Draft Urbanism Tackles Denver's Age-Old Problems

The Biennial of the Americas launched on July 16, but its creative answers to problems such as too many parking lots and integrating Auraria and downtown could have a life well beyond the Draft Urbanism exhibition.
The Biennial of the Americas has arrived, bringing with it unconventional city building and problem solving in the form of public symposia, festivals, and art. The last of the three is headlined by Draft Urbanism, a city-wide art and architecture exhibition that looks at Denver as a perpetual work in progress. There are four major installations up until Sept. 2 at different locations downtown and more than 30 "urban artworks" scattered around the city.

Gaspar Libedinsky co-curated Draft Urbanism with Carson Chan of Berlin along with local "insiders" Denver's Paul Andersen and Cortney Stell. Libedinsky is now based in Buenos Aires, and previously worked on such high profile projects as Manhattan's High Line Park. The Hotel Rehearsal - materials used: van, vinyl, scissor lift and aluminum.

Libedinsky says his collaborators were not only very different, but "very opinionated," making for good results. "That is something very rich."

Denver is an ideal city for Draft Urbanism for several reasons, Libedinsky adds. "Denver has the right scale, Denver has the right climate and Denver as a city is also quite accessible in terms of its authorities, in order to negotiate for the spaces."

"It's Biennial of the Americas," he says. "That's quite a few countries, and we have a limited budget. We decided to make a very powerful but drastic decision to only produce four pieces of architecture for Denverites to experience and enjoy."

But this is not just art for aeshetics alone. The four pieces seek to affect meaningful urban change, Libeinsky explains. "The projects address some issues, but they also open up the current agenda of Denver," he says.

Echoes Nick Swett, VP of Finance and Operations for the Biennial: "It's the start of a conversation, rather than a conclusion. These are age-old problems for the city."

At Speer Boulevard and Larimer Street, the Mine Pavilion by Pezo von Ellrichshausen is about "how to bridge the void between the Auraria Campus and the city center," says Libedinsky. "What divides these areas is where the city started -- Cherry Creek. That's where they found the gold."The Mine Pavillion made of beetle kill wood and boulders.

"The Mine Pavilion works as a bridge and a tunnel and a thoroughfare connecting one side to the other. It also works as a billboard -- an inhabitable billboard. It has the feeling of a temple."

Another installation, Alex Schweder's Hotel Rehearsal at 1535 Welton St., brings a mobile hotel room to a parking lot. "They're empty spaces in the urban fabric," says Libedinsky of Denver's many parking lots. "They're spaces that are latent. They're waiting to be developed."

After more than a year of work, Libedinsky says the Biennial itself is "hopefully not the closure of that effort. I would love for the projects to all have a life beyond the Biennial and beyond Denver once the Biennial ends."
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Read more articles by Eric Peterson.

Eric is a Denver-based tech writer and guidebook wiz. Contact him here.
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