Opportunity for All Students

University Preparatory School

Denver, CO



University Prep is a revolutionary charter school that is fiercely dedicated to the goal of preparing every one of its students to succeed in college and beyond.  Based out of a historic school building in the highly diverse, historic Curtis Park neighborhood of Denver, University Prep rapidly outgrew its facilities.  With a long wait-list of families urgently seeking access to the opportunities represented by the University Prep program, and classes of students growing into grades for which no classrooms existed, an addition to the historic Crofton school building was urgently required.

School addition projects often feature some combination of a tight budget, an even tighter schedule, a sensitive neighborhood, and a unique educational program.  University Prep at Crofton featured all of these, wrapped up in a historic building with major deferred maintenance.  Humphries Poli Architects engaged the project with great focus and intensity, designing a renovation and addition that reflects University Prep’s unique drive, pride and ambition.


Crofton Elementary was originally constructed in 1918 as a 3-story, 20,000 gsf elementary school designed by W.H. Edwards, most noted as the architect of West High School. An 8,000 sf addition designed by W.C. Muchow was constructed in 1956, consisting of an administrative area and a combined cafeteria / gymnasium / auditorium space. Born in Denver in 1922, Muchow was one of Denver’s most significant modern architects, designing over eight hundred buildings between 1950 and 1991. His design for the addition at Crofton Elementary was among his first projects after establishing Muchow Associates Architects in 1950.

While the 1918 portion of the building had been well cared for and retained much of its appeal, the 1956 addition had come to present a negative experience, especially in its use as the building entry.  HPA took the addition as an opportunity to redeem the early Muchow design by introducing transparency to create a welcoming, secure entry lobby.


The scope consisted of a five new state-of-the-art classrooms, an art/science room, a gymnasium, and critically needed mechanical and accessibility improvements to the original historic school building.  Major deferred maintenance issues were uncovered in the existing facility throughout the course of design.

Despite a highly challenging construction schedule and subcontractor market, the school reopened in time for the start of the school year.  The new art/science room proudly addresses the corner and overlooks neighborhood landmarks such as the Denver Sustainability Park.


Humphries Poli followed up on its commitment to the school by offering volunteer service as part of the CAL program (Cleworth Architectural Legacy).  For the last two years, HPA has taught the basics of architectural design to the 3rd and 4th grade classes. In addition to deepening HPA’s relationship with the school, this has allowed us to experience our own classrooms ‘in action’ and learn lessons for optimum performance and flexibility in classroom design.