USGBC Sustainable Bike Tour this Friday

This week is the USGBC Rocky Mountain Green Conference.  After learning about a bike tour for event attendees to different sustainably-oriented building projects in Denver, I had Clayton Bartzcak from Ambient Energy tell us a bit more about the event.. See below.  Thanks Clayton!  If you’re planning on attending Rocky Mountain Green, this might be something interesting to participate in:


Join us on the third annual USGBC Bike Tour of green buildings in downtown Denver!

Enhance your Rocky Mountain Green conference experience by joining us on a Bike Tour of exciting sustainable projects throughout downtown Denver! This is an enjoyable way to earn GBCI or AIA Continuing Education hours and get to know Denver at the same time. Don’t have a bike? Don’t worry, Denver B-Cycle has agreed to provide bikes for anyone that needs one for this tour so you’re covered! Participants are welcome to bring their own bikes as well.

The tour will begin at the B-Cycle station at 19th and Market. We will tour several diverse types of sustainable projects including residential, office, mixed use, and urban agriculture sites. Tour stops will include the Renaissance Stout Street Lofts, the Colorado Convention Center’s Blue Bear Farm, the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado’s newly renovated home at the Alliance Center, and the Union Station development area. We will finish off the tour with a rooftop networking happy hour event – everyone’s usually pretty thirsty after all the biking!

The tour will take place on Friday April 18th from 1pm to 5pm and is limited to attendees of Rocky Mountain Green. The regular conference educational sessions and speakers will take place on Thursday April 18th at the Embassy Suites in downtown Denver. Each year, the U.S. Green Building Council Colorado convenes a diverse audience of built environment professionals to learn from each other and spread the good word of green building. The Rocky Mountain Green conference provides third party reviewed green building education sessions and is produced by U.S. Green Building Council Colorado staff and volunteers.

Don’t miss out on this fun way to tour green building projects in downtown Denver, all from the comfort of a bicycle! Sign up today at

This Week: Doors OPEN Denver 2014

Despite not being able to attend due to my slightly ridiculous ARE study schedule (quick update: 2 down, 5 to go.. and yes, I am counting… all the while feeling strange swings of both hope and despair at the temporary but extended loss of freedom in exchange for quality time with the Prometric staff, uncomfortable noise-cancelling headphones, and the baristas of my neighborhood coffee shop…) I’m using this post as a chance to highlight Doors OPEN Denver, an event I would recommend to architecture enthusiasts, or really anyone that is curious about what the interiors of many of the old, historic, potentially-haunted buildings of Downtown Denver might look like…

The 2014 event is happening this upcoming Saturday and Sunday, April 12th and 13th.  The event is free and entails a literal translation of the event title: many historic buildings in Denver simply “open their doors” for the public to tour their spaces.

Tickets are required for expert-led tours (see website below for more information, as well as the tour map)  but I was both impressed and wooed by the overall informality and accessible nature of the event– whether you want to visit one building or ten, most sites were relatively flexible about people moseying through their spaces for a short or long look at antiques (I highly recommend the Kirkland Museum,) oddities (found in many themed Bed and Breakfasts in Capitol Hill,) and/or grand architecture of a time and place when budget and time were not they key drivers of a project…

For more information/to plan your route:


Emerging Professionals’ 2014 Exhibition .. Getting Your Work Out There

Donahue, Cheng, and Lemke's accepted 2014 submission

Donahue, Cheng, and Lemke’s accepted 2014 submission

Just a quick post to highlight  work currently on exhibit in Washington, D.C. featuring Emerging Architectural Professional’s design work.   I’d recommend architects/architectural interns in the Colorado area check out the exceptional work their peers across the country are designing, researching, and building, with potential hopes of inspiring future submittals for next year’s 2015 exhibition…

The exhibition is described by the AIA as the following: “The American Institute of Architects, Center for Emerging Professionals sponsors an annual exhibition of architectural work, art, and designs of emerging architectural professionals across North America. This annual exhibition promotes the compelling work of the rising generation of architects and designers and inspires professionals to continue to mentor and engage the many talented and motivated emerging professionals across the country.”

This year, Colorado’s own Katie Donahue, Assoc. AIA, Yandy Cheng and Mason Limke are featured for the “Pulp Wall” they designed and fabricated while at UC Denver.  The 2013 exhibition featured an impressive (2x) accepted submissions from Brad Tomecek, AIA.

A submission typically consists of project boards (2d or 3d) as well as a submittal form and a release for imagery to be waived.  Stay tuned on the AIA’s website for 2015 submission dates if this peaks your interest…

MOST RECENT PORTFOLIO Katie Donahue Page 006

Alternative Practice(s) In Denver

When I’m not architecting or blogging, I’m editing for the Young Architect’s Forum “Connection” e-zine, published by the AIA.  One of the best parts of editing is getting to source new content, and in the process, the chance to meet people that are being bold and brave in pursuing their passions and making them realities.

