Denver Art Museum

  • The 146,000 square foot crystalline design has no true vertical walls or columns.
  • Shared 3D and computer models streamline design and construction.
  • Daniel Libeskind’s first large-scale project in USA.


Inspired by the jagged profile of the nearby Rocky Mountains, the Frederic C. Hamilton wing of the Denver Art Museum has a silhouette more like a ship than a building. Indeed, Arup engineers looked at shipbuilding when they approached the engineering design of this extraordinary building.

Except for its central elevator core, the building has no true vertical walls. Its ceilings and risers slope at all angles. The engineering challenge was to create a stable supporting structure for a building that did away with typical means of support.

With walls leaning outward, the form required Arup to design the floor framing system to manage heavier lateral loads. Like a ship, the intended effect was to pull the exterior walls in to keep them from pushing out. Because the angled walls would deflect during construction, they were supported by a temporary shoring system that required extensive structural analysis so that the walls would settle into the correct position when the shorings were removed.

Denver is not an area prone to earthquakes, but because of the building’s challenging geometry, the structure was designed to withstand lateral forces beyond what would be required for regions with the greatest seismic activity.

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  • Denver Art Museum. Scott Dressel-Martin.Open gallery

    The 146,000 sf crystalline design has no true vertical walls or columns.