Golden, Colorado, about 20 miles west of Denver, is probably best known for a certain beer brewed in a massive plant on the city’s eastern edge. Coors, now part of the MillerCoors conglomerate, was founded here in 1873, before Colorado became a state. One year later, the Colorado School of Mines (CSM) opened its doors to engineering students eager to take part in the territory’s booming mining industry.
Today, both institutions are going strong, and they even have a little-known connection: steam from the brewery’s cogeneration plant provides heat for the buildings on CSM’s small campus. A public university with about 5,500 students, “Mines” still offers classes in mining engineering, but there are programs in chemical engineering, mathematical and computer sciences, and more. Thanks in part to the current domestic oil boom, one of the school’s most popular (and competitive) majors is petroleum engineering. And when you look at the numbers, it’s no wonder: the program, which serves about 400 undergraduates, has a 97 percent job placement rate for graduates, who earn an average annual starting salary of more than $100,000.
The department’s previous home, Alderson Hall, was built in 1953 and renovated in 1992 by Denver firm RNL. But the growing program needed more classroom and lab space, along with some amenities to help recruit professors, who can earn a lot more working for oil and gas companies. In 2005, Denver oilman (and CSM alum) Tim Marquez and his wife, Bernadette, launched a fundraising campaign with a $10 million matching donation. Oil companies, individual donors, and students pitched in and eventually raised $25 million for a new building. Designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (BCJ), with architect of record Denver-based Anderson Mason Dale, Marquez Hall opened for the 2012 academic year.
The project is a dazzling light-filled building with spectacular views of Golden and South Table Mountain (the rock-capped mesa that overlooks the city) to the east and the Rocky Mountain Front Range foothills to the west. Sited on the eastern edge of the campus, the L-shaped 85,000-square-foot facility has quickly become a showcase for CSM’s petroleum engineering program. “I wanted something that was very modern, very friendly, and very state-of-the-art,” says Ramona Graves, former department head and now dean of the College of Earth Resource Sciences and Engineering.
A dramatic 60-foot cantilever canopy extends over a glass-enclosed entrance lobby and exhibition space, which opens onto a plaza. You might think there’s a theater behind the glass facade, or maybe an Apple store (BCJ is the longtime designer of the computer company’s retail shops). But, no, Marquez Hall contains classrooms, laboratories, computer labs, offices, and study areas, all spread over four floors.
BCJ principal Robert Miller, of the firm’s Seattle office, says the building’s overall transparency is in part a response to Graves’s desire to show that the oil and gas industry is not the big bad wolf. “It’s a functional building for the program,” Miller says, “but it’s also designed to take people through and show them what the program is all about.” So there is a window in the lobby allowing visitors to see into a lab with a full-scale drilling rig simulator, and students walking on the sidewalk along the building’s north side can peer through windows into research labs. Floor-to-ceiling windows on the south side look onto Jalili Plaza, a new campus quad with outdoor furniture.
Reminders of the strong ties between the department and private industry are everywhere. One room is the Halliburton Visualization Center, another the Hess Corporation Multidisciplinary Classroom. On the first floor, there’s a student lounge area sponsored by ConocoPhillips. Several video screens tout the company’s worldwide energy exploration, while another highlights the building’s sustainable elements, showing energy use in real time. (Marquez Hall is Silver LEED certified.) Surprisingly, one chart reveals just how many barrels of oil have been saved because of all those energy-efficient features.
Many of the buildings at Mines were constructed using blond bricks. Miller and his team wanted Marquez Hall to fit in with the other structures on campus, but they also wanted it to have certain “modern characteristics” that are hard to accomplish with masonry. The solution was terra-cotta cladding, used extensively on the building’s exterior. “You can basically tune it to get the pale yellow-brick color that’s so prominent on campus,” says BCJ associate Christian Kittelson. “But it’s a little more ‘unexpected’ than brick.” The terra-cotta extends to much of the interior, which helps connect indoor and outdoor spaces.
Mike Bowker, CSM’s associate director for capital planning and construction, says Marquez Hall has effectively raised the bar for future architectural design at the university. Several projects—including a new sports complex, a “welcome” center, and a dorm—are in the works. Pressure is on, Bowker says, to make sure any new buildings “pop.”
“The refrain I’m hearing,” he says, “is, ‘Make it like Marquez.’”
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Architect of Record: Anderson Mason Dale Architects
Acoustical: D.L. Adams Associates, Inc.
Cost Estimating: Parametrix, Inc.
Energy Modeling: The Weidt Group
Exhibit Design: ArtHouse Design
CAD system, project management, or other software used:
85,000 square feet
Manufacturer of any structural components unique to this project:
Metal / glass curtain wall:EFCO
Curtain wall: EFCO
Fire-control doors, security grilles:
Closers: LCN Closers
Exit devices: Von Duprin
Pulls: Rockwood [custom pulls]
Other special hardware:
Cabinetwork and custom woodwork:
Paints and stains:
Paneling: acoustic wall panels:
Solid surfacing: Ceasarstone
Restrooms wall and floor tiles:
Chairs: Bernhardt, Dauphin, Allermuir
Tables: KI, Allermuir
Window Shades: SWF Contract
Dimming System or other lighting controls: