Denver Street Level… with a Stroller, A Guest Post from a new(ish) Mother

Nothing re-contextualizes a city’s public, street-level environment quite like having an infant in tow.  While life’s errands and events were once a seamless rhythm of transitions from home to mode of transport to destination, leaving the house as a new parent comes with an entirely new choreography.

Six months into parenthood, while I’ve eased up a bit since the early months, I still catch myself considering a list of logistics rivaling a CIA operative about to embark on a strategic mission each time I leave the house. 

What mode of transportation should I bring—a stroller or a baby carrier?   Are there sidewalks? And if so, what condition are they in? How long will I be out?  Can I run multiple errands while visiting one location?  Will this location have a changing station and/or nursing room?  Is the space I am visiting outdoors or indoors, and what additional blankets or shading do I need to temper my baby’s microclimate? 

Prior to parenthood, there were many specific ways in which I engaged with the city’s urban fabric.  As a practicing architect working near the heart of Downtown Denver, I have ridden on my fair share of entertaining mallrides, felt the warm glow of the cosmopolitan bustle at Union Station, and spent many dusky Friday evenings perusing Rino’s cultural and epicurean venues.  A fan of local businesses, seasonal markets, and public parks, I have walked and biked through many of Denver’s unique, rapidly-developing neighborhoods.

Fast-forward to early parenthood.  Suddenly my means of navigating the city has become less about novelty and more about predictability.  Prior to having an infant, I hadn’t considered IKEA’s sinuous walking paths, set amongst the backdrop of carefully-organized living environments, as an exercise and entertainment destination on a rainy day.  Nor did I appreciate the diversity of merchandise available under the roof of America’s beloved Super Target.  Despite my proximity to Cherry Creek North, I didn’t give much thought to what I now consider one of the more well-planned pedestrian environments in the City of Denver.

Borrowing Bob Dylan’s words, things have changed.

As a new mother that aspires to remain an active, urban-dweller throughout maternity leave and beyond, here are several planning features that might facilitate a positive parent outing/ experience.  While most of these planning principles cater to universal design strategies, these features have quickly become important enhancements to the quotidian routines of early parenthood.

  1. Wide, flat sidewalks with curb cuts and generous indoor circulation paths.

Many Colorado parents opt for all-terrain strollers that support the state’s “active lifestyle.”  These strollers tend to have a wide frame and impressively-large all-weather tires.  While navigating narrow, cracked sidewalks and jumping curbs might appeal to those that enjoy testing their strollers’ off-roading capabilities, a smooth and barrier free experience remains preferable while pushing perhaps such precious cargo.

While the Denver Post recently reported that the City of Denver’s 2017 operating budget has earmarked $2.5 million for new or fixed sidewalks on city-owned property.  Perhaps more challenging is how Denver might provide assistance in improving neighborhood sidewalks that fall within the responsibility of the homeowner.

This principle also applies to the idea that indoor spaces have wide circulation paths that might accommodate strollers in aisle-ways and areas surrounding displays in retail environments.

  1. Mixed-use retail environments that mimic the urban microcosm.

Three months into parenthood, I’ve appreciated mixed-use developments that necessitate only one trip via car or public transportation.  Upon arrival, being able to accomplish many activities and tasks on-foot without having to open and fold a heavy stroller or strap a sleeping baby in-and-out of a carrier numerous times creates a more enjoyable experience for all participants involved.

My new-found appreciation of Cherry Creek North stems from its rich diversity of programming and thoughtful attention to the pedestrian scale and public space(s).  In many ways creating a parallel to a small village, one might meet a friend for coffee or a meal, pick up groceries and other household items, fit in a workout, stop by the library, and/or engage in a round of retail therapy all in one trip.  These activities are enhanced by a pleasant pedestrian scale that boasts wide sidewalks and pedestrian-preferred crosswalks, ample landscaping and benches, continuous stretches of active, ground-level retail, and fairly inexpensive metered parking.

  1. Clean, sanitary restroom facilities that go beyond code. 

On a recent trip to Japan, I was struck by the universal design features in the majority of public spaces, transportation hubs, and cultural institutions.  Besides the elaborate electric toilets with multiple cleansing options, each accessible stall had an infant seat in which a child under six months could be placed while their mother used the facilities.  This small addition to public amenities would make a seemingly simple need safe and less awkward for parents out with their child.

