American Woodmen Insurance Building
Historic Denver Community Preservation Award
LEED Gold Building
With nearly 50,000 members, The American Woodmen’s fraternal society decided in 1946 to construct a new headquarters in Denver and hired architect Gordon White to design the striking Art Moderne structure at 21st & Downing. Sixty years later, the glazed terra cotta building’s exterior had aged gracefully, but the interior was not so fortunate. The first inspection conducted by Humphries Poli Architects revealed a somewhat confusing interior that had been subdivided, stripped, clad, and ravaged of its former luster. But thankfully, the spirit was intact and the bones were strong. It was the perfect home for a design firm.
The intervention of an architect’s office into the existing fabric of the structure sought to compliment and make modern all that is Moderne. The attack was two-pronged– restore the main public spaces on the first level and redefine the second floor as a state-of-the-art design studio which embraced technology while fostering teamwork and open communication. With the above in mind, the primary spaces on the first floor were restored, but with new building systems introduced to contribute to a LEED-CI Silver Certification. The intervention touches the existing fabric lightly, in transparent layers, always revealing its former purpose. Upstairs, the building’s structure is the star, revealing glazed and unglazed terra cotta, steel, and concrete as a backdrop for the open loft studio spaces.
Once again, all is right with the building. The emotional, streamlined exterior now resonates inside as well, providing mentoring from the past to those charged with designing the future.