Tag Archives: Denver

Image Space Object 6

While doing some research on storytelling yesterday, I came across this quote from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 2:

“When we mean to build, we first survey the plot, then draw the model.”

Odd, I said to myself. That’s exactly what we do at Image, Space, Object; use narratives and models to inform the design process for small teams working on highly collaborative and iterative projects. And that, in turn, reminded me of an image that Hugh Dubberly sent to me after the last ISO Conference that highlights the relationship between stories and models:
Models and stories are tools for thinking. ©2007 Dubberly Design Office

Okay, maybe Shakespeare was speaking about physically surveying the plot (more in space than time), but the idea is very similar. Look at the situation. Model it. Reassess. Replot. Remodel. Present.

August 5-8, 2010 at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design (RMCAD) will mark the 6th Image Space Object conference. I have been lucky to serve as a speaker and studio mentor for all six, and believe that, even with all the conferences and workshops I’ve attended, it is the most engaging and unusual.

There are some fabulous speakers at the conference (and it tends to be very much the same crew each year). This year, in addition to the organizers Mike and Kathy McCoy and Fred Murrell, studio mentors include Hugh Dubberly of the Dubberly Design Office (who has been at ISO each year, I believe), Rick Robinson (Founder of eLab and formerly at Sapient), Chris Conley (from IIT and Gravity Tank), and Tucker Viemeister (director of the Lab at Rockwell Group). New this year at ISO is Shelley Evenson of Carnegie Mellon, and I’m very much looking forward to meeting her.

But, what makes ISO different from other conferences is that the participants, errr, participate. As Mike McCoy is fond of saying, this is more of a graduate seminar than a series of lectures. Each attendee works together with their team and their studio mentors to build an original solution to a vexing (but entertaining) design problem. The challenge forces the team to work together in a multidisciplinary way to devise and present their solution.

We’re calling this year’s conference “Tools for Transformation”, and that’s exactly what it offers those who take part. Tools for collaboration, ideation, and expression, with a focus on rapid, low-fidelity, down and dirty prototypes. The entire conference is limited to just 40 participants, so it is truly a unique opportunity to get in and get your hands dirty.

Here is how Rick Griffith of Matter described his experience at last years conference:

Find our more at imagespaceobject.com.

Feed The Kids

Yesterday I posted this video on the buckfifty.org website – to my mind it’s a document of a time in Denver, the early 1990s, when the downtown area was still pretty deserted. My buddy Ray and I used to do performance art around town under the moniker of Two Significant Guys; our general mantra was that “you are only as successful as you pretend to be.” This was the era of Bush the first, so it seemed appropriate. It’s interesting that we spoke so much about change – I guess we were before our time.

So, in this video the Two Significant Guys encourage the feeding of kids while speaking of the importance of family values. We also eat mexican food and report on the implosion of buildings, including the Truckers Terminal and Montgomery Wards. Recorded in Denver in 1991 and 1992 with Hugh Graham and Ray Schelgunov under the direction and camera of Mike Reddick.

The Accidental City


Denver is a square, proud, prompt little place, surrounded by immensity.
–Demas Barnes (Denver visitor, 1865)

Denver is the unlikeliest of cities; there’s no port, no access to an ocean or a major river, nowhere to get to (easily) between here and there. Compared to other urban centers, it came late to the party, and unnaturally, forced on an unwilling landscape. Started by claimjumpers and promoted with false claims of easy money, there was never any gold at the confluence, but there was an opportunity to set up a transportation hub in one of the less explored and exploited regions of the country.

In the first two years, 100,000 people came through looking to find a fortune; by 1864, the city had less than 5,000 residents and was practically destroyed by flood and fire. For those still here, isolated in “this god-forsaken place,” it may as well have been the end of the world. It was touch and go until the railroad came in in 1870, setting off one of the first of Denver’s booms.

Maybe it was the boom and bust cycles, or the latecomer status, or the distance from centers of culture, but for much of the city’s history it’s been better known as a place to go through, rather than a place to stay.


