Sustainable Strategies for Expansive Facilities

Fentress’s portfolio is valued at over $43 billion and serves more than 650 million people annually.

Strategies of waste reduction, recycled content maximization and conservation are consistent regardless of the scale of the project. However, there are a few consistent strategies to consider when designing expansive facilities:

  • Harnessing daylight to minimize energy use and control heat gain. 
  • Integrating with the community and multimodal transportation networks.
  • Creating spaces and systems that will welcome future adaptations.   

The following projects illustrate these strategies:

Passenger Terminal Complex at Denver International Airport

Fentress’ entree into expansive facilities came with the commission to design the 2,250,000-square-foot Passenger Terminal Complex at Denver International Airport.  Fentress took over a project suffering from uninspired design, exorbitant cost and schedule overruns. The solution to reverse these incontestabilities was the creation of a light-filled volume to echo Colorado’s dramatic mountain scenery. Despite skepticism on the ability of a tensile structure—then a nascent building technology—to achieve the necessary spans and withstand area snow volume, Fentress countered precedent and flipped the airport’s massive infrastructure from the roof to underground. The shift allowed up to 150-foot light-filled roof peaks to come to life while conserving resources. Hundreds of tons of structural steel and building materials were eliminated. The design also powerfully harnessed natural light. The Denver airport dramatically changed contemporary ideas on airport design, introducing expressive form to welcome travelers to a place and its culture.

Colorado Convention Center Phase II

In 2010, the Colorado Convention Center (CCC) announced its certification through LEED–EB, making it—at 2,300,980 gross square feet—the largest convention center certified under LEED-EB to date and among the largest LEED-certified convention facilities in the US.  As Denver residents, Fentress Architects recognized the Center’s potential to reshape the city.  So, the focus was on establishing and reinforcing its connections with the urban surroundings. The integration of a light rail station within the building has advanced economic growth and revitalization initiatives for the once-barren 14th Street. Fentress’ work catalyzed a surge of infill development that continues to bring new life, investment and activity to Denver.

Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX

At 1.4-million square feet, Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX became the world’s largest LEED Gold certified airport when it opened in 2013.  Adding to the complexity of this immense facility is the fact that renovation and construction occurred while the terminal remained fully operational. Fentress’ state-of-the-art, people-centered design allows abundant natural light from clerestories and broad windows.  Environmentally-friendly concepts were integrated at every stage and every level of the project.

Operational and performance goals of improved energy performance, reduced water consumption, waste, and emissions were met, in part, through integrated strategies that aligned with the larger aesthetic and experiential objectives. For example, Fentress conducted extensive sun-shading studies during the design of the roof structure to minimize heat gain and maximize daylighting.

Additional strategies include a high-performance thermal envelope, drought-tolerant landscaping, the provision of a purple pipe infrastructure in anticipation of future availability of municipal-supplied non-potable water, programmed space for recycling, an early procurement program for materials that contain recycled content, specification of non- or low-emitting materials, and the incorporation of free shuttle bus service to provide better connectivity to and from the airport, the city and the region.

Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center

LEED Gold-certified Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center in Denver remains one of the most sustainable courthouse complexes in the United States. It hosts the Colorado Supreme Court Law Library, a visitor’s Learning Center, and a 4,000-square-foot green roof.  The granite-clad Neoclassical building respects the archetypal presence of its neighbors. It steps back to acknowledge a center of learning: the Denver Central Library. The design also focused on completing the flow of a pedestrian walkway between the Library and State Capitol.  The result is in a direct, physical link to the Center’s functions for users and visitors as they move across the campus. The Carr Judicial Center makes substantial use of durable and recycled materials. It remains 30-percent more energy efficient than standards demanded.  In addition to its green roof, sustainable features include a photosensitive daylight harvesting illumination system, a state-of-the-art and highly efficient mechanical system, and locally sourced materials such as marble from Marble, Colorado.

Case Study: Renovation of the Miami Beach Convention Center

Today, Miami Beach Convention Center is both a global hub for arts, culture and technology and a healthy, resilient amenity for the community.

Miami Beach’s rich history of arts and culture has strengthened the city’s quality of life and economy.  Built in the 1950’s, the original Miami Beach Convention Center (MBCC) was a generic structure. Its ‘big box’ aesthetic had no discernible main entrance. Its location amid small city blocks created vehicular congestion for area residents, workers, and visitors alike.  All in, the City of Miami Beach had five objectives to achieve with the transformation of its convention center:

  • increase capacity;
  • create a clear and lively entrance;
  • add exterior and interior elements reflective of the region’s natural character;
  • attract international economic, cultural, environmental, and technical events;
  • and invite pedestrian engagement as well as reduce vehicular traffic. 

Biophilic, Sustainable Design

One of the greatest challenges for the design team was harmonizing the program’s monumental size with convention-goers’ need for human-scaled, intuitive spaces and operators’ need for a versatile, resilient building. Exterior façade “fins” made of angled, aluminum linear forms help achieve this harmony and dapple lobbies and pre-function areas with daylight. In doing so, they provide a graduated transition between indoor and outdoor environments. The design team’s study of how light enters water and how underwater divers experience natural light informed this lighting strategy.  

