A Livable Work of Art
In Denver’s LoHi district, Lumina combines aesthetic creativity, sustainability and community
Photos by James Florio
Since the spring of 2015, drivers skirting the western edge of downtown Denver along I-25 have had a new beacon to guide their journey: a sleekly contoured five-story apartment building on the highway’s western edge, adorned on every floor with softly gleaming panels of aluminum cut into delicate-seeming traceries of geometric infinity patterns that are set aglow at night by the lights of the homes within. Most appropriately, the building bears the name Lumina, from the Latin lumen, meaning “light.”
When Edee Anesi, Lumina’s young owner and co-developer, first purchased the triangular parcel in late 2013 in Denver’s revitalizing and hip Lower Highlands district, or LoHi, the site held two old single-family homes and a 66-year-old Italian restaurant, Pagliacci’s. A growing demand for more residences, coupled with zoning changes, enabled a new multifloor structure with four stories of residences, ground-level spaces for nonchain retail businesses and belowground parking.
And I find myself constantly surprised by it.”
— Edee Anesi
From the start, says project architect Shawn Mather of Tres Birds Workshop in Denver, Anesi had no desire for a “generic contemporary building of brick, stucco, wood or metal siding” like those found all over any booming neighborhood across America today. She was looking for a unique project—one, adds Anesi, that was also “architecturally interesting, as well as sustainable.” Tres Birds Workshop—founded in 2000 by design principal Mike Moore, who collaborated on the project with Mather, project manager Chris Jenkins and JHL Constructors in Denver—was the ideal choice for the project, as the firm is dedicated to the goal of working on projects that combine “environmental stewardship, human health, community enrichment and artistic appreciation.” In each of those aspects, Lumina shines—both figuratively and literally.
Environmentally, the design maximizes the natural light that enters the triangular building through windows facing primarily east, west and south and through a constellation-like pattern of Solatube skylights that bathe Lumina’s four-story atrium in daylight. On the west side of the building, which faces the often intense setting sun, an additional row of aluminum panels on each floor slides on tracks, allowing residents to selectively shade their interiors, thus reducing cooling costs. And a staircase positioned on the southern corner for daylong exposure to the rising and setting sun is clad in translucent Lumos modular solar panels that provide more than 40 percent of the building’s electricity needs.
Its pattern reflected on the polished concrete floor, a constellation of Solatube skylights illuminates Lumina’s atrium. Open hallway landings on all floors, plus fun, welcoming furniture—including 1950s-style egg chairs and steel planters, designed by architects Tres Birds Workshop, with laminated benches of ash, maple and pine—encourage a sense of community.
Lumina fosters physical health with a spacious fitness room and a bike shop adjoining the lobby, along with an emphasis on green building materials. Spiritual well-being, stemming from a sense of community, finds support in a shared third-floor sun terrace and in the atrium itself, where comforting egg-shaped chairs, verdant planters and a giant chess set encourage residents to interact in a lighthearted space that, says Anesi, “has a very contemporary, space-age feel” reminiscent, perhaps, of a modern art museum. “But not the Guggenheim,” she adds with a laugh.
The initial inspiration she shared with the Tres Birds team actually came from parts much farther east than Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Soon after graduating from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2006 and then studying at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London, Anesi developed an interest in contemporary art from Iran and the Arabic world that has grown into a passion—and an impressive personal collection that now fills her own penthouse home in Lumina. She recalls “gushing to Mike Moore about Zaha Hadid,” the late great Iraqi-British architect who won the prestigious Pritzker Prize in 2004 and whose designs were known for their expressively fluid forms. Anesi also suggested Moore use mashrabiyas, the ornate wooden screens found on buildings throughout the Arab world, as inspiration for the design of the exterior aluminum panels.
Indeed, such features as those panels, its constellation of skylights and the building’s curving contours all contribute to making Lumina feel like more than just a practical, sustainable, comfortably habitable building. “Living here has given me a lot of insight,” says Anesi. “And I find myself constantly surprised by it.” What more could one ask for from a work of art?
The communal stairwell at the building’s southern end gains its own particular geometries from vertically mounted modular solar panels and an efficiently and economically designed concrete and steel staircase.
Light passing through water-jet- cut aluminum panels inspired by ornate wooden screens called mashrabiyas casts an ever-changing arabesque of shadows on Lumina’s west-facing balconies and windows. Upper screens on this side can be drawn to filter the often intense sun.
In the master bedroom of developer Edee Anesi’s penthouse, one of the panels used on Lumina’s exterior was adapted to resemble a skylight with LED lighting and a teal-blue ceiling. Yakh Bandan Butterfly, a digital print on aluminum, is by Iranian artist Parastou Forouhar.
The bedroom entrance was enhanced with a traditional Iranian archway evoking Middle Eastern fables.
More info at luminadenver.com.