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    Behold “Populus,” a new Denver hotel designed by the Studio Gang, headed by award-magnet Jeanne Gang, the Chicago-based architect renowned for producing “the tallest woman-designed building in the world” (at the time it was completed), a distinction that garnered her the MacArthur “millionaire genius” award. As per the usual grad school metaphysics that attend all architecture projects these days, the building makes iconic reference to something in nature sufficiently recondite and abstruse that it requires a thesis to explain: “The windows’ distinctive shape is informed by the growth process of aspen trees, an instantly recognizable symbol of Colorado… blah blah.”

Populus advertises itself as “the first carbon-positive hotel in the United States,” in synch with the masochistic ethos currently reigning in Western Civ. The embodied carbon footprint of the building reportedly “will be offset by planting trees equivalent to 5,000 acres of forest, removing the equivalent of 500,000 gallons of gas from the atmosphere,” the PR says. Really? Like, where exactly do they propose to plant 5,000 acres of forest where there isn’t a forest already growing? The Sonoran desert? Elsemere Island?

Meanwhile, notice the hotel’s location between a four-laner and what looks like a six-laner (with medians). That’s the actual environment we live in, tailpipe emissions and all.

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About James Howard Kunstler

View all posts by James Howard Kunstler
James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency and the four-book series of World Made By Hand novels, set in a post economic crash American future. His most recent book is Living in the Long Emergency; Global Crisis, the Failure of the Futurists, and the Early Adapters Who Are Showing Us the Way Forward. Jim lives on a homestead in Washington County, New. York, where he tends his garden and communes with his chickens.

23 Responses to “May 2022”

  1. DanandMary May 10, 2022 at 9:17 am #

    Looks like my cheese grater

    • ctakacs May 10, 2022 at 9:59 am #

      cheese *does* come to mind

    • drhooves May 10, 2022 at 2:52 pm #

      LOL. It does! Very abrasive looking. Quite the reach to compare to the “instantly recognizable aspen”.

    • Ishabaka May 21, 2022 at 7:13 pm #

      My thought exactly. When I was growing up my mom had a cheese grater just like that. She probably still has it.

  2. ctakacs May 10, 2022 at 9:59 am #

    looks like millions of techno beaks hungry for my soul

  3. Freddie May 10, 2022 at 10:20 am #

    Last year I spent several days camped out in Manti La Sal National Forest in Utah. The Warner Lake Campground is in the middle of an old growth aspen forest. I have to confess that the photo of “Populus” never brought any thoughts of aspens to my mind.

    A cheese grater……….yes.

  4. stevehall52 May 10, 2022 at 10:46 am #

    At first I thought Jeanne Gang was making a dinner salad for her spouse, looked down at the cheese grater, and exclaimed giddily (as she knocked over her full wine glass), “Eureka! this grater is the perfect design solution for the first carbon-positive hotel in the United States!”

    But then I came to my senses: it’s a callus remover!

  5. ATM May 10, 2022 at 11:32 am #

    Those 5,000 acres will probably be good level farm ground where much needed food is grown for humans and beasts.

    Then those 5,000 acres of planted trees will neve be allowed to be touched, logged or otherwise managed for real diversity rendering it a tall-tree people park devoid of flora and fauna.

    Then it will burn spectacularly in an enormous forest fire because the tall-tree people park did not go through the natural process of clearing the forest of undergrowth and dead wood that natural fires bring.

    Too bad all we got was an ugly old cheese grater masquerading as a hotel.

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  6. tucsonspur May 10, 2022 at 8:54 pm #

    Alas, I’ve been beaten to the cheese.

    It looks like a shell-shocked rendition of the Flat Iron building since its shape resembles that of the famous NYC landmark. Dare we call it the Splat Iron building? The occupants of this hotel will certainly be disturbed when the giant slabs of Parmesan are hauled in to be grated against the sides of this structure. One could also argue that it looks like a wedge of Swiss creatively carved out for an artisan ham and cheese.

    To be fair, this building doesn’t offend as much as other egregious eyesores of yore. It is a stretch, but there is a slight resemblance to the Rockies on the jagged sides, and climbers could mount this mound of holey Muenster in a jiffy. Okay, okay, maybe I should just call this edifice cheesy. I mean after all, this isn’t the Garden of Edam.

    All this rodomontade about carbon footprints and 5,000 acres of tree planting has me quaking like the Populus Tremuloides, so I’m off to a relaxing, delicious serving of Bubbles and Brie.

    • tucsonspur May 11, 2022 at 1:53 am #

      Nobody yet has said that it’s pretty Gouda. Fetagedaboutit!