Upon expecting, several new mothers I met told me of their appreciation for Nordstrom bathrooms, which boast comfortable couches and areas for privacy in nursing/resting while shopping with an infant.

A little extra care and investment in public restrooms for functions such as nursing and changing enable parents to feel more comfortable in leaving the house for extended stretches of time.

  1. Don’t underestimate the importance of public, urban parks.

During the first two months of life, a newborn is not vaccinated, and it is typically recommended by the Pediatrician that parents avoid confined areas.

So where to go to get out of the house?

Public parks and open spaces within walking-distance of neighborhoods are critical resources for exercise, fresh air, and an opportunity to “reconnect” with the outside world.

I can’t count how many times I walked around Washington Park during the first few weeks of my child’s life (sometimes twice in one day,) but I know that this beloved public park served as a savior of both my sanity and post-pregnancy recovery.

While babies grow quickly, the first several years of life provide parents with numerous considerations that seem counter to a spontaneous, out-the-door approach to small and large outings.  My hope is that as Denver continues to grow, design features that demonstrate empathy and sensitivity to parents with young children might be incorporated in new and existing public spaces, cultural institutions, and neighborhoods and mixed-use developments.


Teaching Up; Learning from our Summer Interns

Just yesterday, our summer interns gave a final presentation regarding a Denver-specific research project they have been working on in tandem with project work for the entirety of the summer.

 Upon first initiating the project, our intern committee’s hope was that the research might be used as a vehicle for collaboration as well as a chance to become acquainted with one another and the city of Denver.

 After the presentation, and hearing the interns talk about their experience, it seems the research exceeded our expectations. Serving as a vehicle for sharing ideas and skill sets, the project became an important opportunity to merge and acknowledge different work styles, processes, and modes of thinking amongst students from different disciplines including architecture, interior architecture, interior design, and illustration/environmental graphic design.

 Not to get too warm and fuzzy, but the interns smiled as they described their experience working together on a shared project as transitioning from “difficult” to their new team description—“four hearts and one mind.”   This Captain-planet combining of forces, skills, and viewpoints led to a cumulative design that articulately blended their different ideas and disciplines into one cohesive design—a feat I wasn’t entirely sure could be pulled off in the brief interlude of summer, but is now under consideration for potential realization.

 Watching them present was a refreshing reminder of the importance of teamwork, and the beauty of the multidisciplinary approach to design. When asked how the interns combined their work, they talked about looking for “the most important aspect” of their preliminary designs, and finding ways to prioritize the inclusion of these ideas while formulating a cohesive design. As my coworker mentioned, this provided a design solution based on the importance of function, rather than aesthetics.

This reminder of approaching group work as a chance to extract the most salient design ideas of individuals, and bring them together as a group to solve a problem was both refreshing and reaffirming.

While most of us have been taught to work in partners, groups, or teams since college or graduate school, I have found professional practice to be the ultimate litmus test for collaboration. Whether a project is a month or two years, the changing nature of project teams, the delegation of roles and responsibilities, as well as the mixture of different personalities often feels like experiencing one sea change after another.

I am always excited when a new project starts, as working with different people and clients is an inherent opportunity for growth and exposure to new work styles and ways of thinking. With that said, the nature of professional practice at times can lend itself to efficiently living within the confines of certain roles and responsibilities—a navigable but at times stifling way of working. What excites me about the intern presentation is that it reinforces that the best idea should, and must win, regardless of source or origin.

 Today is the interns’ last day—we are sad to see them go, but happy that they have “taught up” in providing a stellar example of what productive collaboration can yield- both in terms of building relationships as well as creating amazing work.



Constricting the Bounds of Originality – Separating the Protectable from the Unprotected in Architectural Works

One month ago we put out a call for Emerging Professionals who wanted to join our blogging team. We received quite a few responses and have begun the process to include new voices into our AIA CO EP Blog. As we discussed the future of the blog, we looked to voices that would shed light on diverse issues and questions about architecture and the profession, as well as varying personal backgrounds and differing experience within the professional environment. Over the next few weeks you will see new names introduced below. As we finalize our new team, we will provide them with their own usernames and work them into the regular schedule. We hope to create consistency and regularity in voices, but will also be supplementing those voices with guest bloggers.

