Charles Deaton's Englewood Bank

Deaton Sculpted House
Deaton Sculpted House

Most Coloradans are familiar with Charles Deaton's Sculptural House located on that prominent hill in Genessee.  Made famous in Woody Allen's film The Sleeper, it is likely more contemplatively seen while sitting in Saturday morning ski traffic on I-70.

Deaton's most interesting work however may be the Keys Savings and Loan building south of Denver in Englewood.

I say this because while the Sleeper House is beautifully sculptural and plastically enthralling, as a house it is daring but not outside of the realm of extreme residential architecture.

The bank however is another story.  For a couple of centuries, banks have emphasized their strength and solidity through their architecture.  Maybe more than any other typology, the architecture of banks have exercised a clear paradigm of using historical forms to lend gravitas to the institution.  In most cities you can drive through the downtown and easily identify the bank buildings by their clear, straight-forward neo-classical fronts.  Even long after the banking company may have moved out, the building is profoundly and unmistakenly a bank.

In the 1960s, especially with the advent of the drive up bank, these forms begin to change.  The curving drive paths of cars certainly inspired a great number of curving canopies and larger building forms.  However, none are more radical than Deaton's Key Savings building.

The curving concrete forms are mollusk-like, carefully opening up at the entry and displaying its protective shell along the street.  The building is tough and secure and in that defensiveness it continues that tradition of creating a series of forms that clearly demonstrate the security and safety of the vault contained within.  Deaton's choice of almost explicitly nature-inspired forms to demonstrate this character is such a sharp contrast from the tradition of neo-classical architecture standing firm in its conservative cloth.

I am not an account holder there, but it must feel pretty special to walk into this place, embraced by this massive shell, and take part in the mundane business of deposits and withdrawals.  I wonder if the nature of the institution as a savings and loan, rather than a traditional retail bank, gave the board of directors the freedom and vision to take on such an unusual form to represent their work.

This is a strange, marine-like world, wonderful to visit.  However, working there it all might be a bit too much, like the smothering hugs from a buxom aunt or an opium-tinged trip down the rabbit hole.