top of page

Design Build - The Square

Over the years, the City and County of Denver's Community Planning and Development Department created an initiative to increase green space to underserved areas. As a result, Denver's first pop-up park emerged. With a tight deadline, the City leaned on CU Denver students to design and build the park gateways. Twenty-one undergraduate students from the College of Architecture and Planning and Inworks designed, fabricated, and installed two entry gateways over a period of three weeks. The park, which spans an entire city block on 21st Street, was coined “The Square on 21st.”

Parametric Design
The park’s name is reflected in the composition of the gateway structures. The parametric design, comprised of sequential rotating squares, creates a dynamic effect that draws people into the park. Twenty-one independently constructed ribs rotate over a 30-degree axis. A stunning optical illusion of a shrinking tunnel visually appears because the inside square rotates at a different degree than the outside square. The gateways were installed in one afternoon and were only meant to be on public display for two months; however, the city has already received several requests for the gateways to be relocated to other local parks once the pop-up park closes.

The students were part of a “Maymester” design-build course. The experience of design-build exposes students to real-world clients, budgets, and timelines. Students are challenged to respond with solutions to design and construction issues that manifest on-site. Design-build gives students a high-impact educational experience where they feel proud to see their conceptual drawings on paper materialize.

The project marks the first local design-build project that CU Denver has completed for the City and County of Denver. The collaboration can be seen as a prime example of how cities and universities can work together to create a positive impact in their communities.

The Pop-up Park
Over the two-month summer period, the public park will host movie nights, concerts, festivals, and more. A fenced dog park fulfills the neighborhood need for an outdoor dog play space and helps support clean streets. Denverites are able to lounge in outdoor seating with family and friends, and can eat and drink from food trucks that service the park.

Casey, Chris. “CU DENVER TODAY” Website Homepage Feature Story. Maymester class designs and builds entryways for Square on 21st, a collaboration with City of Denver. July 5, 2017.


*More photos can be viewed on the College of Architecture and Planning Flicker account created by Jesse Kuroiwa: Album: Square on 21st Undergraduate Design Build

Student course feedback:

Student 01: "I believe this course was a learning experience since day one. We went through the basic design process to the most challenging topics such as how will the structure be arrayed or connected and which materials we will use. Overall, it felt like a real experience in the design world."

Student 02: "Maria did a fantastic job setting up the course and getting us a huge grant from the city."


Student03: "I have taken this second class with Maria. She is not only a good teacher, but true motivator for students who want to learn new things. I really appreciate her availability throughout this semester, she was always there for us. She taught me to think differently and rather she was doing the actual task to complete the project. She was always us to get complete and succeed. She is so encouraging. Thanks Maria."

Student 04: "The integration of everyones ideas was excellent. I felt my voice was hear and if my idea was not the best idea is was not ignored or brushed off. I was able to get insight on others options and was give constructive criticism if an idea wasn't one that fit the project."



“Architizer” The Square on 21st. July 31, 2017. Featured on website homepage.


“Architizer” The Square on 21st. July 31, 2017. 11:00 a.m. Featured on website Facebook page.


University Communications. “University of Colorado Denver Youtube Channel”. CU Denver Students Help Build Denver's First Pop-Up Park. Published on Jul 19, 2017.


“imadethat_.” Instagram Post. July 10, 2017.


“5280 Magazine.” Instagram Post. June 20, 2017.


Kenney, Andrew. “Denverite” Denver’s Square on 21st experiment turns pavement into parkland. June15, 2017.


Bartlett, Lindsey. “The KNOW.” Colorado-centric mural adds vibrant color to the Square on 21st. June 14, 2017.


Werges, Brittany. “303 Magazine.” Get a look at Denver’s First Pop-up Park. June 13, 2017.

PROJECT SQ21 CREDITS | Project Development (University of Colorado | Denver Students) Jasmine Adams, Ahmed Alharaz, Abdulrahman Alhulaysi, Abdulaziz Almutawa, Ahmed Alotaibi, Mutaz Alsaleem, Filimon Alvarez, Ronald Bailie, Tracy Bowman, Marianna Caicedo, Sonal Desai, Tyler Ellis, Genevieve Hampton, Ephraim Jaeger, Tariq Moosa, Patrick Nytes, Ashaad Ragin, Mahmoud Sharufana, Carter Daughtrey, Maxavier Guss, Nicholas Piche, Amy Markowski, Greg Robinson, Kenny Ho, Mario Lopez, Abdsalam Saad, Christine Elias, Catharine McCord Project Direction Maria Delgado de Leon, Jo VandenBurg, Monika Wittig (Co-Instructors 'Digi-Fabricate' Maymester course) Inworks, College of Architecture + Planning, CU Denver CNC Fabrication support Matthew Gines, Troy Britt, Joel Brown (CAP, Design Fabrication Lab) Project support Ron Shvartsman, Stephen Garran, RJ Duran Design Consultant Sort Studio Structural Engineering Consultant EV Studio Material Sponsor Strait Lumber Photographer Jesse Kuroiwa Project funding & collaboration Community Planning and Development | City and County of Denver

bottom of page