Curtis Fentress Named Industry Icon

Colorado Construction & Design has named Fentress’ Principal in Charge of Design, Curtis Fentress, FAIA, RIBA, as its first “INDUSTRY ICON.” This feature highlights leaders in architecture, engineering and construction.

SOURCE: CCD Magazine

Curtis Fentress

From the Denver International Airport to the Broncos Stadium at Mile High, Curtis Fentress has created some of Colorado’s most renowned landmarks.

Fentress’ portfolio reaches beyond Colorado to include the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia, the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport, and ten buildings in the Middle East.

Fentress’ 1990 design of the Colorado Convention Center redefined downtown Denver’s skyline with a bold, stainless steel angled roof and an extensive, transparent curtainwall. Fentress is now on Phase III, creating a high-tech event space that features a rooftop terrace with mountain and city views. Scheduled for completion in 2021, Fentress’ design of the Denver Art Museum’s new Welcome Center and renovation of its acclaimed North Building – Gio Ponti’s only completed structure in North America – will complete the museum’s current master plan.

Born in 1947, Fentress grew up on a tobacco farm near Greensboro, North Carolina. In high school he gravitated to drafting and engineering. Hard work landed him at the College of Design at North Carolina State University, where he graduated with honors and a professional five-year Bachelor of Architecture degree.

After graduation Fentress joined I.M. Pei & Partners in New York City. After working five years on projects all over the world, he spent three years with Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) in New York continuing his pursuit of largescale projects while striving to bring humanism to hyperspaces.

In the late 1970s KPF sent Fentress to Denver as the project designer for the Amoco Building, now the TIAA building at 1670 Broadway – an aluminum and glass, 36-story tower. Drawn to Denver and the opportunities it afforded, he founded his own firm in 1980. Six years later, Fentress won a design competition for the Colorado Convention Center, heralding his expertise in large-scale design. In 1989, Curt Fentress and then-partner Jim Bradburn were awarded the opportunity to design Denver International Airport’s (DEN) passenger terminal. Their proposed design was an innovative solution that reduced construction time by nine months. The iconic Teflon-coated, white fabric roof has been voted fourth “Favorite American Architecture” by the American Institute of Architects, and recently the “Best Airport in the U.S.” by the Wall Street Journal.

Unanimously selected in an international design competition in 1992, the Fentress-designed Incheon International Airport (ICN) in South Korea propelled the firm into the international realm. ICN has been voted the “World’s Best Airport” for 12 consecutive years.

In 39 years of practice, Fentress has won over 50 national and international design competitions and has received more than 550 awards.

Through years of experience, Fentress has developed his “Patient Search” approach— the process of immersion into context and community. In his words,

Some architects have a preconceived notion of what a building should be— they design from the outside like the building is a piece of sculpture. I prefer to patiently search until I find a seam somewhere, crack it open, and discover the art inside.

From growing up on a tobacco farm to creating some of the world’s largest airports, government centers, museums, and convention centers, Fentress’ landmarks punctuate cityscapes across Colorado, the United States, and the world.