You may thank your stars that you left this country when you did, for it is deader than it ever was. The fact is I am getting damn sick of this God-forsaken place.
–Silas Soule (1861)

One hundred twenty years later, in the late 1980s, the oil bust wreaked havoc on the Denver’s economy; people were jumping ship for wherever they could make a living, and mostly anywhere was better than here. Downtown was sleepy and lonely (especially after hours), and the skyscrapers that had been built in the 70s emptied out as fast as they went up. The good news? Parking was plentiful and free.

One of the many odd jobs I had at that time involved emptying the offices (cubicles and desks mostly) from the Arco Tower on 17th Street in Downtown. For weeks, we loaded the furniture on carts and rolled them onto semi-trailers destined for warehouses in Texas. The wealth (and jobs) that had been imported left town when times turned tough.

Looking at the empty storefronts in the Arco Tower, my buddy Ray and I proposed to the property manager that we install a series of temporary artworks that would show the space off while also having a sense of humor. Our proposal? Cows. Denver, we thought, should embrace its traditions, and engage in a fun dialogue to encourage people to come back downtown.

It sounded good to us. But not to the property manager. Anything but cows, he said.


…the rare beauty of the accidental location, the grandeur of the region, the charms of the climate, and the enormous permanent resources of the country became fixed in the minds of the people…
–Jerome Smiley, History of Denver (1900)

From its founding 150 years ago, Denver’s residents have described the city with a combination of self-deprecation and boisterous civic boosterism, sometimes with more than a touch of defensiveness. But along the way, something has changed, and there is a bit of self-confidence that doesn’t seem so out of place; there’s a willingness to embrace both the city’s frontier roots and its urban existence.

Denver is no longer so oddly placed in the middle of the frontier. The world has changed. Denver was an accidental city, but now it has grown to become a metropolitan center. Maybe now we can look back with some pride and just a little bit of nostalgia for our cowtown past.

Note: This post is co-published with a new project we kicked off this week in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the city of Denver. Called buckfifty.org, we intend to publish 150 expressions of the history, culture, and community of Denver over the course of the next six months (or so). And potentially drink some whisky along the way too. We are looking for submissions, please visit buckfifty.org if you are interested in participating.

My Neighbor, Myself

Our next door neighbors have been having some hard times. Jane, the mom, hurt herself six months or so ago by falling down some broken stairs, busted her tailbone. She’s been in a lot of pain, can’t walk too well, and has been out of work since then. She was recuperating, and then she fell again, in the house again. 

The house is a mess, a rental property and not well-maintained, but it was all she could afford. Since she hurt herself the owner has been trying to get her to move out, but she doesn’t have the money to go anywhere else. So, they are involved in some litigation, or threats of litigation. I imagine that the owner wants to sell the house now, as I’m pretty sure she’s lost her homeowner’s insurance. But she can’t really kick Jane out, given that her slumlord ways were the reason that Jane got hurt in the first place. 
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Colorado 2008 Voter Guide

Officially, we’re one week out from election day 2008. But, as Kirk Johnson wrote in this article for The New York Times, the process of voting is changing. Colorado voters are increasingly using early voting and vote by mail as options to going to the polling place on election day. It makes a lot of sense, given the combination of an insanely long ballot and the voting fiascos that have plagued our state in the past few election cycles.

I ran into Patty Calhoun at the primary this summer, and talked about how we’re going to miss going down to the polling place and visiting with the residents at the Ivy Manor (now called the Spearly Center) where voting day was the one of the most exciting events of the year. Somehow, that “I Voted” sticker just isn’t the same when it comes from your mail-in ballot, and not from the community-spirit infused volunteer.

The following is my attempt to make sense of an unnaturally long and tedious Colorado ballot. To create this version, I used a Ballot Guide tool provided by Politics West, which works pretty well. I did actually read the ballot amendments that are proposed, and I considered a variety of points of view, including progress now, the denver dailies, bell policy center, squarestate.net, and others.
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