At the beginning of the spring semester, the University of Colorado Infrastructure and Sustainability department lost a cherished colleague. Campus Architect Emeritus Bill Deno, 94, passed away on Feb. 20.
“Bill’s impact on our campus cannot be overstated,” said d’Andre Willis, the fifth campus architect at CU Boulder. “He had a passion for the sense of place created by our warm sandstone buildings, their limestone details and red tile roofs, and the welcoming quadrangles and shaded walks that tie the buildings together.”
Deno held both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture from CU Boulder. He began working at the university as a student in the late 1960s and remained until his retirement in 2002, serving as the first campus architect for nearly two decades.
Deno was a passionate steward of the campus aesthetic, known as “Tuscan Vernacular,” which was developed by Philadelphia architect Charles Klauder through his 1919 Campus Master Plan and the design of more than a dozen buildings, including Norlin Library, Hellems Arts & Sciences, Sewall Hall, Ketchum, Carlson Gymnasium, and Balch Fieldhouse. Characterized by multi-hued sandstone walls and red tile roofs, off-white limestone trim and black metal accents, this vision for the campus was continued by Klauder until his death in 1938 and by his successor firm well into the late 1950s.
Deno recognized the power of this work, and wrote the book "Body & Soul" in 1994 to record how this physical development of the campus in the University of Colorado style (the body) supports the academic and social culture of the university (its soul). The book was updated in 2018 and made into a made into a film by Deno. The book is a statement of what makes our campus aesthetic unique and serves as a reminder of what should be protected for the future.
Work under Deno’s leadership includes the building of the Student Recreation Center and the Dal Ward Athletics Center, additions to Fleming (now the Ofelia Miramontes and Leonard Baca Education Building), the Engineering Center, and Imig Music; planning for the development of East Campus, and renovations of dozens of buildings.
Deno also worked to create a wider appreciation of design on campus and expanded the team of professionals who carry on his legacy. He worked to create the role of campus landscape architect and mentored Richelle Goedert to take that role. “Bill’s dedication and enthusiasm around the campus architecture and landscape was infectious,” said Goedert. “My campus tours and discussions with him remain one of my most favorite activities as campus landscape architect.”
In addition to his unwavering passion for and dedication to preserving CU Boulder’s physical campus, Deno’s philanthropy will have a lasting impact on campus. In 2019 he created an endowed fund to support tree replacement and the development of trees on the Main Campus, ensuring the campus’s canopy is maintained alongside campus buildings.
Bill Deno’s legacy will continue to inspire generations of students, faculty, staff and the larger CU Boulder community, said Willis: “The architectural elements work together against the backdrop of Colorado sunshine and stirring views of the Flatirons to build lasting emotional connection to the campus for students, alumni, faculty and staff.”
Deno’s book "Body & Soul" is available for purchase at the CU Book Store.