950s Europe, the terms ‘brutalist’ and ‘New Brutalism’ began to be used to describe an evolving approach to architecture that, in addition to closely adhering to Modern architecture’s dictate that form follow function, celebrated raw materials, eschewed decoration, and sought to present a true and honest architectural expression by exposing a building’s structural and mechanical components to view. The term ‘Brutalism’ was not meant to evoke or describe architecture that was harsh, cold, or uncomfortable, but rather employed to highlight the new movement’s strong connection to the post-World War II work of world-renowned architect Le Corbusier, in which béton brut, French for ‘raw concrete,’ played a substantial role.”

Now you might think this is fancy-schmancy stuff about that style, but its importance is reflected in the Channel7 building. The KMGH-TV executives and the owner, Scripps Media, have help from CRL, a lobbying firm with muscles, and an “evaluation” by a company that comes up with some really unusual information. The owners want to sell the land and move the employees elsewhere. The usual one and done. 

One might think that an editor would love to have a story that had something light-hearted in it…. Like brute, which rhymes with cute. But it’s not really very funny. 

The three applicants trying to save the tower on that land want to find a way for adaptive re-use of the tower. If this does not work, there will be a 12-story apartment building on the land – and, of course, Denver has absolutely no new apartment buildings, most of which look like it is in a 1950s movie in the Soviet Union. Blocky, boxy, but with splashes of color with Hardie board. We’re drowning in those. 

At the end of the day, however, the designation will be discussed at the full Denver City Council in May. My fear, as always, is that history in Denver will go up like a puff of smoke and at some point there will be nothing to remember. There is no way to save a city by preserving it in amber, and that shouldn’t happen, but the fine buildings should be able to stick around for years into the future.

Just one link, and it is all about the brute:

https://www.denverpost.com/2021/04/30/denver-7-landmark-demolition-brutalist-development/

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