A Modern Man: Harvey Hine Celebrates 25 Years of Modern Architecture


Modernism began as a rebellion against the status quo, says Boulder Architect Harvey Hine. And he would know. On the forefront of the Colorado modern movement for 25 years, Hine pushed boundaries at a time when the design wasn’t embraced in the region. A quarter of a century later, here’s a look back at how he made a name for himself as a preeminent modern architect on Colorado’s Front Range.  

Although Harvey Hine, AIA insists he was not one of those kids who knew he wanted to be an architect when he grew up, it’s apparent he had a bent for it from an early age. Born in the U.S., Hine moved to Austria when he was in second grade. “I remember my brother asking me if I had any concerns about our new school,” he said. “I told him I hoped it would have a flat roof.” As it would turn out, he attended school in a brand new Bauhaus-style building, which he’s sure influenced him. “Modern always interested me as a child,” said Hine, now President of HMH Architecture + Interiors. His parents had friends with small, modern apartments with transforming rooms and furnishings, which he found intriguing. And while architecture was his ultimate pursuit, it wasn’t his first.

Hine started his education in theater, but graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Design from CU, where he met his wife, Gail Ramsberger. Grad school took them east so Hine could pursue a master’s degree in Architecture from Harvard, but when the couple wanted to start a family, they knew it was time to make their way back to Boulder.

After working at a handful of firms in Denver and Boulder, Hine started his own firm in 1989, working mainly in the commercial sector. While he always worked on some residential projects, it began to take off in the 1990s.

When modernism first took hold, the vast majority of modern design was of the highest quality because the only architects and designers participating in the movement were ones who cared about the design as a statement. But as modernism became popular, Hine said architects jumped on the modern bandwagon, and many didn’t understand the movement and began to pollute the design. “Then they moved onto something else,” said Hine. “Modern architecture involves multi-function spaces. The biggest difference between traditional architecture and modern is the function of the rooms. Houses are smaller in the modern context because the environments are interactive.”

In Boulder, modern is defined by cultural references. It represents a simplified lifestyle, according to Hine. The city has been home to several greats in the modern architecture world. Charles Heartling’s career in Boulder spanned 30 years and included such iconic properties as the Menkick House and the Brenton House. Other greats include Rigomar Thurmer and Gale Ables, both of whom Hine worked for early in his career.

At that time, very few people wanted modern design in Boulder, according to Hine. “The real evolution began 8 to 9 years ago, as Coloradans began to embrace a more simplified way of life and sought the open spaces and integration between indoors and out,” he said. The resurgence of modern design in Boulder can be, in part, attributed to Hine and his contemporaries, which, in 1989, was comprised of a small group of forward-thinking architects, who passionately embraced the notion of organic, modern design.

The style has enjoyed a series of reoccurrences throughout the years—first in the 1920s out of Chicago, and again in the 1980s in Los Angeles. Boulder, too, has experienced a history of great modern design throughout the 20th century—some of which can be attributed to Hine.

One of the noteworthy projects you can see in Boulder is the Jessor/Menken residence, an excellent example of creating a dynamic space with simple materials—and customizing a home to the owners’ passions and lifestyle. As avid mountain climbers, the owners wanted a house that integrated their outdoor lifestyle. In response, Hine designed a stair as a focal point, punctured with small windows providing playful shadows on the climb up the stair culminating in a fifth floor rooftop terrace. 

It becomes quickly apparent what makes Hine unique is not just the risks he took and his Austrian roots. For him, it’s all about the client.

Hine has carefully crafted his process for working with clients to eliminate many of the paralyzing choices based on getting to know the client and his/her individual preferences. “I like to find out what moves them rather than their preconceived notions of what a house is supposed to be.” The materiality of the homes he designs is completely client-driven. He takes the process slowly to ensure homeowners are completely comfortable. “The most fun I have is when the client is positively engaged in the process—design and discovery,” Hine said. “That makes a difference.” 

Hine said the current evolution of modern is unfolding in Europe and Asia quicker than in the U.S. However, the future for modern architecture, at least in Boulder, looks bright. A new, younger breed of client is evolving and they are demanding creative, modern architecture. “We are slowly moving forward to a new architecture,” Hine said. Magazines—like Modern In Denver, he said, have a responsibility in keeping the movement going forward. Indeed we do.  


These homes designed by HMH Architecture + Interiors hint at the breadth of modern design in Boulder—and are a few of their favorites. 


Like most Coloradoans, the owners wanted a home that connected them to what they love: the outdoors. Yet some of the most noteworthy aspects of the home are the interior architectural details, designed by both President Harvey Hine, AIA and Vice President Cherie Goff, AIA, who explains:

“For a busy family of five, people are coming and going at different hours, so we designed a massive bar as a gathering space for informal family interaction. However, to prevent the counter from cracking, we had to design a rigid steel frame that could be completely hidden between the two layers of Ceasarstone slab. The bar is really wide at three feet, which was the challenge with the material. We hid a steel channel along the cantilevered edge, and every 2.5 feet, tubes connect to columns in the back wall. Underneath the entire top is a steel plate. The clients love it, and we think it’s just a really cool example of how modern architecture can bring a family closer together rather than separating them into rooms.”

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The Jessor/Menken residence is one of Hine’s most iconic and well-recognized homes. It’s situated on a property that is only 50 feet wide by 150 feet deep and bound by city open space to the south, west, and north. Hine describes the project:

“When Dick Jessor approached me to build his home, he asked me to design a Richard Meier/Corbusier House. I told him that Richard Meier was a second-generation modernist, and I am a third-generation modernist. In the same way that Richard Meier did his interpretation of modernism, I would do a Harvey Hine version. Dick was a professor at CU and had commissioned his first home by Charles Haertling in 1956, the year I was born. We came up with one scheme first that was pretty cool, and then the city pulled some weird shit on us. In Boulder, you can’t shade your neighbors, but you can shade open space. But they decided that they could sell the adjacent open space later, so we had to redesign the house, so the curved wall on the north side of the house casts a shadow on the winter solstice at noon, which follows the property line. Dick and Jane were the easiest clients I have ever worked with. Their minimal approach to design was also reflected in their decision process. The variable as to what makes one job better than another is the client. Dick and Jane proved this theory correct.” 


Growing up on a modern house and living for architecture, Diane Rosenthal was a true scholar of architecture, and when Hine designed her house, every aspect of the design was debated and studied. The architecture is defined by form, space and surface. Every detail and finish was carefully selected to support the sculptural minimalism of the building. Of the project, Hine said:

“Diane Rosenthal jokes that working with us was the ‘best 10 years of her life,’ which isn’t an exaggeration. We looked for the right piece of land for Diane and Daniel for almost three years, and when we found it Diane quoted Phillip Johnson’s definition of good architecture: ‘Does it make me cry when I step in?’ That’s how we approached the design. Years after the house has been completed, Diane still calls to discuss the house on a weekly basis. The home was designed to encompass everything that Diane and Daniel loved to do: modern life and environmental and political activism. We designed the house so they could hold large political fundraisers, neighborhood environmental meetings, and lectures in the living room. The coolest part of this home is the 160-foot long wall that organizes the architecture and the landscape and acts as the threshold between the street and the entryway. Once inside, the long wall becomes an art wall that leads to the living room, when the glass-living space reveals breathtaking views of the mountains and city below.”    


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