Our first new blogger is Casey A. Quillen. Casey Quillen is a founding member of Ruebel & Quillen, LLC.  For more than a decade, she has represented Colorado design professionals as defense counsel for errors and omissions claims litigation, coverage counsel, corporate counsel, and as a business advisor. Casey is a professional affiliate member of the AIA. Her first article looks at the protected and unprotected elements within architectural design. Personally, I have rarely studied or read about copyright law within the realm of architecture – or any copyright law for that matter. Casey brings in interesting perspective as someone who represents architects. She breaks down the idea of copyright law and what can or cannot be protected under copyright law.



Constricting the Bounds of Originality – Separating the Protectable from the Unprotected in Architectural Works

Casey A. Quillen


Some architectural designs, like that of a single-room log cabin, will consist solely of standard features arranged in standard ways; others, like the Guggenheim, will include standard features, but also present something entirely new.  ArchitecGuggenheimture, in this regard, is like every art form.

Zalewski v. Cicero Builder Dev., Inc., 2014 WL 2521388 (2d Cir. June 5, 2014).  Architectural design within well-recognized scènes-à-faire such as neoclassical government buildings, colonial houses, and modern high-rise office buildings may be more difficult to protect under federal copyright law due to the conventional restrictions of the form according to the United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.

In Zalewski v. Cicero Builder Dev., Inc., self-employed architect James Zalewski granted defendant builders licenses to use several colonial home designs he had created.  According to plaintiff Zalewski, after the license expired the builders retained another design firm to customize the home designs which the builders continued marketing without consent.  The architect asserted that the defendants had copied the overall size, shape, and silhouette of his designs as well as the placement of rooms, windows, doors, closets, stairs, and other architectural features.[1]  On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit considered the trial court’s ruling on summary judgment to determine whether those elements copied from Zalewski’s original design were protectable under copyright law.  Ultimately, the Second Circuit determined that builders copied only the unprotected elements of Zalewski’s design.  The Court compared the conventions of designing a colonial-style home to the use of iambic pentameter or folk motifs in literary works:

[T]he designs’ shared footprint and general layout are in keeping with the colonial         style.  There are only so many ways to arrange four bedrooms upstairs and a kitchen, dining room, living room, and study downstairs.  Beyond these similarities, Plaintiff’s and Defendants’ layouts are different in many ways.  The exact placement and sizes of doors, closets, and countertops often differ as do the arrangements of rooms.

Id.  The Court also noted certain design features used by all architects because of consumer demand or market expectations should not receive protection.

Federal Copyright protection for architectural works is relatively new having been formally added to the list of protectable material in 1990.  We should not be surprised to see Colorado State and Federal Courts apply similar reasoning when issues of architectural copyright arise.  A design professional facing copyright infringement would do well to head the admonition by the Second Circuit and strive to “distinguish those aspects of his designs that were original to him from those dictated by the form in which he worked”, so that he may prevail on his claims.



[1] Zalewski also asserted a cause of action under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) which prohibits intentionally removing or altering any copyright management information. 17 U.S.C. §1202(b)

Meaningful Work

Mosenthal_Chang, DenverThe 2013 AIA National Convention has come and gone.  Summer seems to have bloomed into its full expression, inspiring allergies, a sense of freedom, and a listless reminder to take action while the days are longer than the nights.

Despite the time, space, and temperature increase that stand between me and the Convention, I’ve found that this year’s themes regarding humanitarianism and the broad definition of the architect’s “role” in society continue to resonate with me in both my daily practice as well as the broader conversations I’ve shared with colleagues
and industry-related professionals.   In other words, like many things, the Convention’s keynote speakers and programming did a great job in challenging me to continue to ask myself “Am I doing enough?”  And
then my internal dialogue response/next question—“I’m doing a lot right now… But what do I need to focus on to make sure that what I’m doing is personally and professionally meaningful?”

