The original Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, designed in 1936 by New Mexico architect John Gaw Meem, is considered one of Colorado’s ten most significant buildings and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The program for Tryba Architects’ 2005 expansion and renovation called for restoration to all public spaces and galleries and the addition of new permanent and temporary exhibition space, public meeting and event spaces, classrooms, artist studios, a restaurant and café and additional storage.
The restoration of over 66,000 sf of existing structure and the addition of more than 66,000 sf of new building emerged as a carefully choreographed ballet of contrasts: between the old and the new, the earth and the sky; solid and void; concrete and glass; sun and shade.
Seamless connection with the historic fabric
The prominent feature of the addition is a glass-enclosed corridor extending eastward along the southern edge of the interior courtyard, terminating in a sculpture garden. This corridor mirrors Meem’s original design, but allows the outdoors to flow into the interior. The two halls form a strong axis seamlessly uniting the old and new buildings with the lobby serving as a central pivot. This design provides for the uninterrupted flow of pedestrian traffic and uninterrupted viewshed throughout the entire building.
The addition advances the same forward-thinking ideals Meem expressed more than eighty years ago in his neo-pueblo acropolis: human-scale and harmony with the landscape. Natural light is the central theme, linking the structure with the adjacent landscape through the interplay of art and the natural environment. The transparency is in deliberate contrast to the original heavy concrete mass. The main circulation wraps the historic courtyard in glass and a processional corridor/gallery links the extensive permanent collection galleries to those dedicated to large traveling exhibitions. The resulting arrangement unites traditional Southwestern design with a style that is inherently modern.