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Mile High Center

Copyright Ezra Stoller, ESTO
Copyright Ezra Stoller, ESTO

Mile High was the first urban redevelopment undertaken by Pei and Zeckendorf. Together with Courthouse Square, another Webb & Knapp project several blocks away, Mile High began a building boom that spurred the revival of modern Denver.

The 23-story office building and its vaulted exhibition pavilion was an innovative mix of public and private spaces in a downtown commercial development, with terraced outdoor plazas, water pools and fountains, custom lighting, planting, and seating. It was Pei’s initial attempt at place-making and an important lesson for Zeckendorf in the unassailable value of good design.

Denver’s first skyscraper, the tower reimagined the prevailing Miesian aesthetic in colored terms, expressing the dark gray structural frame and the beige enamel heating/cooling system to create an interlacing facade pattern. It was to be Pei’s only use of applied color.

Mile High received an Award for Design Excellence, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1956, and an Award of Merit from the American Institute of Architects in 1959. In 1995, it received the Twenty-five Year Award, American Institute of Architects, Colorado Chapter.


Elevation and plan / Courtesy of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners

Design Team: I.M. Pei, Design Principal; Design Architects: Pershing Wong, Henry Cobb (Office Lobby), Ulrich Franzen (Exhibition Pavilion)
Webb & Knapp Real Estate Development Corp.