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Libeskind’s Fire and Rain: You Mean It Snows a Lot in Denver?

DAM’s Staff Before the Cuts: Preview Party of the New Hamilton Building, Sept. 10, 2006. Photo by Brendan Harrington and the DAM photographic services department.
This has been a bad news week for Daniel Libeskind: First this report of suspected arson at his first completed building, the Felix Nussbaum Museum in Germany. (Karsten Luecke, a CultureGrrl reader in Germany, today alerted me to this article, in German, from Schwäbische Zeitung Online, which quotes the comment by the museum’s director, Inge Jaehner, that “nothing happened to the pictures or the interior.”)
Now this report from Architectural Record that the roof of Libeskind’s recently opened addition to the Denver Art Museum couldn’t keep out the Colorado snow.
Kelly Davidson writes:
Construction crews are preparing to start permanent repairs on the roof of the new Frederic C. Hamilton wing at the Denver Art Museum. The roof began leaking as a result of record-breaking snowfalls this winter….
Crews will likely replace much of the atrium’s existing roof….Though plans for a permanent solution are still in discussion, the museum hopes to have the problem resolved by the end of summer. The price tag for repairs is undisclosed at this time.

This roof razing comes on top of other signs of financial strain at the Denver museum. According to the museum’s most recent annual report, for the year ending Sept. 30, DAM had already sustained a “planned deficit of $2.9 million in the operating fund, which was a result of expenses incurred to outfit and staff the Hamilton Building. The museum anticipates that the majority of the planned deficit will be recouped with revenues from the expanded complex.”
Or maybe not. On Monday, the museum issued this press release:
The Denver Art Museum has implemented changes to bring staff levels into alignment with the ongoing program and operation of the Museum. Thirty staff members…took advantage of a voluntary resignation program offered by the Museum nearly two weeks ago. In addition to the voluntary resignations, the Museum has eliminated an additional eight positions effective this week. These reductions total approximately 14%; however, staffing remains 15% higher than pre-expansion levels.
This “budget tightening and staff reassessment” was prompted in part by attendance shortfalls due to “harsh holiday weather,” as well as “soft revenues in some areas,” according to the press release. But the need to come up with funds for roof replacement (unless the cost is borne by Libeskind) could be another significant budget buster.
These growing pains bring to mind the post-expansion financial difficulties related to another “wow” addition, Santiago Calatrava‘s Quadracci Pavilion for the Milwaukee Art Museum, which opened in 2001. And Denver’s faulty roof brings to mind the customary complaint about Frank Lloyd Wright‘s buildings: Sometimes the edges of the “cutting edge” aren’t watertight, and the “built experiments” don’t quite work.

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