Friday, July 30, 2010

DIA Expansion

Santiago Calatrava's graceful designs first caught my eye in architecture school, and he quickly became a favorite of mine.  So naturally, I was very excited to see the unveiling of his new plans for the south terminal expansion and added rail component of DIA.  I am undeniably thrilled about the concept of connecting the airport to downtown Denver with public transportation, and a hotel at DIA is long overdue, so altogether, this seemed like a win-win proposition.

Watching the sexy video, I found myself making yummy noises at the experience conveyed of the drive under the proposed graceful train bridge upon approach to the terminals.  But then, much to my own surprise, my heart sank a bit as I realized that DIA's very recognizable existing structure -- line of iconic tent peaks -- was hidden completely behind the mass and placement of the new building set to the south.

I'm not sure to what extent the program, which includes the rail station, retail and hotel, could have been either lowered, or perhaps narrowed and made more vertical -- a single graceful tower perhaps in juxtaposition to the tent forms?  I can imagine several alternatives which might have more believably complemented the existing architectural peaks which have become so iconic for Denver.  It is, granted, a significant challenge given that the existing forms can be powerfully read as both references to our land's tribal histories and our grand mountains.

This building, which on it's own provides an interesting reference to a wingspan of an airplane itself (which is a bit ironic to me, as it is the rail and hotel component and not, in fact, the airport), has certain grace and the forms themselves seem well suited to airport design, but it does not read, to me at least, as the complement to the existing airport that it claims to be.  Instead it seems to stand in stark competition with what was already a beautiful and strong iconic structure.

I am not surprised that the (local, Denver) architect of the original structure, Fentress Architects does not have a public comment as of yet.  And I can't help but wonder what they would have drawn....

To see the video larger, and for more information visit this article on the unveiling at the Denver Post.