About that South Face….

By Greg Davis, City Park Alliance

On December 15th, Denver City Council unanimously approved Council Bill 0941 (CB-14-0941) granting a certificate of designation to operate the waste to energy system at the Denver Zoo. The topic of the waste to energy system has been a hot button with local neighbors who are concerned about the aesthetic of the new building housing the waste gasification system.

Denver Zoo has committed to making improvements to the south façade and will be gathering public comment on the matter. However, why wait for this formal process to start. Let’s get some public input now to support this process now.

Denver City Councilman Paul Lopez had an interesting perspective during the December 15th Council Session noting that the south side of the zoo begs for public art. He framed his comment by stating that “I’m not talking about the horse, from D.I.A., but kind of I am.” I can really appreciate that sentiment. My interpretation of that statement is maybe the horse is not a design to replicate, but City Park could be a great place to incorporate a similarly iconic work of art. That said, maybe what City Park needs is something less historic or subdued. …Or maybe we can find that perfect blend of historic, natural, inspiring, and iconic.

Take a look at the following pictures for reference, leave a comment in the blog, and let your voice be heard!

Waste to energy and Elephant Passage facadeThe current aesthetic of Elephant Passage and the Waste to Energy building. Denver Zoo has committed resources to improving this aesthetic and will be accepting public comment.

painting2 City Park advocate Georgia Garnsey provided these pictures of an example of how public art can be used to enhance otherwise blank building spaces.


Picture1 Picture2

Andrew Rowan, Government Affairs & Special Projects Manager for the Denver Zoological Foundation, provided these renderings noting how the current perimeter fence could be beautified.

Zoo W2E facade

This rendering provided by the Denver Zoo notes a potential aesthetic solution to part of the Waste to Energy (W2E) Building. This idea would carry the architectural steel idea used as a topper for the perimeter fence into the “windows” of the W2E building and beautify the small portion of the fence between Gate 15 and the building.

Your opinion matters.  What do you think should be done to improve the look of the W2E building and associated Toyota Elephant Passage complex as it abuts City Park?

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6 Responses to About that South Face….

  1. Brad Parks says:

    I think these are creative solutions. Another one a friend suggested involved planting mature evergreens in a graduated “planter” of concrete culverts on end. These culvert bases could be landscaped away with the large evergreens screening the building all year.

  2. Greg Davis says:

    At first, I didn’t think the building was a big deal, but now I understand that this is totally unacceptable for the signature park of a world class city. City Park Alliance failed, the Zoo failed, RNOs failed, and Denver Parks & Rec. failed to analyze this construction properly as it impacts the look and feel of the park. Now is the time to learn from our mistakes and move forward. I think this screams opportunity for a public art display encompassing the entire Duck Lake boundary through the waste to energy building. Something that amplifies the existing Avian Front sculpture would be excellent. Trees will be needed as well as coverings for the industrial lighting in the elephant passage building, but let’s use this as an opportunity to improve the entire zoo frontage with City Park as opposed to small façade changes on a cinder block structure.

  3. Lynn Kalinauskas says:

    Love the idea of public art! Also like Brad’s suggestion above. I’ll leave the art to the artists. Glad this is generating creative ideas.

  4. Andy Sense says:

    Thanks for reaching out to seek the opinions of neighbors! My preference is for more natural solutions, (trees, etc), but I’m sure some well-chosen public art could be super cool too. I think there are a lot of solutions available for this innovative gasification system, and I’m glad to hear the zoo is so willing to work on it.

  5. There’s something appealing about turning this lemon into lemonade. And there’s a great tradition in Denver of public art in the parks. In this location I lean more towards making the wall less visible, blending it into the natural surroundings, rather than highlighting it as a sort of canvas. The rest of the Zoo border is mostly trees and vines. The idea of a sort of terraced planting of evergreens at two levels, as Brad describes, will not only cover the wall, but the space above as well. Maybe there’s a way to do both? Turn a terrace structure into a form of art. A public tile art project like the one already in place inside the pavilion or at the west end of duck lake?

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