Sustainable Design

In hot, humid Miami Beach, the old facility’s ambient lighting and space cooling accounted for more than 50-percent of total annual energy use. Wrapping the exhibit hall and meeting rooms with perimeter transition spaces such as pre-function circulation and service corridors significantly improved the building’s passive thermal properties. Sun-shading provided by the “fins” and upgrading the building envelope was also helpful. Additional solutions include:

  • a new, light-colored roof,
  • high-efficiency chillers,
  • a Building Management System with occupancy set-points based on actual planned programs, and
  • high efficiency lighting. 

These measures are projected to save 18-percent, or $300,000, annually. It is worth noting that the new design’s calculated Energy Use Intensity (EUI) is 40.9 kBtu/sf, which surpasses the EPA’s median of 45.4 kBtu/sf. All combined, the sustainable design and construction solutions employed helped MBCC achieve LEED Silver certification from USGBC. 

Resilient Design

Miami Beach is also a hurricane-prone and severe weather event community that necessitates resilient structures. The MBCC’s new LEED Silver design provides safe shelter for area residents by helping the Convention Center District to meet the City’s resiliency plan. 

A pre-existing, six-acre asphalt parking lot was converted into a park replete with gardens, lawns, art installations, and shaded areas.  In fact, more than 12 acres of greenspace and over 1,300 new trees were added. Approximately 100 existing trees were preserved.

We restored mangrove habitats and native vegetation to provide environmental stabilization. We also reinforced the primary drainage waterway in Collins Canal Park, which lies north of the site. Pervious acreage on the 25-acre campus increased by 245-percent. This significantly improves MBCC’s ability to manage storm runoff on-site and reduce heat island effect.

Finally, we implemented both wet and dry flood-proofing measures. Measures include raising the base floor elevation by 12 inches and relocating all critical building systems to the second floor, which allows the center to remain operational as an emergency response and community shelter during hurricanes and other climatic-disruptive events.

Fentress Architects: Pioneering Sustainable Architecture Since the Early 1990s

Fentress Architects was founded in 1980 on the heels of two significant energy crises: the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 and the Iranian Revolution of 1978.  Among the many innovations and movements precipitated by these events is the modern sustainable architecture and green building movement.  The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Energy Committee was founded in 1973. Later, in 1990, the AIA Committee on the Environment was founded. 

Sustainability Pioneers

Within 10 years of its founding, Fentress had won several prominent commissions. The following contributed substantively to the sustainable architecture movement:

  • Denver International Airport’s Passenger Terminal Complex: The imaginative roof pays visual homage to the majestic Rocky Mountains. It also utilizes the site’s more than 3,000 annual hours of sunshine to provide exceptional energy savings and biophilic benefits for travelers and staff alike. 
  • Natural Resources Building for the State of Washington: The Natural Resource Building was a forerunner in the development of indoor air quality standards and the US Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED program. “The facilities will provide the public and employees an enjoyable, energy efficient and healthy work environment using new air quality design requirements, which will lead the way for future standards in our nation.” — K. Wendy Holden, Former Director, State of Washington Department of GSA
  • National Wildlife Art Museum: Irregular lines and the use of native stone allow the museum to embody the spirit of its delicate site and essence of the Jackson community, while setting new standards in quality and architectural design sensitivity for the area.  The warm, humanistic design expertly responds to important challenges. These challenges include developmental pressures and their impact on the natural environment and plant and animal communities.

LEED Firsts

Since the launch of USGBC’s LEED Program in 1998, Fentress Architects has designed over 50 LEED-certified buildings that comprise nearly 10 million square feet, including:

  • California Department of Education Headquarters: In 2006, three years after achieving LEED Gold, the California DOE Headquarters became the first building in California, and second largest building in the world, to be awarded LEED EB Platinum certification.
  • Green Square Complex in Raleigh, North Carolina: With a 10,000-square-foot green roof, a system that eliminates stormwater runoff—North Carolina’s number one cause of water pollution—and so much more, Green Square Complex became North Carolina’s first LEED Platinum facility.
  • Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC): Terminal B was the first entirely new passenger terminal west of the Mississippi River to become LEED Silver Certified.  Terminal A is “self-certified.” The rental car facility, or ConRAC, follwed “best practices” for green building, including a roof-mounted 3.4-acre, 1.1-megawatt solar array.
  • Terminal C at Orlando International Airport (MCO): Terminal C is on target to become the first new LEED v4.1 certified passenger terminal in America. 

Looking Ahead

At Fentress Architects, we believe we have a responsibility to future generations to effect positive change on our natural environment.  So, in addition to being seasoned LEED-certification experts, Fentress team members are also highly skilled and knowledge in the burgeoning areas of:

  • Net Zero Architecture: including net zero energy, net zero carbon.
  • Regenerative Design: including ILFI’s Living Building Challenge
  • Sustainable Landscape Practices: including Green Business Certification Inc.’s Sustainable SITES Initiative (SITES)

Royal Norwegian Embassy Opens New Chancery to the Public

Fentress’ first-ever embassy project reinforces Norway’s diplomatic bond with the United States, and advances the Embassy’s mission for world peace, fairness and sustainability. 