Over the past year or so, I’ve met a lot of people that are pursuing what I might call “alternative practice.” This isn’t a new term, but perhaps a varied term in regards to how it’s used. I would define this as individuals that are pursuing design in methods that correlate with architectural tools and processes, but their intentions and outcomes often diverge from a functional “building.”

For example, for the upcoming issue of Connection, I interviewed a Professor I worked with in London, Alain Chiaradia.  While he began his career in architecture, he quickly realized his passion for design research and analysis on the urban scale.  He now teaches at Cardiff University, while researching and practicing urban design aimed at transformation through spatial analysis.  Prior to featuring Alain, I showcased the work of Viktor Venson, Co-founder of “No Right Brain Left Behind.”  As an ad-man-turned-designer, Venson has been working to create prototypes of new learning environments meant to facilitate learning and creativity in schools.

While architecture lends itself to being interdisciplinary (each project requires becoming a pseudo-expert in a different type of program, building typology, etc.,) I have become increasingly interested in the range of applications architectural tools and thinking can be applied to for various problem-solving efforts on a wide range of scales.

As a resident of Denver, what is interesting to me is that the Colorado design community also seems to have a growing number of professionals that are pursuing “alternative practice.”  Here’s a quick snapshot of two dynamic individuals based in Colorado that balance architecture with other multidisciplinary pursuits, Kelton Osborn and Julie Spinnato:


Kelton Osborn

Kelton Osborn

Kelton Osborn,  Artist and Architect

(1)    What is your background (educationally and professionally)?  How did it get you to where you are now (professionally)?

My undergraduate degree is in Architecture with a minor in Printmaking from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. Right out of school I worked for an adobe home builder where I gained immense knowledge about construction. After building several homes, I secured a position working for Antoine Predock also in Albuquerque. After two years, I moved to Denver to attend the University of Colorado at Denver where I earned my Master of Architecture degree. While in graduate school I was lucky enough to cross paths with professor Douglas Darden. Douglas became my mentor – motivating me to operate outside my design comfort zone and pushing me to uncover my true design process.

Over the years I have worked for several Denver architecture firms, each offering valuable personal and professional experiences. Looking back, I’m proud to have had a hand in many exciting projects.

In 2009, I was laid off from my full time architectural position. I decided to take advantage of the situation by switching my primary focus to art. This also allowed me to spend more time with my young daughter. In the past several years, I have completed my first public art commission for the city of Denver and my first solo show at a downtown gallery – while continuing to practice architecture. The difference is, I am able to take on a wider variety of project types.

(2)    What role does architecture play in your current work?

My art and architecture have always meshed and influenced each other. To me, it is all design, whether it is painting, building furniture or designing a building. I am fortunate in that I am able to create things from a very small and intimate scale to a large habitable scale. The Berkeley Lake public art commission I completed last year is a combination of landscape design, architecture and sculpture.

(3)    Can you give an example of a project you’ve completed that employs architectural thinking or processes that yield an unexpected or “non-architectural” outcome?

I suppose that my recent paintings are the result of my “architectural thinking” because I believe most everything in our lives can influence design. I tend to start with a notion or process that is very intuitive. I believe that any starting point in the design process is valid and if you allow your intuition to lead, you can discover many unexpected outcomes.

My current show at the Carmen Wiedenhoeft Gallery “fragments revealed: a continuous process” illustrates this process.

Some impressive examples of Kelton’s work, on display now at the Carmen Widenhoeft Gallery, as well as his recent commission for Denver’s Urban Arts Commission:

StrataGall IMG_1187 Buoy_cropDSCN1709 - Version 2Linear_crop Berkeley Park Public Art


Julie_headshotJulie Spinnato, Architect, Yoga Instructor, and Artist

(1) What is your background (educationally and professionally)?  How did it get you to where you are now (professionally)?

I received a B. Arch from Carnegie Mellon University and spent a year studying abroad at University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.  I spent a summer during college working as a wrangler at Colorado Mountain Ranch in Gold Hill and fell in love with Colorado.  Upon graduation, I interviewed at firms in Denver and was offered a job at one office’s Vail office.  I worked in three firms in Vail before opening my own firm, Studio Spinnato in 2007.  I moved to Denver recently and have recently accepted an associate position with a friend from Vail, Ken Bridges at Blueline Architects.

(2) Do you find any overlaps between teaching yoga and practicing architecture?

I think that through teaching yoga I have learned to communicate effectively as well as listen throughly.  I also think that clients can be overwhelmed in the design and construction process and to teach them through the process is a valuable tool.

(3) What type of art do you do?

Primarily I am a painter.  I usually paint what is in my immediate environment.  While living in Vail, I painted a lot of landscapes, primarily aspen trees.  I spent time in New Mexico and have painted a lot of Western scenes.  I currently I dabbling with the idea of a juxaposition of the West and the cityscape.

