Colorado Architecture Firm Arch11 Turns 21, Celebrating Decades of Innovative Modernist and Sustainable Design

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Award-winning Boulder and Denver, Colo., architects Arch11 named their firm some 21 years ago after a quote from the movie “Spinal Tap.” Since those days, the residential and commercial architecture firm has played a key role in bringing a uniquely Colorado brand of modernism to the area, tied to a specific sense of place.

Transparent yet private, the Arch11-designed Dihedral Residence is moored to its Boulder neighborhood with site-cast board-formed concrete walls that also provide thermal mass (photo: Raul Garcia).

Sustainable building practices are just inherent in each design ... It’s just part of good architecture.

No business plan, no money, only a deep-seated sensibility for architecture and the craft of building sustained Arch11 through its formative years. Now, as the thriving, 16-person Colorado-based architecture firm celebrates its 21st anniversary, principal and founder E.J. Meade reflects back to the days when he and founding partner James Trewitt, both fresh out of architecture school, worked out of a tiny two-bedroom apartment in Boulder, Colo. “We were so naïve – 1993 was a terrible time to start a practice in the midst of a recession,” says Meade. Yet it was during this time that the young architects received their first house commission which solidified the firm’s raison d’etre.

“The house didn’t get built,” Meade recalls, “yet it all seemed to make sense. We had similar values about crafting things, revealing landscapes, abstracting vernacular language and a common modern sensibility.” They also shared a sense of humor, deriving their new firm’s name from a scene from Rob Reiner’s film Spinal Tap where lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel explains the importance of going to 11: “It’s one more than ten,” he says. The moniker aptly embodied Arch11’s ethos of pushing design beyond perceived limits.

With that shared background in the making of buildings, coupled with the belief that architecture is the result of a thoughtful and iterative process, Arch11 has established a unique practice rooted in craft, technology and purposeful living that has resulted in award-winning heirloom quality residences and highly contextual contributions to the urban fabric in the form of retail, office, mixed-use and restaurant spaces, including the just-opened Blue Island Oyster Bar in Denver’s tony Cherry Creek neighborhood.

Another recent project, Pearl Izumi's North American Corporate Headquarters in Louisville, Colo., designed by Arch11 in collaboration with Portland-based ZGF Architects, has garnered awards from AIA Denver and Portland, Ore., chapters and AIA Colorado, as well as a prestigious World Architecture News honor. The design demonstrates that Arch11’s belief that architecture can go beyond its purely functional purpose to “become an actual device for seeing and understanding a place” is not some ethereal concept. The composition of form and light creates a sensory relationship to the landscape that richly informs the outdoor technical gear company’s work and lifestyle.

Sue Heilbronner, a venture capitalist and entrepreneur who lives at 303 Canyon– an award-winning Arch11-designed townhome complex that was featured in The New York Times and Sunset – finds her living space similarly transcendent. “On the creative spectrum from 1 to 10, my home is an 11. It goes the distance from the practical to the spiritual,” she explains. “I am in the business of helping people reach their highest potential and this house is an exact example of that for me.”

Arch11’s design approach always entails a rigorous effort to understand the site and client’s program, translating into a high level of specificity for each project. “As a result, sustainable building practices are just inherent in each design,” Meade explains. “It’s not something that’s added, it’s just part of good architecture.” In fact, the firm’s design for a rock climber couple’s residence, known as the Syncline House, received Boulder’s first LEED for Homes Gold distinction.

“Merging function, craft, and performance in our designs while challenging building techniques and materials is essential to our practice,” explains Ken Andrews, who became a firm principal in 2010 and received AIA Colorado’s Young Architect and Instructor of the Year honors in 2011and Mentor of the Year Award from AIA Colorado North in 2013.

Arch11 founder and principal, James Trewitt further emphasizes the firm’s commitment to building performance. “We are always asking ourselves if we are using the most appropriate technologies and rethinking the relationship between structure and building envelope.” While the firm finds grounding in the principles of Modernism and has more than come of age in its 21 years of growth and development, it still is constantly looking for innovative ways to experience “aha” moments and take architecture to the next level.

About Arch11:
Founded in 1993, Arch11 has gained recognition for projects ranging from exceptional residences to institutional planning, mixed-use development and product design, including a 2009 Firm of the Year Award from the Colorado AIA North chapter. With offices in Boulder and Denver, Colo., Arch11 has over 30 combined years of green building technology leadership. The staff’s unusual level of hands-on experience ranges from boat building to furniture making, contributing to its reputation for commitment to craft, detailing and design integrity. For additional information visit

Media Contact: Sarah Goldblatt, WordenGroup Public Relations, sarah(at)wordenpr(dot)com, 303.777.7667

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