Royal Norwegian Embassy Opens New Chancery

Established in 1905, Norway’s Embassy is located on the venerable Embassy Row in Washington, DC. It resides between the Vice President’s residence and the National Cathedral.  Its 1970-era Chancery recently underwent an 30,000-square-foot expansion and renovation.  Fentress Architects designed this essential element of Norway’s largest embassy complex in to be culturally symbolic. Additionally, the embassy is architecturally harmonious, modernized, sustainable and universally accessible.

Since architecture can play a profound role in the diplomatic environment, every element of the project was carefully considered: for staff, guests, and diplomatic relations.  Four principles guided this effort: Handlekraft (vigor), Arbeidsglede (joy of work), Profesjonalitet (professionalism) and Åpenhet (openness). 

“While providing significant functional, accessibility and sustainability upgrades, our architecture makes Norway’s rich heritage visible on one of the most culturally significant streets in the world.”
— Steve White, Principal & Director of the Washington DC Office, Fentress Architects

The result is a transformed Chancery comprised of three elements: a stone shell, a cocoon, and a copper-clad mass timber hull. The mass and forms of the limestone-clad stone shell are deliberately segmented and scaled to show deference to the Ambassador’s residence. They blend harmoniously with the historic residential neighborhood. While the vast majority of the existing structure and limestone cladding were retained and restored, strategic interventions were made to the stone façade. They now open up new views of the garden and public street, block undesired views from neighbors, and introduce generous daylight within. 

The wood-finned curtainwall cocoon wraps internal elements including the lobby atrium and Social Hub. It also extrudes externally to screen rooftop elements. An open stair connects a two-story space known as the “Social Hub.” This hub functions as a venue for staff to engage in intellectual dialogue and build community.

A copper-clad mass timber hull helps to demarcate and celebrate diplomatic spaces. Wrapped in copper, an open, gracious and accessible new entry to the Embassy results from lowering the original lobby structure seven feet and eliminating an associated obtrusive staircase. Copper cladding recalls Norway’s gift of copper for the Statue of Liberty. Adjacent to the entry is Atlantic Ocean Hall. This hall incorporates the old garden wall and captured underutilized courtyard space.  Atlantic Ocean features a new mass timber structure that recalls Viking mastery of shipbuilding and woodworking. In rhythm with the historic windows, the structure’s spruce columns alternate in a triangular grid. This eliminates the need for additional cross bracing and creates a dramatic, yet intimate space for Norwegian hospitality and diplomacy.  The mansard form of the roof is appropriate to the neighborhood and gives the Atlantic Ocean Hall its distinctive shape. 

Given that SUSTAINABILITY is a tenet of the Embassy’s mission, it was also a tenet of the design.  Reusing existing buildings is inherently more sustainable than new construction. Accordingly, we reused 90-percent of the existing structure with only 3,500 square feet added.  Interventions focused on increasing program area within the existing footprint, enhancing the indoor and outdoor environment, and improving systems performance. For example, previously underutilized areas are now flexible, multi-use rooms. Likewise, a spacious staff lunchroom can accomodate large informal meetings. It also provides food-prep support to Atlantic Ocean Hall and Courtyard functions.  Smaller, multi-use spaces exist throughout both office wings.  Flex spaces such as these, along with open office layouts, more easily accommodate future needs. In fact, all office spaces were completely reconfigured and improved.  A cold, dark, north-facing courtyard terrace between the two office wings was glazed-in. It now features a social gathering space and coffee bar.

Bioswales that harvest rainwater from roofs and gardens now flank the entry plaza. They are additionally planted with native, pollinator-friendly garden species.  Atlantic Ocean Hall opens out onto a large, terraced garden with designated areas of structured turf for tented events, a rain garden with native species, flowering perennials, mature trees, and a semi-private Ambassador’s Walk.  Additional sustainable strategies included: 

  • Almost half the site is open space, planted with native and adaptive, pollinator-friendly species. All parking is underground, with electric charging stations for cars and bicycles. All street trees were retained, which are also mature and are considered heritage.
  • Bioretention planters and permeable pavements manage all the run-off on-site, eliminating any burden to the Rock Creek watershed. Indoor water use is 25% less than baseline.
  • Thermal envelope upgrades, new low-e double-glazing, and fritted skylights result in a projected energy cost savings of 21.8-percent over the ASHRAE-90.1 baseline.
  • The wood and copper structures highlight natural materials and promote traditional skills and craftsmanship. They can be disassembled, reused and recycled.
  • Sustainably harvested wood made up 2.5-percent of the total value of architectural construction material.

[Atlantic Ocean Hall, a] year-round, indoor-outdoor space has already hosted climate-focused presentations and events, and turns diplomats and visitors into tree huggers. 
— Arild Ravlo Hersleth, Project Manager, Statsbygg

Standby power, durable technology infrastructure, and a robust building enclosure system are among the many elements that reinforce structural resilience within the Chancery.  In addition to being amply secure, the Chancery also features an accessible and transparent street presence. An internal elevator connects all levels, restrooms are designed to be gender neutral, and textured stair landings assist the vision-impaired.

New and repurposed art pieces included further enliven the spaces. Metamorphosis, a significant larvikite granite sculpture by Knut Steen designed in 1986 was relocated to the garden. One of five new, specially-commissioned major installations – the 18-foot long Dreams Ahead, by Ann Cathrin November Høibo, hangs in the lobby atrium space, visible from the public right of way along 34th Street.

