Seattle-based Olson Kundig has revealed the first batch of design renderings depicting the firm’s reimagining of a roofless and long-vacant warehouse located in the heart of Colorado’s burgeoning Telluride Arts District. When restoration work is completed, the historic building will be reborn as a multifaceted arts and cultural hub-slash-events space serving the former Victorian mining town-turned-ski and golf resort nestled into a box canyon high in southwestern southwestern Colorado’s San Juan Mountains.
Erected in 1906 as a warehouse for the Telluride Transfer Company and subsequently used as a gas station and garage, the structure was abandoned in 1970 after its roof collapsed under heavy snow. The warehouse then entered into what the nonprofit Telluride Arts has described as a “40-year period of deterioration and decay.” In 2017, Telluride Arts, which was formed in 1971 as the Telluride Council of the Arts and Humanities, secured the dilapidated property with future plans to transform it into a bustling center of activity for the town’s arts district, which itself was established as one of Colorado’s first Certified Creative Districts following the development of the Telluride Cultural Master Plan in 2012. A design for a new arts center by LTL Architects was originally selected via a 2017 competition, beating out shortlisted proposals from NADAAA and Gluckman Tang.
Five years and a change in gears later, Olson Kundig was hired to helm the project, with owner/principal Tom Kundig leading the team.
As noted by Olson Kundig in a news release sharing the project’s progress, its design concept for the Telluride Arts Transfer Warehouse “centers a quiet architectural solution that respects the existing warehouse walls and celebrates the character of the surrounding community.” A new interior structure will be inserted into the existing building shell while preserving its open-air courtyard and introducing “enclosed, flexible” event spaces. As described by the firm, “moveable, kinetic elements” will play a key role in the design and allow the new venue to seamlessly adapt to different uses, including hosting a range of exhibitions and cultural events. “These insertions further improve facility operations while reducing the impact of outdoor events on the adjacent residential neighborhood,” said the firm.
As further noted by Kate Jones, executive director of Telluride Arts, the nonprofit sought to create “a completely flexible building that can be adaptable for all sorts of different artistic disciplines, from music, to film, to art installations, to art exhibitions. We want it to be a place for creativity to flourish in this very adaptable space.”
“Our approach embraces the historic character, spirit of openness and community focus of the existing building,” said Tom Kundig. Although the National Design Award-winning firm’s past work is diverse in style and scope, it is perhaps best known for embracing both the rough-hewn heritage of historic industrial structures and the rugged topography of the West, making the Telluride Arts Transfer Warehouse something of an emblematic project for Olson Kundig.
“We want to respect and celebrate the elements of the warehouse that people love, including the generous open space that has become a very special venue for the community of Telluride,” Kundig added. “The main agenda of the design is to be as flexible as possible, allowing Telluride Arts to choreograph just about any kind of event on behalf of the active, vibrant arts culture that exists here.”
In 2018, Telluride Arts kicked off Forever Telluride, the capital campaign for the Telluride Arts Transfer Warehouse restoration project. In its first phase, the campaign raised $4 million to complete the purchase of and temporarily stabilize the landmark limestone building; $1 million was later raised for pre-construction costs and the requisite design and permitting fees. During the pandemic, Telluride Arts activated the warehouse and opened it to the community; it has since hosted over 300 in-person, open-air events. (This hasn’t come without some neighborly complaints.) As noted by the organization, “the un-finished shell came to life as a welcoming community space facilitating much needed human connection and cultural prosperity. This proof-of-concept confirmed both the community’s great need and the Warehouse’s great potential.”
The second phase of the campaign is now underway, with the goal to raise $15 million for restoration work and new construction, including, as detailed by Telluride Arts, funds for the permanent stabilization of the structure’s walls, windows, and doors along with the construction of a “large, partially covered, main-level, multi-disciplinary arts space” as well as a rooftop space featuring a cafe and bar and a basement-level area with bathrooms and storage.
The project’s approvals and funding completion date is October 27, 2022. The revitalized space is scheduled to debut two years later in October 2024.