The truth is that the answer to this question is probably different for all of us, and likely changes on a daily or weekly  basis.  As Emerging Professionals, we are at an exciting but tricky time in our career.  The decisions we make early on in our field regarding which organizations to join, which firm and type of work we want to do, and
what path we take to licensure and various certifications and areas ofexpertise often place us on different career tracks within the umbrella of the same profession.  While change is always possible and continued education/skill diversification a must, I have to believe that if we are thoughtful about the choices we make early in our career, the more fulfilling and potentially interesting the outcomes will be as things evolve.

My lingering take-away from the Convention is that whether or not we are doing “enough” on a daily basis to be Citizen Architects, in looking forward, we might consider what might be our best opportunities to contribute to the profession in a way that we find personally impactful.

In yet another recent article regarding us crazy, confident Millennials, the following information was gleaned from a study that surveyed “managers” (aka more senior workers from the Baby Boomer /Gen X generation) as well as
Millennials on similar topics.  The findings illustrated that while the managers believed that “Millennials are primarily focused on money, Millennials report themselves as more focused on meaning.  Meaningful work was identified by 30% of Millennials as the most important factor defining career success.”  (Boston College, Executive Briefing Series)

I would wage a bet that amongst young Emerging Professional Architects, that number is even higher, as most people in our profession can’t really claim they’re in it for the money.

As we forge forward as a new generation of architects just scratching the surface of a profession that is a life long
pursuit and learning experience, I challenge the reader to consider how we might consider pursuing meaningful architectural practices that are both fulfilling,but balance this with a collective pursuit of “meaningful” goals as an industry.

With architectural groups focused on monitoring and improving policy that impacts architecture and development, such as ArchiPAC, and other groups such as the USGBC and local government groups/officials that are pushing more progressive sustainable design initiatives, I hope that the current optimism and definitions of success hold and become more clearly defined as action items and collective goals with measurable benefits in the years to come.

In the meantime, I’m going to go write my to-do list for the next week…


Stapleton International Airport was Denver’s proud contribution to air travel from 1929 to 1995, ferrying millions of travelers to and from this great city through its decades of operation. Today, the nearly 7.5 square miles of land that once was home to miles of runways and acres of parking lots, terminal buildings, and a vast complex of support facilities is called home by a new resident: the young professional.

Sure there are a few outliers, as the master plan probably calls for, but my experience thus far (disclosure, I do not currently live in Stapleton, but close on a house in a few short days so have spent a fair amount of time there) is that there is largely a population of thirty something’s with babies.

And I haven’t even experienced Halloween there yet.

Apparently toddlers appear from mid-air, climb out from behind bushes, over-populate the surroundings and eventually the parents can be seen riding a massive title wave of young people all grabbing at a sea of candy.

Ok, so this may be an exaggeration. But maybe not.

That may sound terrifying to many people, but strange enough, this is part of the appeal to my family. You see we have one of those little people to contribute to the masses. And frankly, the thought of him participating in an involved and burgeoning community sounds great. Stapleton is one of America’s largest, and in many respects, most successful and sustainable master planned communities and we’re excited to be a part of it.

Stapleton today is a mix of single family homes, multi-family and apartment homes, retail destinations, entertainment venues, and even a strong and growing educational system. What you perhaps give up in personal space, you are in turn rewarded for in quality of life (I can bike to work as opposed to a 45 minute car ride) numerous options for spending your time (amazing trails, a park system that will keep my boy busy for years) and proximity to both urban and natural environments (downtown is only 7 miles away and the bluff lake nature preserve is just across the street).

Of all the things Stapleton is, it is foremost a young community. The complexity of the story unfolding is going to be written with both failures and successes. Drive by The Berkshire on a Friday evening and you will see a thriving example of success. Look at the extensive fencing system that separates Stapleton and its neighbors to the south and east and you will see how rapid, planned, and in some ways invasive development can be at odds with existing contexts.

But things are still growing.

As the thrust of development moves north in the form of massive building efforts, the fabric just laid in my neighborhood of Bluff Lake (eastern Stapleton) is being filled in. A new elementary school is being built, the roads are being connected to the surrounding grids, and fences are being removed. There is a second town center slated for eastern Stapleton that will place more restaurant and retail opportunities within walking distance. And although the trees are barely taller than I am, the xeriscaping is growing and the children are keeping pace.