In April 2022 the Embassy Renovation Project won its first award from the Washington, DC Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Royal Norwegian Embassy Opens New Chancery
© Alan Karchmer / OTTO – A portal opening on the western façade creates a dignified, open, and transparent greeting and gesture of hospitality towards visitors to the Embassy. 

Royal Norwegian Embassy Opens New Chancery
© Alan Karchmer / OTTO – Norway’s Embassy is located on the venerable Embassy Row in Washington, DC between the Vice President’s residence and the National Cathedral.

© Alan Karchmer / OTTO –  An expansive curtainwall system on the southern and eastern sides of the façade maximizes daylight and views to the garden with vertical wooden fins that accentuate the curtainwall.

© Alan Karchmer / OTTO  – An open stair connects the two-story space – now the “Social Hub” – a place for staff to have intellectual dialogue and community.

© Alan Karchmer / OTTO – The new and accessible lobby seating area. Public Art peice Dreams Ahead, by Ann Cathrin November Høibo, hangs in the atrium space

© Alan Karchmer / OTTO – The Embassy office spaces were completely reconfigured and improved between the two office wings, a cold, dark, north-facing courtyard terrace is glazed-in, creating a coffee bar and lounge.

© Alan Karchmer / OTTO – The garden room is a new mass timber structure that recalls Viking mastery of shipbuilding and woodworking.

© Alan Karchmer / OTTO – Looking out the garden room at the art piece Metamorphosis, a significant larvikite granite sculpture by Knut Steen designed in 1986


  • With a staff of 60, the Embassy in Washington is Norway’s largest. 
  • The original chancery was built in 1977 as a two-story, limestone-clad structure that contained basement parking, staff offices and diplomat apartments.  
  • The first structure built on the Embassy grounds was an historic Italianate residence for the ambassador.  Completed in 1931, this was also the second foreign service mission to be constructed in the United States on the venerable Embassy Row on Massachusetts Avenue.  It is a beautifully articulated expression of early 20th century neo-classical architecture with an Italianate structure that features a symmetrical tripartite arrangement: rusticated base, piano Nobile and hipped roof. Its Indiana-limestone façade includes quoining and an ornamental bracketed cornice. Piano Nobile fenestration consists of pedimented limestone openings with Juliette balcony balustrade. The slate roof is hipped and symmetrical with the façade. Extending from the house to the north, as part of the 34th Street experience, is a rusticated one-story limestone garden wall, which encloses a beautifully manicured landscape.

Fentress Architects Selected for the California Indian Heritage Center

CIHC will honor the rich heritage, traditions and cultures of the first peoples of California

SACRAMENTO, CA—California State Parks and the California Indian Heritage Center Task Force today announced Fentress Architects as the firm to design the long-desired build out of the California Indian Heritage Center (CIHC). Once complete, visitors from across California, the nation, and the world will be drawn to this center of statewide significance. It will be a home for cultural preservation, learning and exchange, land stewardship based on Native American values, and a place to engage all visitors celebrating the living cultures of California tribal communities.

The 51-acre CIHC site is located at the confluence of the American and Sacramento Rivers in West Sacramento. The project constitutes a decades-long collaboration and demonstrates the state’s commitment to and responsibility for partnering with California Native American tribal governments and communities along with allied individuals and institutions to develop the site. CIHC’s design and development began in earnest with the commitment in the State’s 2018-2019 budget to invest $100 million in state funds. An additional $100 million was authorized in the budget for the phased buildout via private and philanthropic support. In December 2018, the Governor’s Office issued Executive Order B-60-18. This order directed the Tribal Advisor to establish a task force that would oversee the development of the CIHC. The Tribal Advisor established a CIHC Task Force of California Native American tribal and community leaders in 2019 to inform and lead the project until its completion.

In the next few months, the CIHC Task Force, California State Parks and Fentress Architects will kick off a public engagement process, including extensive tribal outreach. Members of the public and tribal communities who would like to be notified of upcoming events and/or receive information on how they can get involved with the project are invited to contact State Parks via email at or by visiting the project website at The project is anticipated to open to the public in 2028.

Fentress Architects was chosen out of 22 firms who submitted a Statement of Qualifications (SOQ) for the project. The CIHC Task Force and California State Parks established a subcommittee to review and interview the design firms. Based jointly out of Denver, Colorado and Sacramento, California, Fentress Architects has designed 52 museums. Projects include gallery spaces and cultural heritage centers. Fentress Architects is partnering with Amatoollik Studios for Native American architecture consultation and tribal outreach, Dennis Hendricks from Tuolumne Band of Miwok Indians as the CIHC Tribal Liaison and James Pepper Henry, Vice Chairman Kaw Nation, and Director of First American Museum (FAM) in Oklahoma City for public engagement, outreach and expertise on museum operation and programming. The team brings over 35 years of experience in Native American outreach, public engagement and design throughout the U.S.

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California State Parks provides for the health, inspiration and education of the people of California by helping to preserve the state’s extraordinary biological diversity, protecting its most valued natural and cultural resources, and creating opportunities for high quality outdoor recreation.

