LTL blends past, present, and future in the Telluride Center for the Arts

Warehouse Wins

LTL blends past, present, and future in the Telluride Center for the Arts

The Telluride Center for the Arts will offer four stories of publicly accessible spaces for exhibitions, screenings, and performances. (Courtesy Telluride Arts)

When New York firm LTL (Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis) won the bid to convert Colorado’s Telluride Transfer Warehouse into the Telluride Center for the Arts in the spring of 2017, the community embraced the step for the thriving local arts scene. The forthcoming state-of-the-art venue will host a wide range of cultural and artistic programming in the ski town. In addition to two stories of flexible exhibition space, the center will have a 100-seat media room for screenings and live broadcasts on a basement level, and a rooftop bar and cafe will take advantage of the building’s panoramic views of the San Juan Mountains.

Built over a century ago during a mining boom, the original two-story structure housed offices and livestock for the Telluride Transfer Company, which transported mining goods in and out of the town before it became a gas station and storage facility. The warehouse ceased to operate after a buildup of snow caused its roof to collapse in 1979, and for the next 40 years, it remained a roofless ruin, a sandstone skeleton of four walls and boarded-up windows with a cottonwood tree growing through its floor.

LTL’s design for the renovation pays homage to the warehouse’s decay, setting a multilayered timber structure within the original stone walls. Just beyond the entrance, a great hall will feature a retractable skylight with a tree growing beneath it in homage to the warehouse’s former derelict state. The new building will use the original windows and a glass ceiling to preserve the feeling of the open-air ruin.

Cross-section of a timber arts facility
Cross-section of the building’s timber structure. (Courtesy Telluride Arts)

“The Transfer Warehouse transforms the space through a creative engagement between old and new, past, present, and future, between flexible and highly calibrated spaces,” said LTL partner David Lewis in a statement. “Overall, the project aims to amplify the future of Telluride by cultivating a dynamic relationship to its past and supporting its present, evolving needs.”

The finished arts center will be free to enter and open to the public daily. While construction is not slated to begin until 2021, some public programs have already been held in the existing warehouse, a testament to this tiny mountain town’s dedication to making engaging and accessible art a priority.

In the meantime, Telluride Arts, the nonprofit behind the project, has gained control of the site from the city and a developer. The organization also had to go through a review by a historic arts commission. Both the approval of the design and the necessary transfer rights have been granted, and Telluride Arts will undertake a capital campaign to realize the project.