Denver Gets the ‘Cool City’ Thumbs Up, Seattle Doesn’t Do As Well


When this writer was ooing and ahhing during a trip to Denver earlier in the year, he talked to co-editor Alissa, who has some extended experience with Colorado, and she said something to effect of “Yeah, Denver’s becoming the place for architecture and art and general coolness” (she actually speaks far more eloquently than when she’s being paraphrased, we promise). To prove that point, we found this story from The Rocky Mountain News, “A Year in Denver Art, Architecture,” a series of brief lines about everything the city is doing right, from Adjaye’s MCA to Libeskind’s Art Museum to all the plans the city has now that they’ve been struck with fancy dancy architecture/art fever. However, for every good beacon of hope city, there must be its opposite to balance things out. We suppose it’s Seattle getting the short end of this equation, as the American Institute of Architects has shamed the rain soaked city as such:

“For a city with such strengths — education, culture, natural environment, wealth — the jury hoped to see more evidence of leadership and risk, and less comfort with an already well-digested regional design language. Great architecture occurs when a great designer creates new opportunity.”

Maybe even worse, the local press backs up the AIA judges:

But if you take your own year’s-end tour of new buildings in Seattle and its environs, it’s hard to argue with the jurors’ harsh assessment. While some good and interesting buildings are rising, one comes away with the feeling that architects are indeed failing to risk and lead.

It’s not that we need innovation for entertainment or notoriety — we have the library and EMP for that — but for the sake of solving real problems, such as unaffordable housing. And for shaping the city’s identity in a distinctive and environmentally appropriate way, so we don’t just look like a watery Dallas.

As an aside, that last line factors into the age old formula: “when you’re knocked down, take a quick jab at Dallas to make yourself feel a little better.” Since we’re here at the moment, we’d also allow “Phoenix” to be inserted in there too. Ick.