Seattle Airport’s North Satellite Modernization Project Opens in Conjunction with First Ever Art + Cultural Festival

On November 4, 2021, travelers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) had the opportunity to participate in the airport’s first-ever art and culture-filled festival. Named Experience SEA @ N, it coincided with the opening of SEA’s new N Concourse, also known as the North Satellite Modernization Project. The airport debuted a dedicated performance stage on which artists performed live music, a poetry reading and spoken word. Other festival highlights included art tours, special promotions and samplings from Tundra Taqueria, SEA Roast Coffee House and Filson (opening in December).

“This event celebrates the natural and cultural richness of the Pacific Northwest,” said Port of Seattle Commission President Fred Felleman. “The building embodies our values of creating economic opportunities in an inclusive and environmentally responsible manner.”

The North Satellite Modernization Project elevates the travel experience with the comforts travelers crave. It specifically has more room, more views, and more Pacific Northwest feels. The newly renovated N Concourse features modern amenities as well as seismic upgrades, sustainable features and improved building function. Design Architect Fentress Architects and Architect of Record AECOM with Construction Company Hensel Phelps were responsible for the project.

Curtis Fentress, Principal in Charge of Design at Fentress Architects, said “N Concourse is now emblamatic of the Pacific Northwest, its majestic sights and sounds. Every element of the design works in concert to orient travelers as it greets visitors and welcomes home residents.”  Indeed, this bigger, brighter and bolder space betters travelers’ experiences with more dining and retail options, a diverse art collection that reflects the culture, spirit and history of the region, nature inspired design and a brand-new performance stage.

Workers logged more than 2.1 million labor hours to build the facility over four years. It has ten new passenger gates and a spectacular Alaska Airlines Lounge. Also included is the airport’s first system to collect and reuse rainwater. Many built-in amenities make travel effortless for all.

“Hensel Phelps and our trade partners often come together to build complex projects, but the North Satellite Modernization Project was a unique opportunity to not only work through challenging logistics and safety, but to truly change the impression and experience of so many traveling to our area,” said Hensel Phelps Vice President Shannon Gustine. “This is a unique experience, and we are honored to have been a part of such an amazing team effort.”


In 2012, SEA introduced live music at the airport. It showcases the diversity of music culture in the Northwest while concurrently bettering the travel experience. Since the program’s launch, musicians have performed a wide range of styles from jazz to blues, folk and acoustic pop.

“Live music has been a part of the SEA scene for many years, but we have never hosted a festival of culture and arts at this scale,” said SEA Managing Director Lance Lyttle. “The debut performances on this stage will be something to remember with three music sets, one spoken word artist and the state’s Poet Laureate. Listen in, lean in and experience SEA.”

Prior to COVID-19, the airport hosted live music seven days a week. Experience SEA @ N was the first-time music filled the terminal since the beginning of the pandemic.  It also inaugurated the stage in Marketplace at N, which lies at the heart of N Concourse.


  • Iconic building design evokes movement of a naturally meandering river
  • 20 gates (8 new and 12 remodeled)
  • Ten new installations of museum-quality art, featuring local and nationally-acclaimed artists. Pieces reflect the Pacific Northwest’s diverse environment, culture, spirit, people and history
  • Triple the amount of dining and retail with offerings that include Tundra Taqueria, SEA Roast Coffee House, Pike & Pine, Filson and Wendy’s (latter two open December 2021) with more set to open in 2022
  • Plugin at every single gate seat
  • Toilets use rainwater captured from the roof. This will save 2.8 million gallons of potable water annually, equal to 4.5 Olympic-sized swimming pools
  • 76-percent—or 20,000 tons—of construction waste was recycled and thereby diverted from landfills
  • Utilization of nearly $21M of recycled materials on the project
  • Energy-efficient LED lighting, heating, and cooling methods save approximately 1.7 million kWh annually, which is equal to the annual energy usage of 170 homes
  • Out of 1.8 million labor hours expended on the project, minorities performed more than 25-percent (462,000 hours). Apprentices performed over 20-percent (415,000 hours)
  • Over 20-percent, or $100M, of construction was spent with small business enterprises. $16.5M of that went to minority- or women-owned businesses.

Airport of the Future 2021

Global Student Competition Shortlist Announced

Fentress Architects is excited to announce the ten shortlisted entries for the 2021 Fentress Global Challenge (FGC), which garnered more than 80 entries from students around the globe. FGC is an annual international student design competition launched in 2011 by Curtis Fentress, FAIA, RIBA that encourages and rewards innovative design in public architecture. This year’s competition challenged students to envision airport mobility in the year 2100.

Students were able to choose between siting the new terminal at an existing airfield—such as at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International (ATL) or Beijing Capital International (PEK)—and a yet undeveloped site—such as in Atafu, Tokelau or Canillo, Andorra.

Entrants explored various modes of transport, including pods for intra-airport transport. Other methods of inter-airport transport proposed included mag-lev cars, drones, hyperloops, hydrofoils, and air-rails. Additionally, several different types of aircraft were studied including anti-gravity, vertical take off, rockets, and spaceships.

