By Jim Johnson, AIA & Founding Partner at JOHNSON NATHAN STROHE
Over the past 25 years, Denver has transformed into an internationally recognized destination, garnering attention from some of the world’s top civic and business leaders as a place where people want to live, work and play. As JOHNSON NATHAN STROHE celebrates its 25th anniversary, we reflect on how the built environment has helped shape the Denver metro community and will continue to do so for decades to come.
From the historic 1880’s warehouse district in Denver’s Lower Downtown (LoDo) neighborhood to the quintessential red sandstone used throughout Boulder, distinctive architecture and design celebrates the region’s past while also welcoming its vibrant future. Thoughtfully designing within this context remains a pillar of JOHNSON NATHAN STROHE as we deliver solutions that stay true to our philosophy, Pragmatic Beauty, which seamlessly blends practicality and aesthetics to foster a meaningful experience in each project.
Since founding JOHNSON NATHAN STROHE 25 years ago (originally JG Johnson Architects), our team has provided architecture and interior design for hundreds of hospitality, urban housing and mixed use projects across the country with an equal focus on creativity, context, budget and program. From the Colorado Club at Palomino Park (1996) and Hotel Monaco (1999) to The Crawford Hotel at Denver Union Station (2014), The Maven Hotel at Dairy Block (2017), Embassy Suites and Hilton Garden Inn Boulder (2017), and the new City Park Golf Clubhouse (2019), we have strived to create places of lasting beauty and value that stand out for their thoughtful design while enhancing the character of their surrounding neighborhoods.
We hope that our legacy is guided by the values that have shaped my career and contributed to the impact our firm and projects have on the communities we serve.
Creating Lasting Value Through Experiences
Good architecture and design creates significant and lasting economic value by creating authentic, memorable experiences that foster meaningful social interaction. As architects and interior designers, we strive to find those projects that invigorate passion and creativity to meet the community’s needs now and in the future.
In 2017, we completed the Embassy Suites and Hilton Garden Inn Boulder, a dual-branded project that spans two city blocks along Canyon Boulevard and is within walking distance to Folsom Field and downtown Boulder. At 265,000 square feet, this is the largest JOHNSON NATHAN STROHE project to-date and features a combined 376 guest rooms, restaurants, bars and event venues. Having started my career at the University of Colorado Boulder, it also marks a professional homecoming for me. Working closely with the City of Boulder to determine the best use of the land, we focused on creating a pedestrian-friendly environment with engaging public spaces that can be enjoyed for generations to come.
Invoking New Life Through Adaptive Re-use and Historic Preservation
By reimagining how older structures can be brought back to life through creative programing and innovative design, we are able to respect the historical character of a space, while providing a platform for next-generation use.
There are currently eight JOHNSON NATHAN STROHE projects that are on the National Register of Historical Places – most notably here in Denver, perhaps, is The Crawford Hotel at Denver Union Station. The revitalization of Denver Union Station transformed the city and preserved the history of the building. A mixed-use and multi-modal transit hub, the project serves as an economic and social catalyst for the future of Denver. Forbes Magazine and CNN have called the 112-room hotel one of the best in the world.
As advocates for historic preservation, our team continually seeks opportunities to extend our expertise beyond JOHNSON NATHAN STROHE projects.
Fostering a Diverse Perspective
A diverse perspective is critical to the success of JOHNSON NATHAN STROHE, where 68 percent of our firm and 70 percent of its leadership team are women, and seven different languages are spoken. The reality is, we hire the best, independent of gender or ethnicity, so we can deliver the most dynamic architecture and design.
JOHNSON NATHAN STROHE Partner Nicole Nathan recently discussed this approach in greater detail with AIA Colorado.
Caring for the Community
Over my 42-year career, I have been honored to help shape other aspects of Denver’s growing landscape. Through involvement with the Downtown Denver Partnership for more than a decade, I have worked with business and civic leaders to help tackle critical issues in the urban arena – from housing concerns to the future of the 16th Street Mall – with an emphasis on preserving the architectural heritage of Downtown Denver, and creating walkable, community-rich spaces.
Within our impassioned expertise for architecture and city planning, people remain at the forefront of our design. Lending our expertise to organizations like Brent’s Place and the National Sports Center for the Disabled has been some of our most fulfilling work. In 2017, our team completed an expansion of Brent’s Place, which allows the organization to provide more space for the many Rocky Mountain region families who must travel far from home to receive life-saving medical treatment for their children. This project is perhaps one of the most significant examples of our vision of Pragmatic Beauty – creating the spaces where people go to dream, both literally and figuratively.
In order to create authentic, memorable experiences in our design work, we invest more than just our technical expertise. By understanding and engaging our communities, we create more experiences that can transform neighborhoods. As we look to the next 25 years, we will continue to partner with others in the community to create solutions that address social responsibility, technological advances, thoughtful density, and careful historic preservation to meet the evolving needs of our cities.