The Paepcke Memorial Building, designed by Herbert Bayer, had remained largely unchanged since its completion in 1962. Bayer conceived a building of simple forms using load-bearing concrete block walls and wood-framed roofs. Among the building’s character-defining features are its tall, narrow windows placed between angled planes of masonry that make up the auditorium’s side walls and reflect the dramatic peaks of the Rocky Mountains. The Memorial Building houses the Institute’s administrative offices and auditorium, which hosts a range of programs from scholarly lectures, films, and recitals to children’s theater and televised productions.
The goal of the project was to preserve the Modern character of the building while upgrading the building envelope, providing much-needed accessibility, introducing contemporary systems, and enhancing performance capabilities. The auditorium was expanded with the design of two small additions at the rear in keeping with the original stepped, angled walls. The expansion and reconfiguration of the auditorium provided accessible seating and access to the stage; increased audience capacity; and improved acoustical quality and viewer sightlines. New overhead glass doors on the sides of the auditorium strengthened the connection to the outside and offered direct access to the exterior terraces. Lighting that emphasized the geometry of the room and provided better visibility was introduced along with full theatrical lighting and controls. The projection room was relocated to increase the size of the lobby. New interior finishes and furniture now enhance the auditorium, gallery, library, and office spaces. Designed to achieve a minimum of LEED Silver, the project attained a high level of energy efficiency through new roofing and fenestration (all in keeping with the original Bayer design) as well as through new mechanical and electrical systems. A stream-fed geothermal pond was introduced to provide heating and cooling.