Entries were evaluated based upon five criteria, including technology and sustainability. Some submssions specifically envisoned airports able to create their own biofuel from algae and symbiotic bacteria. Others created floating structures that sought to restore coral reefs and ocean ecosystems. Most designs derived shape and form from biomimicry and parametric equations. Many also incorporated gardens, greenhouses, photovoltaic cells, and wind. Artificial intelligence helped enhance several of functions and addressed issues such as COVID-19 and terrorism. Furthermore, 3D printing and modular structures were two of several new building techniques explored.

The 2021 Shortlist

  • AJQ GROUP – Qian Yu, Alexandra Terekhova, Joseph Cook – University of Applied Arts Vienna, Austria
  • Urban Travelator – Dinel Meyepa – Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
  • Astra – Jonathan Liang, Martin He – Columbia University, New York City, USA
  • Decentralized Airport – Tam Dinh – University of Architecture Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
  • Ferreras + Osiberu – Carmina Ferreras, Oluwarotimi Osiberu – North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA
  • Adaptive Antifragile – Gee Yang Tan – Singapore University of Technology and Design, Singapore
  • The Future Cell – Assem Attia – UACEG, Sofia, Bulgaria
  • AILY – Liyang Wang – Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
  • Synergistic Airport – Baoqi Xiao – University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA
  • The Heathrow Hive – Jack Hastie – University Collge London, UK

A jury of renowned airport architects, directors, planners, and scholars will judge the shortlist virtually. Winners will be announced December 1, 2021. First, Second, and Third Place will recieve a total of $20,000 USD in cash prizes. Additionally, two People’s Choice Awards will be given, which carry a $1,000 USD cash prize, Voting for People’s Choice has already begun on the Fentress Architects Facebook Page at

AIA Western Mountain Region Recognizes Fentress Architects

25-Year Award for Denver International Airport’s Passenger Terminal Complex and the Special Recognition Award for Miami Beach Convention Center

The 2021 American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) Western Mountain Region (WMR) Design Awards were presented last Thursday, October 1 at the annual AIA WMR Summit, which was held in Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

­2021 AIA Western Mountain Region Twenty-Five Year Award: Denver International Airport (DEN) Passenger Terminal

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Western Mountain Region selected the Denver International Airport (DEN) Passenger Terminal as the recipient of the 2021 Twenty-Five Year Award. As one of the most prestigious honors for Colorado’s built environment, the award is presented annually to a project that has “significantly influenced design and lifestyle in Colorado” and features a “timeless and enduring design that has created a sense of place” for at least 25 years.

“Our vision for DEN’s Passenger Terminal was to create a memorable design—a gateway to Colorado and the West,” said Curtis Fentress, FAIA, RIBA, Principal in Charge of Design at Fentress Architects. “Twenty five years later, the design continues to transcend time and is known around the world. I would like to thank AIA Colorado Honor Awards Jury, the entire project team, and my former partner Jim Bradburn.”

Completed in 1995, Fentress’ design for DEN’s Jeppesen Terminal stimulated a paradigm shift in the way architects and the public perceive airport design. Previously, airports were conceived as ‘people processors’—nondescript warehouses comprised of low ceilings and dim lighting. Fentress sought to change this notion by creating an airport that serves as a symbol of Denver and a gateway welcoming all to Colorado and the West; architecture as memorable as it is functional.

To create a significant airport, the terminal’s design embodies forms and materials native to the Rocky Mountain region. Peaked roof forms rise 130 to 150 feet, evoking a sense that one has stepped onto the snowcapped mountains that inspired the building’s architecture. This context-driven design marks the first time an airport became a timeless icon of a region through expressive forms.  It inspired the architecture of hundreds of airports worldwide.

2021 AIA Western Mountain Region Special Recognition Award: Miami Beach Convention Center

Miami Beach Convention Center won the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Special Recognition Award for 2021. Located in the heart of the city, the 1950’s-era Miami Beach Convention Center (MBCC) needed a transformation befitting its reputation as a world-class entertainment destination.  The venue has become renown for hosting preeminent annual events including Art Basel and eMERGE Americas. The Fentress team, together with Arquitectonica, mined the surrounding culture and context to create a design that is quintessentially South Florida, and has become a contextual representation of the city.

One of the greatest challenges was harmonizing the 1.4-million-square-foot, grand scale building with the intimacy of human scale to create flexible, intuitive, and daylit spaces. Inspired by undulating ocean waves, exterior façade “fins”—angled aluminum linear forms—filter light to create a dappled effect within the building’s daylit lobbies and pre-function spaces.  This provides visitors with a seamless transition between indoor and outdoor environments. Contextual inspiration was brought inside with colors and patterns that emulate receding water, sea foam, and local coral reef patterns.

Denver Art Museum to Unveil Reimagined Campus on October 24

DENVER, CO—The Denver Art Museum (DAM) will reopen its expanded and reimagined campus to the public with a free general admission day on October 24, 2021, unveiling all eight levels of its iconic Gio Ponti-designed Lanny and Sharon Martin Building (formerly referred to as the North or Ponti Building), which originally opened to the public 50 years ago, and the new Anna and John J. Sie Welcome Center. Part of an overall campus reunification and building renovation project designed by Machado Silvetti and Fentress Architects, the campus reopening coincides with the Martin Building’s 50th anniversary.

