With a $20 million contribution from the Sturm Family Foundation, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science is readying to carry out a renovation to its East Wing and Plaza. Open Studio Architecture, a local firm, has reimagined the wing’s historic theater, lobby, and eastern-facing plaza.
The project is split into two phases. Phase one renovations centered on renovating the Phipps Auditorium, added to the museum in 1940 for hosting lectures, concerts, and films. Now it enters its next life as the Infinity Theater, a first-class giant screen for presentations paired with a slew of cosmetic and technical upgrades, among these are a new projection system, improved accessibility features such as a hearing induction loop, and a level stage for lectures.
The most visible component of the renovation by Open Studio Architecture is a monumental, translucent canopy that hovers above the outdoor plaza. This is meant to proffer a more upscale entrance for museum-goers. It will serve as the entry point for the state-of-the-art theater.
Phase two, which is currently underway, entails upgrading and renovating the remainder of the East Wing and Plaza. Here the museum is looking to improve its educational facilities to host opportunities for camp-goers and school groups.
Since the museum’s founding, the East Wing and Plaza that Open Studio Architecture is reimagining have been considered impromptu locales for community gathering. The architects and museum officials sought to continue that ethos in the new design.
The renovated spaces will be programmed with new and innovative events. Feature film nights, speakers series with local and national experts, and interactive experiences that highlight the museum’s collection for the public will all take place in the amended plaza.
The ensemble by Open Studio Architecture projects fluid indoor and outdoor spaces, fundamentally changing the way Denverites interact with the historic institution. “The result will be greater opportunities for interaction, engagement and connection among visitors, Museum partners, local businesses and nonprofit organizations,” a statement said.
Renderings of the project depict the proposed canopy design extending out from the classically designed brick edifice and its stairway. Glass extensions on either side of the existing building add modernity without drawing away from the historic form and materiality of the museum. The existing facade will be left largely intact with the pediments and signage spelling out Phipps Auditorium still prominent. Inside, the warm and subdued tones introduced on the exterior flank the concessions counter, columns, and light fixtures.
Visitors can expect to enter through the new theater entrance in 2025.