“Every movement starts with geniuses who do really great work. Then the style becomes popular. The masses copy it and the design progressively gets worse.” Harvey M. Hine, founder of HMH Architecture + Interiors, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, is kicked back in his chair at the small, orderly office, part of a work/live project he completed a few years ago.
Hine, who at age 58 has a wicked laugh and quick wit with the occasional honest-to-a-fault comment continues. “Then all of a sudden there are all these really bad strip malls and gas stations and schools that are horrible. People say ‘wow this stuff is really ugly and the roofs leak’ and then they look for an alternative style. So the pendulum swings back and it starts all over again.”
The First Swing
In Colorado the first pendulum swing happened in the 1950s and 60s when Boulder became a hotbed of good modern architecture.
“By the 1970’s Boulder had ugly modern strip malls, elementary schools and government buildings. The population reacted with a return to historicism and the Pearl street mall was built. Buildings on the mall that were made modern in the 60’s were converted back to traditional.” notes Hine who, in 1989—in the middle of one of the worst recessions in US history—decided to fight this fake historicism trend, cleared out the storage in his basement and launched Harvey Hine Architecture.
“I was working for a large firm that basically told me to either bring in work or leave. I decided that if I was going to bring in work it might as well be my own firm, so I did what so many young architects did during this last recession. We just made it work.”
Being a modern architect in the 80s and 90s in Colorado wasn’t the easiest road to travel. “We were doing modern before it was popular. We just loved good design and did what we had to do to create great architecture.”
Ultimately, Hine stayed true to his modern sensibilities and grew the firm slowly and carefully, ultimately establishing a reputation as one of the region’s foremost authorities on modern architecture and design.
Today, the influence of Hine and his contemporaries can be seen and felt throughout the city, with clean, evocative designs sitting side by side with Victorian homes, 1970s office buildings, and iconic modernist homes and buildings. The community’s love of modern design shows no sign of slowing down.
Back to the Middle
“Architecture is continuously evolving. It’s like a language, the elements of design make up the vocabulary of the language and style defines the way these elements look. In language, style is similar to a dialect. It’s always changing, morphing and evolving into something new and different based on the time and place.”
Colorado has taken its time in embracing modern design, but as people realize that it actually complements the lifestyle here, Hine and his contemporaries are finding a renewed interest in simple, clean, low-maintenance homes and buildings.
Hine “always felt like modern is actually a lot more suited to the Colorado lifestyle than traditional design. Traditional architecture is more inward focused and cluttered. Modern design, by definition, incorporates large expanses of windows open to the sun, views and breeze. As people simplify their lives, modern architecture just makes sense.”
However, Hine is quick to differentiate between modern and contemporary. “Contemporary architecture is driven by trend. A lot of these structures look really good now, but in 15 years will look really outdated. True modern design is timeless.”
A New Swing
The modern sensibilities were strengthened at HMH Architecture + Interiors with the addition of Cherie Goff as a partner in 2004. Cherie, a Colorado native, came to HMH after spending 15 years studying architecture and working in Tucson, Austin and Boston. A licensed architect and LEED Green Associate, Goff has injected a sense of youth and exuberance into Hine’s modernist roots.
“Modernism to me is more than style,” says Goff. “It’s lifestyle. Good modern design should inspire and elevate. Clean lines and function help us simplify and de-clutter our busy lives. Natural light, form and sculptural spaces elevate our conscience and improve our quality of life.”
And, as Coloradans emerge from yet another recession (mostly in tact), it is precisely this craving for simple, pared down life that is driving the recent resurgence of modern design.
“In Colorado, where quality of life is synonymous with outdoor pursuits, modern design serves to further blend outside and inside in a seamless, effortless way. People are finally learning that modern doesn’t have to be sleek and shiny, it can be warm and inviting, sculptural and unexpected.”
If there is one thing to expect from the dynamic team at HMH Architecture + Interiors, it’s an embrace of the unexpected—a sculptural curvilinear structure in the heart of Boulder, a glass box yoga studio supported by angled columns, corridors, staircases and galleries carefully crafted to showcase jaw dropping art collections.
The Middle Ground
Twenty-five years later, Hine and his contemporaries who developed what is now called “Colorado modern,” continue to do what they love the most, good design, but they are now flanked by a new generation of architects and designers, like Goff, who see a promising future for modern.
Maybe if we are lucky the pendulum will stay in place for awhile.