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Cloepfil’s Use of Concrete at The Clyfford Still Museum

November 21, 2016

The Clyfford Still Museum in Denver is an architectural success matched only by the paintings within its spectacular concrete walls. The architect, Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture, has done a masterful job of creating a museum that breaths “oneness” and “of the earth” with the same intent that Still painted. It is truly a spectacular must see” museum housing one man’s incredible life’s work; a life’s work that was stabilized in the horizontal plane and energized by the vertical “line of life” that touched the light.

Mathematically, Cloepfil used intersecting concrete planes for walls, floors and ceilings. These planes were created using cast-in-place concrete forms with various beveled planks of fir wood. Concrete oozed between the planks, leaving long fins that broke when the boards were removed: this created the craggy, vertical lines that reference Still’s paintings. As Robert McCarter said, “…for Still, the vertical lines, ridges, and chasms that dominate the tactile surfaces of his paintings were the “lines of life, growing from the ground and standing against the relentless horizontal of the plains landscape: Yet always and inevitably with the rising forms of the vertical necessity of life dominating the horizon. For in such a land a man must stand upright, if he would live.”

To capture the natural light from above, just as Still painted in his studio, Cloepfil again used concrete: this time, with complex geometries of parabolic arcs and elliptical openings. Within the walls of this museum, the viewer actually feels the transformation of natural light – that which brings both art and architecture together and to life. The many parallels that Cloepfil was able to access with his architecture rang absolutely true to the material and spiritual essence of Clyfford Still’s paintings. Again, Robert McCarter said it well when he spoke of the convergence of talent within the walls of this remarkable museum. Still had, and Cloepfil has, “….command of their respective crafts, which they have both practiced with what Leonardo da Vinci called “obstinate rigor” throughout their respective careers.”

Spectacular talent converges to create a palpable human expression.  Go to Denver!!!