“We are looking forward to welcoming our community into new, dynamic spaces this fall, to explore art, world cultures and their own creativity,” said Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the DAM.  “For more than three years, the north side of our campus has been undergoing a bold transformation to improve the visitor experience while honoring and preserving the building’s historic architecture. The events of the past year have reaffirmed the importance of art as a source of inspiration, healing and hope, and we look forward to showcasing the museum’s global collections through a new lens and providing new spaces for learning and engagement with the reopening of the full campus.”

The Martin Building has been fully restored and renovated throughout, which includes realizing Ponti’s original vision for the 7th floor, expanding gallery space and offering visitor access to stunning city and mountain views.  The transformed Martin Building will showcase the museum’s encyclopedic collections from around the world and throughout history, while putting its nationally recognized educational programming at the center of the campus.

This October will also mark the opening of the museum’s new Sie Welcome Center, which connects the Hamilton and Martin buildings, and was designed by Machado Silvetti and Fentress Architects, with a nod to Gio Ponti’s original vision. The new building, crowned by an elliptical glass event and program space, visually connects the campus, creating improved spaces for ticketing and guest services, as well as two new dining options. The lower level houses a purpose-built art conservation and technical studies laboratory. 

Inside the Martin Building, the new Jana & Fred Bartlit Learning & Engagement Center accommodates engagement for all ages, including space for student and community exhibitions, outdoor terraces, school and group reception, adult and youth classes, and artist interactions. These dynamic interactive spaces were designed by Mexico City-based design team Esrawe + Cadena with an eye toward playful, creative and inspired flexible spaces for varied programming.

As part of the transformation of the Martin Building, the collection galleries have been updated and reconceived with a commitment to telling more inclusive stories, including bringing in more contemporary artist and community voices to provide increased societal and historical contexts. Collection galleries housed in the Martin Building include new Design galleries and a reimagined Northwest Coast and Alaska Native gallery on level 2; reconceived Indigenous Arts of North America galleries on level 3; a new vision for Latin American Art and Art of the Ancient Americas galleries on level 4; newly installed Asian Art galleries on level 5; new European Art Before 1800 galleries, Textile Art and Fashion galleries and Photography galleries on level 6; and new and expanded Western American Art galleries on level 7, marking the first time that the DAM’s renowned Western collection has been presented in one space. Upon the opening of the Martin Building and Sie Welcome Center, the entire museum campus will also include bilingual art labels in English and Spanish.

Reclaiming space that was utilized as art storage for the last decade, the new Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Gallery, a 6,500-square-foot renovated gallery on level 1 in the Martin Building, will feature special exhibitions drawn primarily from the DAM’s collections. This space will open with the thematic exhibition ReVisión: Art in the Americas, which brings together works from the museum’s internationally acclaimed Latin American and Art of the Ancient Americas collections. From ancient artifacts to contemporary painting and sculpture, the exhibition places 180 works in dialogue to tell a fuller story of the region’s cultural heritage with gallery design by IKD of Boston and San Francisco. ReVisión: Art in the Americas and all Martin Building galleries opening in October will be included in general museum admission.

The Martin Building is named in honor of Denver Art Museum Board Chairman Lanny Martin and his wife Sharon Martin, who made the lead gift of $25 million for the $150 million construction and renovation project. City voters approved the Elevate Denver Bonds in 2017, which provided $35.5 million for crucial safety and infrastructure upgrades. The museum has matched public investment dollars with privately raised funds at a three-to-one ratio.

“This campus transformation ensures that the Denver Art Museum continues to serve as a beacon of creativity for the widest possible audience for decades to come,” said Lanny Martin, Chair of the Board of Trustees. “We are incredibly grateful for the support of all of the project’s donors, Elevate Denver Bond supporters and the greater cultural community, whose generosity ensures that the museum’s iconic campus will be a Denver destination for audiences of all ages.”

Since the opening of the Hamilton Building in 2006, the museum has served as a catalyst for the redevelopment of the surrounding Golden Triangle Creative District. Over the past decade, three adjacent museums have made their home in the neighborhood, creating a downtown cultural hub: the Clyfford Still Museum (2011); History Colorado Center (2012); and the relocated Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Arts (2018). At the same time, the Golden Triangle has continued to develop new residential and commercial properties as well as independent art galleries, restaurants and retail, creating a highly trafficked, walkable neighborhood with arts and culture at its core.

Martin Building + Sie Welcome Center Design

Designed by Italian architect Gio Ponti and Denver-based James Sudler Associates, the Martin Building opened in 1971. Its seven-story silhouette is one of the first-ever high-rise art museums and is the only completed building in North America by the renowned Italian modernist Gio Ponti.

The building’s renovation and upgrades were designed by Machado Silvetti and Fentress Architects, and constructed by Saunders Construction, Inc. The work includes the addition of 33,328 square feet of new gallery and public space, fulfilling Ponti’s original vision for visitor access to stunning 7th-floor views; the addition of skylights that reveal new angles of the building’s design; and exterior improvements such as lighting and revitalization of the glass tiles on the building’s façade. The renovation also includes updating environmental and other key systems with the latest technology. The completed project received LEED Silver certification. Infrastructure and safety upgrades include a new elevator core, which adds two additional elevators and a transparent public staircase for improved visitor flow, along with updated mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, new windows, new flooring and new exterior wall insulation.

