Jim Olson’s Vision for the Design of Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art

Designing a new museum in Denver’s Golden Triangle near the Denver Art Museum and the Clyfford Still Museum is a great honor and a serious responsibility. My goal was to make an artistic statement that is uniquely appropriate to Kirkland Museum and inspired by its amazing collection.

The collection of fine and decorative art is a rich and varied mix of art and craft. Materials in the collection are often colorful and textured. Paintings, especially those by Vance Kirkland, have a lot of vitality, using colors like yellow and red.

While the layout and elevations of the building are calm and simple, the materials cladding the exterior are full of energy. The main element of the building will be a large yellow box clad with vibrant terra cotta bars of varying shades of yellow. These bars will be punctuated by glass backed in gold. The façade will sparkle in the Colorado sunshine like a Kirkland painting. At the entry, hand-crafted amber glass fins will further enliven the façade. My hope is that the building itself will be considered a “piece” in the collection.

The museum will be enjoyed from the exterior; I like to think of the sidewalks and streets as galleries. Passers-by can enjoy the historic Kirkland studio, the artistry of the yellow terra cotta and the sparkling glass. They will even be able to view objects from the collection in glass vitrines mounted onto the exterior of the building, as well as sculptures on and around the building. Even the gardens along the sidewalk and around the building will be an artistic statement that plays off of the patterns, colors and textures of the building façades.

Inside the museum the layout will be simple. It is intended to help organize and frame exhibits, vignettes and objects. A long, elegant hallway ties all the museum’s main spaces together. This makes wayfinding much easier so movement through the museum will be effortless. The scale of the building will be somewhat residential. This scale is appropriate to the art and objects within; most were intended for residential settings.

After leaving the museum, I want people to feel that they have just visited a grand and charming modern home filled with treasures of art and design.

Jim Olson
Principal, Olson Kundig
January 2016 

About Jim Olson

Hugh Grant, Founding Director & Curator, stated, “In addition to museums and cultural facilities, Olson Kundig is known for designing extraordinary residences that contain significant art collections. Because Kirkland Museum is displayed salon-style with the feeling of being in a home, Jim’s design sensibility was a good fit.” Jim Olson’s recent projects include the JW Marriott Los Cabos Beach Resort and Spa (Puerto Los Cabos, Baja, Mexico), Washington State University Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (Pullman, Washington), Bellevue Botanical Garden Visitor Center (Bellevue, Washington) and residences in Seattle, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Taipei, London and more. A new book on Jim’s architecture – published by Thames & Hudson of London – will be available this May.

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