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CSU Spur campus is being built in Denver by JE Dunn Construction

The water-inspired metal scrim springs from the ground at the front doors of the Hydro building.

Colorado State University’s Spur campus in north Denver is under construction near the intersection of Interstates 25 and 70. Opening in 2022, the campus is being built for the public – with a focus on the connectivity of food, water and health.

Built by JE Dunn, the campus’s design firms include Hord Coplan Macht and SmithGroup for the 122,000-square-foot Hydro building, to be completed in September 2022; Anderson Mason Dale Architects for the 60,000-sf Terra building, anticipated for completion in April 2022; and The Clark Enersen Partners for the 114,000-sf Vida building, slated for completion in February 2022.

“All three buildings work together to provide a ‘campus’ of education, research, resources and destinations that are important to the campus as a whole,” said Stephanie Mitrovic, AIA, NCARB, IIDA, principal and Science + Technology Studio leader for SmithGroup.

CSU Spur is where a university and research labs meet interactive museums, art studios and outdoor spaces.

The CSU Spur campus will include animal education classes plus a subsidized animal clinic hosted by Dumb Friends League, a Denver Water quality lab, the second location of the CSU Temple Grandin Equine Center offering equine-assisted therapy, and year-round programs offered by CSU campuses and a variety of partners.

Asked about the design inspiration for the Hydro building, Hord Coplan Macht Principal Jennifer Cordes, AIA, LEED AP, said, “The Hydro building is unique user experience in a one-of-a-kind facility.

“Inspired by water, the building invites the public into the large entry lobby, connecting three levels via a spiral ‘river eddy’ stair to a bridge on the third floor,” Cordes said. This bridge connects the Hydro building to the CSU Terra building located on National Western Drive. “We designed it to maximize outdoor open space and preserve the historic McConnell Welders building situated on the site.

“The ‘backyard’ design tells the story of Colorado as a headwater state and highlights each of the eight watersheds in Colorado,” she continued. Hydro has a dynamic façade that includes a flowing metal scrim sunshade that emulates water. “The water inspired metal scrim springs from the ground at the front doors of the Hydro building. The scrim flows down Bettie Cram Drive and National Western Drive along the building’s face, indicating entry into the large front lobby.”

Once inside, visitors will see various hands-on water-themed exhibits, a café, a 200-seat flex event theater, views into a working science lab, and a hands-on teaching classroom dedicated to water education.

“The CSU Hydro building is an especially rare, aspirational, visible and globally relevant project that comes along maybe once in a generation,” Mitrovic added. “The design opportunity, especially related to water and energy, is unique. All this coupled with CSU’s aspirations for the project create a very special opportunity for innovation and long-lasting impact.”

As for the Vida building, architect and laboratory planner Hadley Stolte, AIA, NCARB, of The Clark Enersen Partners said, “The design inspiration for the for the Vida building came about through deep consideration for the intended use of the facility in combination with its location – as a gateway to the National Western Center as well as its place within the surrounding communities, an area tied to the history of Colorado.

“In every way, the project intends to be a public gathering space for visitors of all ages and backgrounds,” Stolte said. “High-fidelity experiences welcome the public to this facility and allow each person to take part in activities happening throughout the building.”

Throughout Vida’s public corridors, visitors will have several opportunities to engage in this one-of-a-kind observation, including live and virtual observation of dogs, cats and horses that deepen the understanding of the human animal bond.

As for Terra, “Our team was inspired by CSU’s incredible programmatic mission of global impact in food and agriculture at the nexus of urban and rural communities, history and innovation,” said Principal Ben Blanchard, AIA, of Anderson Mason Dale Architects. “We’ve endeavored to create an active year-round destination that integrates research, outreach and education into a single immersive environment for visitors of all ages to learn from cutting-edge educators, researchers and industry partners.”

Situated on a highly visible gateway site at the heart of the National Western Center campus, Spur Terra ascends northward toward the campus’ primary intersection.

“The building is inspired by and rooted in the patterns, tones and textures of Colorado’s agricultural landscape,” Blanchard said. “As the building elevates vertically, inspiration is drawn from the highly technical, delicate structures and instruments driving innovation in modern agriculture. The building will tell this story of innovation, will connect visitors with where their food comes from, will teach the community how to safely grow, prepare and cook their own food, and will celebrate and showcase unique opportunities for urban agriculture.

“CSU’s Spur campus will anchor the National Western Center’s innovation district, and while each of the three buildings is truly unique in purpose and mission, the three buildings were conceived collaboratively as one interconnected visitor experience,” Blanchard continued. “The three projects stitch seamlessly into the unified and highly active public realm of the overall campus.” Each of the three buildings is shaped in response to their location, functionality and use, while complementing one another in materiality and scale, he said.

“Experiential observation extends to all three CSU buildings on the National Western Campus, collectively providing incredible public outreach for One Health,” Stolte concluded.

Published in the Oct. 21-Nov. 3, 2020, issue of CREJ.

Kris Oppermann Stern is publisher and editor of Building Dialogue, a Colorado Real Estate Journal publication, and editor of CREJ's construction, design, and engineering section, including news and bylined articles. Building Dialogue is a quarterly, four-color magazine that caters specifically to the AEC industry, including features on projects and people, as well as covering trends…