  7. tom clark May 10, 2022 at 10:48 pm #


  8. thadko May 11, 2022 at 9:34 am #

    So, I just left the “hyper-woke” City of Denver in November after living there for 29 years. The slow and painful regression from a red to blue state was an arduous journey. The legalization of pot was the stroke that pushed the change over the edge, as woke pot-heads from all over the country descended into Denver, and the rest is history.

    This architectural atrocity fits right in with the woke culture of Denver in particular, and the “front range” in general. It appropriately sits across the street from both City Hall and the City Administration Building, and is within sight of the CO Capitol building.

    See this webpage that provides much more information on the design details and intent: https://studiogang.com/project/Populus

    • tucsonspur May 11, 2022 at 7:19 pm #

      ‘A green roof terrace planted with regional vegetation offers extensive views at the building’s top, providing a lush place to socialize and attractive habitat for local wildlife and insects.’

      The hideousness was in hiding. By wildlife, I guess they mean birds. C’mon up to the rooftop folks and socialize along with the bugs and birds!

      • Grace May 12, 2022 at 9:07 am #

        Wait a minute – don’t the woke *eat* the bugs now?

        Ah, so it’s a rooftop restaurant. Or a farm, perhaps.

        Good marketing opportunity though: ‘Come up to our roof and compete with the birds for your meal’.

  9. Chris at Fernglade Farm May 11, 2022 at 7:54 pm #

    Hmm. Most buildings walls tend to show a flat surface to the weather, or have horizontal lines, for example weather boards. The simple reason for this is that such a construction arrangement reduces the ingress of water into the guts of the building. And that building has all these columns and every single one of them will result in a vertical join (I’m guessing). I hope the dudes who have the job of cladding the building know what they’re doing.


    • Grace May 12, 2022 at 9:12 am #

      Yes, and one can hope that “know what they’re doing” means they’ll let the water ingress where ever it wants to, such that the building won’t be an eyesore for too many future generations. Where’s designed obsolescence when you need it?

  10. liber8tor May 12, 2022 at 11:23 am #

    Couldn’t help but notice the the phallic design the nice lady arranged.

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  11. malthuss May 12, 2022 at 12:30 pm #

    I like it.

    It looks like it belongs in bev hills or west hollyweird.

  12. BartK May 14, 2022 at 7:15 pm #

    I too have declared myself carbon positive. I am positive that carbon waste will kill us all if bad architecture doesn’t do it first. Anyway, I may volunteer my front yard as a fraction of one of their 5,000 acres. Lots of maple seedlings sprouting there, so many that I have just been declared like, really really carbon positive. They fail to mention who owns the 5,000 acres or who will tend the trees. Or maybe they’ll just plant them and forget to water them. Reminds me of the old joke about the guy who wanted to be a chicken farmer but failed because he planted the chickens too deep. And location, location, location. The guests will all die of carbon monoxide inhalation long before the carbon dioxide is offset. And i’m not just positive, I’m CARBON positive! Good call on this one Jim (as usual).

  13. Walter B May 14, 2022 at 8:52 pm #

    I find it interesting that America’s architecture has been mimicking the trend that was initiated by Albert Speer as a previous totalitarian regime came to power. Perhaps we should reconsider who it was exactly that won WWII. Operation Paperclip anybody?

  14. bymitch May 16, 2022 at 7:09 pm #

    I find it odd that this takes on the expressive form of the cathedral, where, in this day and age, you might expect the awe of the vault to be taken to new extremes, rather than diminished to residential scale openings.
    There is still the charm of the ledge to house pigeons, but instead of stained glass, we get the awkward junctions between curtain wall window and spandrel, referencing some technical association with the glass office block.
    The effect is that the facade is a building in itself, slipped over another building inside, in some inside-out fetish, but then, I might be reading too much into it.
    I must have missed the memo, from my hotel clients, that building these things was a thing again, but i’m pretty sure that if we did, we would make the things adaptable for other future uses.
    The window in wall thing is such a cellular driver, that I can’t see how this might work, without altering the facade, which is obviously the main event.

  15. JCalvertNUK May 19, 2022 at 10:19 am #

    Although the artist’s impression make it look rather grandiose, it is located on a tiny site on the corner of 14th and Colfax. The site seems to be currently occupied by a very small kindergarten. https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@39.7402727,-104.9911576,86m/data=!3m1!1e3

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  16. tom clark June 3, 2022 at 3:05 pm #

    It’s June, Jimbo…bring us a new specimen of architectural glory to rag on.