DIA’s South Terminal Project Has Growing Pains

September 19 2011, 12:30 PM

When Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava’s announced his departure from Denver International Airport’s South Terminal Redevelopment Program last week, airport officials rushed to quell the city council’s concerns and say that everything is under control. The famous architect bailed on the ambitious project with a dwindling budget.

Does this sound familiar?

Yes. The main terminal went through a similar design carousel. Perez Architecture was originally tapped to design DIA, but the firm everyone remembers is Fentress Bradburn Architects, which had just three weeks to come up with a plan for the over-budget project. Architect Curtis Fentress first sketched DIA’s white peaks on a napkin to create the lauded design. The canvas tents, “curbside to airside” plan, and award-winning green innovations set the standard for innovative airport design. Plus, without the space-y looking design, DIA’s conspiracy theories wouldn’t abound (Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report was filming last week at DIA about that very topic).

Fentress has been an outspoken opponent to the South Terminal project. He says it ignores the original expansion plans and he criticizes proposals that would only allow ticketed passengers to use the Great Hall.

He may get his way as DIA must now reevaluate the project. Airport officials believe they got their money’s worth since they can still use Calatrava’s designs, but exactly how helpful those plans are is still unclear. Either way, we’re not panicked. The second option worked out pretty well last time.

Photograph provided courtesy of Denver International Airport.