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Santiago Calatrava’s Controversial Addition to the Denver Airport

August 9, 2010

Santiago Calatrava's addition to the Denver Airport

Santiago Calatrava's addition to the Denver Airport


Curtis Fentress' design for the Denver Airport

Curtis Fentress' design for the Denver Airport


Santiago Calatrava's design for the Milwaukee Art Museuem

Santiago Calatrava's design for the Milwaukee Art Museuem


Anyone familiar with Santiago Calatrava’s work knows he is famous for his sculptural designs that are in themselves pieces of art as much as pieces of architecture. His latest design in the United States is for an expansion of the Denver International Airport. The $650 million project will include a new 500 room Westin hotel and a commuter rail hub connecting the airport to downtown Denver. Here’s the problem. Denver’s airport is already home to a world renowned design by local architect Curtis Fentress. Fentress’ tensile fabric structure is an iconic imitation of the snow-capped Rockies in the distance and is an easily recognized symbol of the Denver airport.

The difficulty for Calatrava was how to integrate the new building without detracting from its famous neighbor, and in this is found the controversy. Did he succeed or not? You can be the judge. This article from Architectural Record includes an article about the project, some additional photos, and a fly-thru video.

Personally, I’m more of a fan of his design for the Milwaukee Art Museum, which I have had the pleasure to visit and photograph on a couple of occasions and I would highly recommend you visit if you get the chance. His projects around the world are well known and become landmarks and tourist attractions that bring thousands of visitors. Obviously a much “cheaper” design for any of his projects could have been achieved, but sometimes there are good reasons to make an architectural statement, tell a story with a building, or let a building serve as a work of art that draws people. His designs certainly catch the eye and make for much more interesting conversation than just dropping in something “cheap and functional.”

What do you think of Santiago Caltrava’s work? Do you have a favorite project or least favorite?

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