The Airports of Curtis Fentress

The art of the passenger terminal.

(Paul Dingman)

“In less than a century, the airport has become a new category of architecture,” writes Christoph Heinrich, director of the Denver Art Museum, in the foreword to the new book Now Boarding. “In the hands of a master architect like Curtis Fentress, airports can also be something else: art.” The book (published by the Denver Art Museum in association with Scala Publishers) and art exhibition of the same name, introduce readers to the architecture of flight.

The airports built by Fentress and his team—who have studios in Denver, Los Angeles, San Jose, Washington, D.C., and London—don’t just remind passengers what city they're in, they embody the place by evoking local geography and culture. When Fentress Bradburn Architects won the commission for Incheon International Airport (above), Fentress immersed himself in Korean culture, poring over the country’s literature and sifting through the stalls at open-air markets until he hit on the structural motif that seemed essential to Korea's nature: the catenary curve, the natural arc formed by a chain suspended between two points.

See the gallery below for more of Fentress' designs. Images and text adapted from Now Boarding; reprinted with the permission of the publisher.


(Timothy Hursley)

The Denver International Airport passenger terminal was inspired by the nearby Rocky Mountains. The roof structure, supported by 28 masts reaching heights of up to 150 feet, can safely shift up to 24 inches at its peak point during high-wind storms. The fabric roof provides considerable daylighting, requiring less artificial light. At night the translucent roof emits a soft glow.

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