(4) Can you cite a project you’ve completed that employs architectural thinking or processes that yield an unexpected or “non-architectural” outcome?

I entered a recycled art show last year and painted on recycled shutters from Habitat for Humanity. The piece, “Dark Horse Shuttered” won first place.

Some examples of a range of Julie’s work:

dark horse shuttered practicing yoga  aspens-potrippin bootsARCOBCCOHEN0357

Visualization Tools: A Quick Debrief on the State of Design Representation in Denver

3d topography model of speculative landscape project, generated in Rhino, rendered over with vray and Rhino. Copyright: Mosenthal, all rights reserved.

3d topography model of speculative landscape project, generated in Rhino, rendered over with vray and Rhino. Copyright: Mosenthal, all rights reserved.ideagram2 water copy

Yesterday I moderated a panel titled, “Visualization Tools” at the CREJ Architecture and Interiors Annual Design Conference.  This was a great opportunity to accomplish the following:(1)  The first benefit was meeting local architects/designers from other firms also fully engaged in the art and practice of visual representation.  Panelists included Drew Marlow, AIA from Acquilano Leslie,  Lynsey Grace, AIA from Burkett Design, and Sarah Barker, IIDA from RNL.  Each panelist had a rich and varied perspective on the importance of visualization as both a design tool and deliverable for clients.  While Marlow hand-renders (often post 3d-modeling) images to create an artful representation of a future space, Grace and Barker utilize tools such as SketchUp, Podium, and 3ds Max to create computer-generated renderings.

(2)  The second benefit of moderating a panel regarding visualization tools involved spurring my thinking about the current tools we are using in Denver’s A&D market at large.  My current perception (and please correct me if I’m wrong) is that in our current market, few firms have adopted programs such as Rhinoceros, prototyping software, or parametric design plug-ins such as Grasshopper to continue to allow their design potentials to evolve in a more complex manner.

Drawing of string art graphic pattern David  Tracy and I generated using grasshopper and Rhinoceros, and translated into Illustrator drawings.  Drawings then delivered to local string artist for final fabrication.  Copyright, Gensler, All Rights reserved.

Drawing of string art graphic pattern David Tracy and I generated using grasshopper and Rhinoceros, and translated into Illustrator drawings. Drawings then delivered to local string artist for final fabrication. Copyright, Gensler, All Rights reserved.

I recently attended a great training hosted by Thornton Thomasetti on how Grasshopper might be used to both optimize material quantities and the environmental impacts of a building’s envelope.  This type of knowledge acquisition has made me curious and optimistic about the impact on quality of design and fabrication of buildings and spaces in Denver if young professionals made a commitment to becoming highly adept at emerging software.   This would benefit Denver greatly; as our city continues to serve as a beacon for start-ups and other great talent, our design abilities and outputs must reflect a high level of sophistication that sets the tone and bar for Denver’s evolving skyline and image.

(3)   The third benefit of participating in the Visualization Tools panel was that it was a great opportunity to reflect on some current issues in today’s market regarding visualization.  In a pre-panel discussion with Marlow, Grace, and Barker, we discussed the realities of creating high-quality renderings, and the time these images often take to produce.  In many firms, there is a knowledge gap between office leaders and clients expecting rendering-level imagery to take only a few short hours.  Like most arts, while our tools have continued to evolve to expedite this process, creating a high-quality rendering can often take a full day to a few weeks depending on the status of the design, the resolution of what the materials will be, and the time it takes to model and carefully set up a scene and lighting to output the “perfect image.”  Another idea that came to light was the notion of our changing, preferred tools for both design and visual communication.  While sketching and hand-modeling remain relevant, 3d modelling has become a necessary and important part of the coordination process with engineers.   We agreed that while our options for software to generate different forms and designs are almost limitless, it is still important to be able to produce a quick hand-sketch to communicate an initial idea.

In conclusion, this is a brief summary of what was discussed, and touches on a few ideas regarding visualization that are relevant in Denver’s current market.

I would like to request that people in Denver’s design community who are experimenting or continuing to work with sophisticated visualization and design techniques reach out to me or comment on this blog regarding what tools you’re using and how they’re impacting design.  Marlow, Grace, and Barker would likely agree with me that it was refreshing to have a forum to discuss how we are communicating with clients as well as pushing our designs forward, and I’d love to keep the conversation going while giving young architects in the Denver community a chance to interact and promote knowledge-sharing, regardless of firm affiliation.  My guess is that by challenging one another to continue to push design and visualization across our market sector, we might not only increase the quality of Denver’s design, but also continue to build a vibrant, emerging architecture community committed to producing architectural design and fabrication methods that pushes boundaries within the broader context of our national architecture community and urban profile.