CU Denver Architecture Students envision a more accessible future

Access Gallery and CU Denver team up to imagine a live-work space for artists with disabilities

February 5, 2018

The University of Colorado Denver College of Architecture and Planning along with  Access Gallery and The Denver Architectural Foundation have partnered to design a place built around artists in the disabled community where they can create, sell and actually live.

Access Gallery, located in the heart of Denver’s Art District on Santa Fe, is a leader in accessible arts and creating economic opportunity for young people with disabilities in Colorado. The gallery was established in 1978 and continues to evolve and thrive today. Each year, it serves nearly 100 young adults with disabilities and their families. A major goal is to harness the power of art and a well-designed space to make the world a better place. For this residency, they partnered with the Denver Architecture Foundation and CU Denver College of Architecture and Planning to ask: What could a fully integrated and inclusive Access Gallery look like?

Artists working at Access Gallery

Ranko Ruzic, a senior instructor with CU Denver’s College of Architecture and Planning, was eager to work on this partnership because of its importance to the city of Denver and the young artists at Access Gallery.

“Our growing city should have an improved relation between what architects do and how the public sees what architects do, and furthermore how the work is assessed by critics. A project like this, or similar, could contribute to that improved relationship,” Ruzic said. “For the young artists of the Access Gallery, it is an exciting opportunity for them to be exposed to the process of architectural design. It’s a process of learning through talking, then imagining and then seeing. With the leadership and mentorship of Damon McLeese, director of Access Gallery, the process is beneficial for both  artists and  our students.”

The exhibit displays blueprints and models that were designed after meeting with the artists at Access and figuring out their specific needs, desires, and opinions.

Models designed by CU Denver Architecture students.

Many of the artists would benefit from a work-live situation where they can be independent in many aspects of their daily lives in ways that are difficult for them now. The CU Denver students took these desires to heart when designing the potential new buildings. Although these designs may never become reality due to obstacles like funding, it is able to spark a larger conversation about accessibility and the future of architecture.