City and County of Denver
  • Civic & Cultural

33,200 SF

Activating an Icon

Initially opened in 1910 as the Denver Public Library, this Carnegie-funded Greek Revival building was a marvelous tribute to learning. With its Corinthian columns, ceremonial entrance stair, and all-glass ceiling, it was also an architectural treasure. Unfortunately, when the library relocated in 1956, the building was transformed into municipal office space. The famous stair was demolished, windows were filled-in, and a new floor was inserted, compromising the former grand reading spaces. In the 1990s, the offices were closed, leaving the building in the dark for more than a decade.

The Impact

In 2010, a glimmer of hope emerged as the space reopened for the Biennial of the Americas Art Exhibit, shedding light on its potential as a vibrant arts center. The vision focused on activating the building for public use, specifically for artists and nonprofit cultural organizations, and preserving its historic fabric.

Throughout the planning process, community engagement was paramount, ensuring consensus and alignment with budget, existing infrastructure, and the historical context of Civic Center Park. The rehabilitation unfolded in two phases: the first focused on restoring the building’s original exterior character through window and finish refurbishment, while the second phase introduced a new main entry, restored interior details, and modernized mechanical and electrical systems.

Today, the Center is a celebration of the arts and artists. It’s open to the public, every day, for free, making it the only venue of its kind in Denver. Once dark and shuttered, it’s now bright and active, restored for new generations.


Forecourt Entry

Six curved short steps, and two long graceful ramps invite visitors into the building, echoing the curved pathways found throughout the park. This dual-purpose forecourt acts as an entry for the Civic Center and an extension of the park, providing outdoor space for impromptu gatherings or planned events.

Neoclassical Elements

Remaining historic features were uncovered and preserved, including mosaic tile flooring and wrought iron detailing on interior stairs.


Double wood doors were recreated from the original drawings. They open onto a small balcony with a glass railing, a perfect perch for a party host when addressing guests below.

On Display

The building displays its history and its structural details. Ducts, pipes, and brick walls are exposed.