From 1918 to 1938, architect Charles Z. Klauder designed 15 buildings for the CU Boulder campus. If he visited today, what might he say? Retired campus architect Bill Deno (Arch’72; MA’73) has some theories.
In 1918, Charles Z. Klauder wanted to tear down Old Main. It didn’t harmonize with the new style the Philadelphia architect envisioned for CU’s campus.
The university’s first building survived, of course, and decades later, in the 1980s, Bill Deno (Arch’72; MA’73) oversaw a top-to-bottom renovation that, among other things, rotated Old Main's chapel a full 90 degrees.
Deno, who retired as CU Boulder’s campus architect in 2002, forgives Klauder for his readiness to demolish the cherished landmark and, truthfully, never really held it against him: Klauder’s subsequent work was too good.
“CU Boulder from many sectors has been called the most beautiful public university in the United States, bar none,” said Deno, 90, who began his association with CU Boulder in the late1960s, as a 30-something undergraduate.
Klauder — the most influential architect in CU Boulder’s history — and his work star in Deno’s 1994 book, Body and Soul, and in the new Centennial edition he self-published this year.
Urged by CU President George Norlin, CU hired Klauder’s firm in 1918 to expand and aggrandize what then was a modest campus. By 1938, when Klauder died, he had designed 15 buildings in a distinctive style that defines CU Boulder still — textured local sandstone facing, reddish clay tile roofs and limestone trim. Deno calls it “Tuscan vernacular,” a reference to Klauder's Italian inspiration.
As campus architect in the 1990s, Deno encouraged firms designing major new buildings to adhere to rudiments of this style, even when using different materials.
If constraints sometimes led to buildings at odds with Tuscan vernacular, the departures sufficiently synchronize with CU Boulder’s dominant aesthetic to preserve it, he said: “This campus has continued as no other one has done to commit to a style.”
After high school, just after World War II, Deno began pursuing his boyhood dream of becoming an architect. Initially, he attended a two-year college in Los Angeles, learning technical illustration and alphabetic graphics. This led to work with a Seattle firm that sold neon sign advertising.
After assignments around the West, he accepted a transfer to Colorado, in 1960. Already married, he began taking classes at what today is CU Denver, while working full time.
In 1969, Deno enrolled at CU Boulder, earning two architecture degrees. He joined CU’s planning office as a student, and assumed campus architect duties in 1983.
Deno thinks of the campus as an exquisite park, and visits often. Sometimes he leads tours in a motorized cart.
His dream tourist is Charles Klauder. Even if CU hasn’t always lived up to his vision, Deno said, “It would be great fun.”
Body & Soul: A Partnership of Architecture and Academics at the University of Colorado Boulder is available at the CU Book Store.
Klauder photo by Dave Kozlowski; Sewall Hall photo by Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado