Sky Trapezium - CODAworx

Sky Trapezium

Submitted by Karla Dakin

Client: Museum of Contemporary Art / Denver

Location: Denver, CO, United States

Completion date: 2007

Project Team


Karla Dakin

K. Dakin Design Inc.

Art Consultant

Mark Fusco

Independent Horticulturalist


Greg Alvarado

Green By Nature


“Sky Trapezium” is a 572 square foot, roof garden on top of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver. The project is a permanent art piece in the museum. Although this landscape was designed as a typical green roof, it was an artistic commission. “Sky Trapezium” is a provocative garden intended to push the boundaries of our expectations of what we find in a landscape.


From the outset, this project was intended to be one of four commissioned art works for the Museum of Contemporary Art / Denver (MCA/Denver). The Director/Curator, Cydney Payton wanted a green roof as part of the museum architecture. Because of the small site, Karla Dakin decided to focus on the oasis aspect of a green roof rather than on green roof aspects like storm water retention or heat island mitigation. Inspired by the pools at Marble Mines in Colorado and the sod roofs described in novels by Willa Cather and Laura Ingalls Wilder, Dakin imagined a place for people sit in the shade under prairies and to experience “belly views” of mountain flora.

The museum architect, David Adjaye’s triangular skylights on the top floor of the museum inspired the initial forms. A triangular wedge shape morphed into trapezoidal pieces floating like clouds down to the roof deck. Dakin envisioned the steel beds floating in the sky. Translating vision into a reality of floating, heavy, steel, planted beds was a challenging exercise. There were complicated considerations like long cantilevers, snow loads and high winds, irrigation going up, and water draining down.


On this project, Karla Dakin functioned as artist and designer. However, Dakin realized that she needed an excellent team of experts to collaborate on the project.

Karla Dakin, Husein Krvavac, K. Dakin Design Inc.
Cydney Payton & John Grant, Museum of Contemporary Art / Denver
Tom Moe, Chuck Keyes, Martin/Martin Engineers
Mike Mancarella, Junoworks
Greg Alvarado, Green By Nature
Mark Fusco, Denver Botanic Gardens
Gianfranco Pacello, Black Roofing
Steve Davies, Complete Custom Construction
Karen Leher, La Porte Avenue Nursery
Sunscapes Nursery
Rick Wagner, Rainbird
Ed Steele, M-E Engineers
Mike Crespin, Crespin Electric
Winslow Crane
The construction of the project took place off site because the building was under construction and we were denied access until five days before the museum opened; and the small size of the site, measuring 13’ x 44’, prevented any storage or stockpiling of materials. The project was fabricated at Ironton Studios. Mike Mancarella, the steel fabricator turned drawings into reality with insights at every turn. Prototypes of the sloped beds were planted and monitored in horticulturalist, Mark Fusco’s back yard to test plants. Plants were purchased early and grown in the artist/designer’s back yard. All parts of the roof garden were constructed for an immediate and rapid installation via crane a few days before the museum opened.

Additional Information

The plants list reflects the Colorado of Dakin’s imagination: the long views of the prairie and the micro views of alpine plants. Natives and climate appropriate plants figured large. For the upper beds, Dakin chose visual metaphors from the Boulder foothills: a blue prairie and a chartreuse, green prairie. The plants in the lower beds are small alpine and high altitude prairie plants that need to be studied closely, revealing exquisite details. Additionally, Dakin’s prints of fuzzy ball shapes floating across the page inspired the choice of plants with mounding or spreading habits adorned with ball-shaped blossoms.