Building THE ELLIE LOBBY MAIN HALL OTHER SPACES OPENING NIGHT The STARS MOVERS & SHAKERS CARMEN
Opera Colorado
The ELLIE CAULKINS OPERA HOUSE: like building a ship in a bottle
The Making of The Ellie

BUILDING THE ELLIE:
The Quigg Newton Auditorium
Design
Construction

The Lobby
The Chihuly

The Main Hall

OTHER SPACES:
Dressing Rooms
Chambers Grant Salon
The Performing Arts Complex





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Transformation: the journey from rundown to state-of-the art
Demolition

By the eve of the new millennium, it was clear to the people of Denver that their landmark Auditorium, no longer attuned to the esthetic and functional standards of the time, was in need of a major renovation. Numerous fire code and other safety issues as well as poor accessibility for the disabled were among the major areas of concern.

In 2003, following a campaign by a broad coalition of performing arts leaders called "Friends of the Auditorium" led by Jeremy Shamos, Jack Finlaw (then Board Chairman of Opera Colorado) and Stephen Seifert (Opera Colorado's former Executive Director), the citizens of Denver overwhelmingly passed a $25M general obligation bond issue to build an entirely new theater inside the historic shell, thus saving the building. [See FanFaire's interview with Susan and Jeremy Shamos (Board co-chairs of Opera Colorado), Peter Russell (President and General Director of Opera Colorado), and Jack Finlaw, (Denver's Director of Theaters and Arenas) for more about the campaign to build the new hall.]


One of the most difficult challenges that faced the construction team was demolishing the interior of the building while leaving the historic exterior intact.


"It doesn't matter how many braces you put in place, there's always a chance of collapse."

"The real key was the equipment that they brought in which was like a dinosaur - very long neck with crocodile teeth at the end. It was remotely-controlled, and it really just ate the building once they brought it in.
"


-Peter Lucking, lead architect




The local architectural firm of Semple Brown Design, a leader in the design of performing arts spaces that had been involved with the Denver Performing Arts Complex since 1986, was engaged to design the new opera house. In launching the final concept, the firm's team of expert planners and designers addressed the unique challenges of building a completely new interior while leaving the historic exterior intact and of designing a space that would serve both audience and performer, providing them with the optimum in theater experience. PCL construction, a company with extensive experience in performing arts facilities was hired to undertake the demolition of the old interior and the construction of the new hall.

The first order of the day was asbestos abatement. Then demolition of the interior began, a delicate process that was literally done by hand and involved the use of relatively small but highly versatile equipment. Seven sets of paired columns that support seven full-span trusses and portions of the roof were saved. Bracing was added to ensure that the exterior walls did not collapse and the original trusses were reinforced to support a new roof and fly tower. Demolition was completed in 6 months with a brigade of only about 30 workers.

Construction took place vertically, slowly building up from the foundation. The complex project, its $90M budget scaled down from the originally proposed $145M, was completed in a record 2years - a testament to the skill, dedication, teamwork and civic spirit of everyone involved in the transformation of an old, tired structure into an elegant, state-of-the-art hall, a lyric jewel that the city of Denver which owns and operates the entire Performing Arts Complex, can be truly proud of.

(See also FanFaire's interviews with Peter Lucking, architect, and Robert Mahoney, acoustic consultant, for more about the building of The Ellie.)

Photos courtesy of Semple Brown Design, Opera Colorado and KKN Enterprises



Construction

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