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  • Denver International Airport by Fentress Architects
  • Denver International Airport by Fentress Architects
  • Denver International Airport by Fentress Architects
  • Denver International Airport by Fentress Architects
  • Denver International Airport by Fentress Architects

Denver International Airport

Denver, Colorado, USATerminal: 2,000,000 sf / Total: 6,450,000 sfCompletion 1995

With a deadline of only three weeks to create the terminal’s conceptual design, Fentress Architects broke the mold of traditional airport architecture by “turning the building upside down.”

  • 94

    Number of gates at Denver International Airport

    26.3

    Billion dollars in economic impact in 2013

In 1995 the firm countered skepticism about the ability of a tensile structure—a relatively nascent technology—to achieve the long spans needed and to shed the area’s characteristic volume of snowfall. Faced with a deadline of only three weeks to create the terminal’s conceptual design, we broke the mold of traditional airport architecture with a simple, yet unprecedented move. We turned the building upside down, relocating the building’s mechanical infrastructure from the roof to underground. This allowed our vision for the enormous, typically inhumane scale of the main terminal to be transformed into an open, light-filled volume. 

The strategy of inverting the location of the infrastructure also eliminated thousands of pounds of structural steel and building materials, proving the controversial design more efficient than a traditional structure in nearly every respect. With roof peaks that rise 130 to 150 feet, DEN’s signature form evokes a sense that one has stepped into the mountains the architecture mirrors, but with the earth and rock stripped away to reveal pure form. 

A survey by the American Institute of Architects ranked the terminal as #4 on its list of favorite American architectural landmarks, while Business Traveler magazine readers voted DIA the “Best Airport in North America” every year from, 2005-2010. As the largest structurally integrated tensile-membrane roof in the world, DIA is a memorable threshold welcoming all to Colorado and the West.