Penrose Library, dedicated in 1972, had a distinctly modern and futuristic set of design choices.
Sally Hemmings of the University Park News Sentinel described Penrose Library as the antithesis of a traditional library, with its “terrible academic silence seeming to scowl on all who enter.” Hemmings noted the “bright bold color…furnishings and decor, and a prevailing impression of space and light,” that “gives one the feeling more of being inside a modern, avant-garde gallery than a library.”
The furniture in Penrose, especially the much-beloved “egg chair,” and the library’s “megaforms” matched this functional and futuristic design aesthetic perfectly.
The bright-orange main level contained many of what Gyo Obata, the library’s architect, called “megaforms” – tiers of different levels, covered with carpet, with seat backs formed by the next higher level, on which students could sprawl out, sit on, or use as they wished.
The ‘Egg Chair’
Affectionately known among patrons of Penrose Library as the “egg chair,” this 1963 design by Finnish designer Eero Aarnio is known more widely as the “Ball Chair,” and sometimes as the “globe chair.” The chair is a fiberglass design, with fabric upholstery. This much-beloved chair returned to the Anderson Academic Commons on March 1, 2013, and is available for any patron’s seating pleasure. You can also see Aarnio’s pastil chairs on the third floor of the Academic Commons, just to the left of the main stairs.
Object: A crimson velvet brocade Torah mantle (cover). The mantle is trimmed with gold fringe, sequins and gold ribbon. There is a white and gold design on the front consisting of a crown, two lions, Hebrew letters standing for “‘the crown of the Torah,” the Ten Commandments in Hebrew and the date in Hebrew (5663). The mantle was used in the Congregation Shearith Israel (Tenth Street Shul) in Denver.
Shearith Israel (Remnant of Israel) synagogue was located in the oldest surviving religious structure in Denver from 1903 to 1965. The small stone building was originally erected as the Emanuel Episcopalian Church in 1877 at Tenth and Lawrence Streets in Denver. The Episcopalians moved and sold it to the Shearith Israel congregation in 1903. The Orthodox congregation remodeled the structure to fit the needs of a synagogue, adding Hebrew lettering around the entrance and a Star of David atop the building. Because of its location, it became known as the “Tenth Street Shul.”
The interior and exterior photographs of the Shearith Israel synagogue were taken by Jack Goldman. The sketch was done by Irene Miller Stein in 1979. Her father Robert Lazar Miller was an early member of the congregation.
The Shearith Israel congregation was established in 1899 as a traditional Orthodox Jewish house of worship. It was an offshoot of the Shomro Amunoh (Guardians of Faith) congregation, which was organized in 1877. Shearith Israel synagogue was one of the small synagogues just to the west of downtown Denver. The “Tenth Street Shul” was convenient for Denver businessmen who were seeking a regular minyan for daily religious services and was packed for services during the Great Depression because it was always heated. But by the end of World War II, services were only held on special occasions. The congregation dissolved in 1958, although sporadic services continued until 1965. The building, which was named an Historic Landmark in 1976, was converted to the Emanuel Art Gallery and is now part of the Auraria college campus.
There are a number of sets of tefillin in the Congregation Shearith Israel (Tenth Street Shul) Records, B139. This is one set of tefillin (phylactery) for the head consisting of a black leather box with a brown leather strap. Two of the four sides contain the Hebrew letter ”resh” designating that it is ‘’shel rosh” (for the head).