If you go
What: “Now Boarding: Fentress Airports and The Architecture of Flight”
When: Through Oct. 7
Where: Denver Art Museum, 100 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy., Denver
Cost: $3 to $13
To get there from downtown Denver, drivers head east on Interstate 70 and exit onto Pena Boulevard. That road runs for 11 miles through an area that, aside from an occasional subdivision or commercial
cluster, is given more to the prairie than people. The airport’s location, chosen under the administration of Mayor Federico Pena, namesake of the boulevard, was intentionally set way outside the urban bubble to avoid being a noise nuisance and to leave room for expansion. So, the 15 minutes it takes to drive between the to-and-fro of the city and the coming-and-going of one of the busiest airports in the world are a passage to a former time when grassland rolled to the horizon and tall buildings were yet to obscure the mountains.
Then, out on the prairie, a jagged white vision of modernity arises. The mountain-inspired roofline of DIA’s terminal is its defining feature, and, aside from the control tower, is the first part of it that drivers notice. The roof stands out for its shape, which mimics the serrated mountainscape west of the airport, and for its being made from fiberglass fabric. The design is audacious, but, for how spectacular its visual impact, it leaves a surprising impression of restraint. Compared to the Denver Art Museum’s recent Hamilton wing, an angular pile of architectural overreach, the airport design is controlled, though daring.
The design was the work of Curtis Fentress and his
Denver-based architectural firm, which earned an international reputation when DIA opened in 1995. Fentress and his team have since reinforced their place at the vanguard of airport architecture with groundbreaking