Design Influence: Page is Always Thinking about Design

1000 Speer: a contemporary expression of urban living. Courtesy Frank Ooms

BUILDING DIALOGUE

WORDS: Sean O’Keefe

Michael Mace has never been anything other than an architect. He is second-generation; sharing proudly that he graduated from Washington State University with a degree in architecture 17 years after his father died when he was 8 years old. He recalls fondly watching his father work on design projects in their home; first as a student, later as a professional. The experience made a big impression. Today, Mace is the senior principal in charge of operations in the Denver office of Page, an international design practice that promises design that makes lives better.

“I love the variety of challenges that tough projects present,” says Mace from Page’s office on the top floor of Denver’s tallest tower, Republic Plaza. “The best work happens on the hardest projects, which is why I am personally focused on advanced technology facilities, semiconductors and data centers; tight schedules, challenging and complicated projects are my specialty.”

Stuart Crawford shares a similar story. Having grown up in the family design and construction business, architecture is the only profession he’s ever known, and it has served him well. After spending the first 17 years of his career in New York City working at a top-notch firm, he joined Page in 2013. While his work is focused on higher education and academic facilities, in stages Crawford has his eyes on most projects the Denver office produces.

“It’s the best job I ever had,” Crawford says unabashedly. “My role here gives me a chance to look at a lot of different designs originating from a lot of unique programs and ambitions. The office is filled with talented designers, great projects, a sense of collaboration and a variety of tools that facilitate our work.”

Like the best of many things, skill, craftsmanship, time, tools and, ultimately, experience is what produces the best architecture.

“Page is a 121-year-old firm that originated in Austin, Texas,” says Mace of the firm’s lineage. Presently, there are seven domestic offices and international offices in Dubai and Mexico City. The firm’s portfolio encompasses a broad balance of government, health care, aviation, academic, civic and commercial projects. A strong history of federal projects is headlined by an extensive relationship in support of the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Overseas Building Operations. Since 2002, Page has been a design partner with contractors on more than 40 U.S. embassy and consular commissions around the world.

The Denver office was actualized in 2008 when Page acquired a local design practice that had strong experience in student life and housing for higher education and multifamily housing. Building on that knowledge, the firm expanded its student housing expertise nationally. Simultaneously, over the decade since gaining a foothold in the Denver market, Page has since broadened its local portfolio into each of the firm’s markets – academic, civic, corporate and commercial, health care, housing and hospitality, municipal, and science and technology.

“Denver has been a great place to be and obviously Colorado is a beautiful place to build anything,” says Crawford. Indeed, Page’s recently completed Colorado portfolio spans the gamut. From high-tech aerospace to contextual higher education to luxury multifamily, each project is intended to articulate the particular client’s program, purpose, place and point of view with an inspiring design.

United’s 12,000 pilots train here each year. Courtesy Caleb Tkach

Leading the way in programmatically intense places Page has recently completed in Denver, the United Airlines Flight Training Center is a 23-acre, six-building campus renovation of more than 400,000 square feet. United’s consolidation of assets includes spaces to house 32 full-flight simulators and 14 fixed training devices, which enables United to centralize this vital activity. The center welcomes each of the airline’s 12,000-plus pilots every year for new and recurrent training and hosts users from more than two dozen other airlines and government agencies who visit the campus to sharpen their skills.

“Architecture has evolved. It’s changing at ever-increasing speed and so is the equipment we design around,” says Mace of the sophistication of today’s high-tech campuses and the technology that must be accounted for in meeting client objectives. “High performance and healthy building criteria are paramount in our approach to sustainability. From building analysis to virtual reality, innovative tools help us see the subtle nuances of the work we’re doing to enhance the user’s experience and the project performance.”

With worldwide distribution, context also plays an important role in the Page portfolio. Colorado, of course, is replete with natural beauty, long views, and four seasons; each site an opportunity of its own.

“The context here is often an abundance of daylight, strong inside/outside connections, and a tradition of places people can inhabit year-round,” says Crawford. A recently completed commission at Colorado State University’s Western Slope Campus is the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, a modest footprint facility that provides vital services to area ranchers and farmers. Equipped with a necropsy laboratory, researchers can investigate the causes of death for small- and large- breed animals and livestock in a space that also accommodates offices, classrooms, kitchen and gathering areas. A lean, low-profile building, materiality and elevations are purposefully inspired by the surrounding topography.

“We focus on understanding how users are going to operate in the space,” says Crawford. “We conduct post-occupancy studies on our buildings to learn from users and inform future projects. Optimizing human productivity, comfort, and performance is the big picture.”

Asked what they would like the industry to know about their firm and both Mace and Crawford nod in agreement.

“The Denver office has grown from 12 to 35 people in the last two years,” says Mace. “We deliver local projects with local resources and national expertise.” In addition to architecture, Page offers building science, engineering, lab consulting, landscape architecture and planning services. Thinking of the firm as one office with long hallways, Page readily shares resources, innovations, expertise, and solutions when needed. “The Denver office enjoys a challenge and the harder the problem is to solve, the more excited we get.”

At 1000 Speer, the design team was charged with creating an optimized for-rent multifamily housing property, neatly situated along Speer Boulevard in downtown Denver. More than 220 apartments ranging from efficient studios to three-bedroom units are joined by 270 secure parking spaces on six levels. Rising 16 stories above Cherry Creek, the contemporary expression of urban living is noteworthy for having sold a few years after completion for the highest dollar value per key of any building in Denver.

“Eighty percent of our work is repeat business with existing clients,” says Mace with quiet confidence. “Building relationships is the basis for creating great architecture and design that makes lives better.”

Published in the December 2019 issue of Building Dialogue.

Edited by Building Dialogue