The 50,000-square-foot Sie Welcome Center’s second story façade is comprised of a series of 25-foot-tall, 8-foot-wide curved structural glass panels with insulated glazing—an unprecedented feat of engineering and the first building to use curved panels in this way. The welcome center serves as an entry point and a destination for visitors and seamlessly connects all aspects of the museum campus.

“The Martin Building is a treasured work in the Denver Art Museum’s collection, and the chance to celebrate Gio Ponti’s legacy and realize elements of his design through its renovation and restoration was a thrill for our team,” said Jorge Silvetti, Principal at Machado Silvetti. “To create the new Sie Welcome Center in the architecturally rich context of Denver’s Golden Triangle Creative District, it was critical for us to design a structure that was simultaneously in dialogue with the vibrant visual language of Ponti and Studio Libeskind’s designs, while also providing connection to the museum. With its elliptical shape that is approachable from all angles, and transparent glass façade, the Sie Welcome Center is an inviting and glowing beacon to greet all visitors.”

Opening Events

A series of opening events will accompany the opening of the new Martin Building to celebrate the completed campus and thank the community for their support. An Opening Day celebration will take place on Sunday, Oct. 24. The all-day celebration will include free admission to all, as well as creative activities and moments for visitors of all ages. More details to be announced closer to opening day.

Museum members will have the opportunity for a pre-opening experience. Members-only previews will take place on Oct. 21, 22 and 23. The Martin Building, Sie Welcome Center and both The Ponti and Café Gio will be open to all members those days. Details and booking information will be sent to members directly. Information on becoming a museum member or renewing a membership is available here.

On the evening of Friday, October 15, is the museum’s Unveiled Opening Gala. This ticketed fundraising event will gather artists, patrons and trustees on a night unlike any other. Cocktail hour and dinner in the spectacular new Sturm Grand Pavilion will be included with the inspiring and unexpected program. Proceeds will support ongoing museum programming. See the museum website for more information on Unveiled.

BNA’s New Concourse D Receives Top Award

Southeast Chapter of the American Association of Airport Executives Names Concourse D ‘Commercial Airport Architectural Project of the Year’

Less than a year after opening, Nashville International Airport’s state-of-the-art Concourse D has earned airport industry acclaim for excellence. The Southeast Chapter of the American Association of Airport Executives (SEC-AAAE) this week announced Concourse D as the recipient of its 2021 Commercial Airport Architectural Project of the Year Award, an industry-recognized mark of distinction for BNA’s fourth major concourse.

BNA received the award among peers at SEC-AAAE’s annual members conference in Savannah, Georgia. SEC-AAAE is the largest chapter of the American Association of Airport Executives and represents airport management professionals in 12 Southeastern states, including Tennessee, in addition to the Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia.

“We are honored to receive this award from SEC-AAAE and are immensely proud of the Concourse D project,” said Doug Kreulen, BNA’s president and CEO. “This award represents more than two years of hard work that resulted in a multi-faceted modern concourse for BNA travelers. It also signifies $55 million in contracts for small, minority and woman-owned business enterprises (SMWBEs), a 72 percent local workforce and a commitment to sustainability. It’s BNA at its best, and we thank our SEC-AAAE colleagues for this tremendous recognition.”

Concourse D is a major component of BNA® Vision, the dynamic expansion and renovation plan for Nashville International Airport. The $292 million facility opened in July 2020 with 115,000 square feet of new terminal space, six domestic aircraft gates operated by Southwest Airlines, compelling public art displays and a variety of customer conveniences. It was built in tandem with a 200,000-square-foot terminal expansion that added new ticketing and baggage claim space to the north and south ends of the central terminal, a 136,000-square-foot renovation of existing terminal space and an 11,000 square-foot central utility plant.

This award from SEC AAAE comes only three months after Concourse D received another noteworthy recognition: LEED Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for green design and construction. Upon achieving LEED Silver, Concourse D became one of only nine newly constructed airport facilities in the world to attain this distinction under USGBC’s rigorous LEED v4 standards.

Traveler amenities and special features include high ceilings, two compelling public art installations, art cases showcasing selections from BNA’s permanent collection, Wi-Fi, restrooms, a mother’s room, an indoor service animal relief area, compelling airfield views, dynamic electrochromic technology that blocks out excessive heat and sunlight, and new terrazzo flooring. Additional space is available for future concessions.

Concourse D was built by Hensel Phelps Construction Co. and designed by Fentress Architects. Other key partners included Corgan (master architect for BNA® Vision), I. C. Thomasson Associates Inc. (mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineer), Smith Seckman Reid Inc. (commissioning agent) and S&ME (civil engineer/landscape designer).

The Concourse D and Terminal Wings Expansion was the first major terminal expansion project completed as part of the ongoing BNA® Vision program, which is dramatically remaking the airport to meet future demand and existing needs. Other BNA® Vision projects to be completed by 2023 will include a larger central terminal, a state-of-the-art International Arrivals Facility, expanded central security checkpoint, an on-airport hotel, top-to-bottom terminal renovation, a variety of new dining, retail and service amenities and a massive terminal parking garage complex.

Source: Nashville International Airport®