Civic Buildings

Winning the competition to create a new building for MCA Denver, made this project
Adjaye Associates’ first public commission in the US. With 20,000 square feet of exhibition, education and lecture spaces, bookshop and a roof garden area for outdoor art, the intention behind the design is for its architecture to ‘support rather than define the museum’s mission’. With no permanent collection, the museum is host to a programme of visiting exhibitions
and for this reason the brief specified internal flexibility. 

Differentiated by area and height, the art spaces are arranged in three separate stacks standing within a larger enclosure. The space between the stacks and the enclosure is used primarily for circulation, and the space between the stacks themselves is used to bring natural light into the heart of the building by means of a T-shaped rooflight. Two of the stacks support the members’ room and the education spaces, and the third supports an enclosed roof terrace. The members’ room terrace and the end wall of the education space enjoy an elevated view of downtown Denver.

At any one time, the museum will host one or more exhibitions on a variety of subjects and,
to support an open-ended pattern of use, the materiality of the building is based on a limited number of monochromatic materials. The outer layer of the external walls consists of a double-glazed panel with grey-tinted glass on the outside and clear glass on the inside. The inner faces of both are sandblasted. The inner layer of the wall consists of panels of Monopan, a translucent plastic which provides the required level of insulation. The only other cladding material is American Redwood which is stained grey and used at ground and roof levels.
On completion, MCA Denver achieved the distinction of Gold Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED), making it the nation’s first LEED certified contemporary art museum; pioneering sustainability and taking a leadership role in the reduction of energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and use of raw materials.

Museum of Contemporary Art Denver

Denver, 2007


  • Adjaye Associates


  • Museum of Contemporary Art Denver

Total Area

  • 24,963.20 sqf

Contract Value

  • $11.3m
Project Description