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