Sunday, November 21, 2010

Denver International Airport Has Bold Development Plans For The Future

Proposed train terminal

Denver International Airport Has Bold Development Plans For The Future
By Christopher J. Davies

The Denver International Airport, or DIA as locals call it, is just 15 years young. It's a super-sized airport comprising of 34,000 acres or 53 square, which makes it larger than Disney World in Orlando (25,000 acres).

Getting to DIA from downtown Denver takes a little time as its terminal is actually 24 miles away from Larimer Square. Once you enter DIA, the drive to the terminal is similar to entering Disney World in Orlando, sans the monorail. As you get closer to the terminal you see its enchanted white roof which depicts snow-capped mountains.

Having all of the space is a good thing. As in 15 short years, DIA has grown to be the world's tenth busiest airport and the fifth busiest airport in the United States. In 2009, 50 million passengers were transported through DIA making it one of the busiest hubs in the aviation world.

As a frequent world traveler, I made the decision to move to Denver eight years ago primarily based on DIA's convenient parking, modern terminal and excellent flight routes. DIA is centrally located in the middle of the country allowing me to get to New York in three hours or San Francisco in two. For European flights I love Lufthansa's daily direct flights from Denver to Frankfurt, which make for quick connections to most European cities.

Signature rail bridge on Pena Blvd

Recently airport management and the city of Denver unveiled bold new expansion plans for adding a South Terminal complex which will included a 500 room terminal hotel and rail way station with connection to Downtown Denver. DIA has contracted world-famous, visionary engineer and Spanish Architect Santiago Calatrava, a modern-day Frank Lloyd Wright of transportation design, to create a world-class addition to the existing terminal.

While airport management has been under recent criticism for their artistic tastefulness after placing a blue mustang sculpture on the road leading to the airport terminal, the decision to hire Mr.Calatrava will make an enormous artistic impact on DIA's reputation worldwide.

During the unveiling, Airport Director Kim Day explained, "Today is an historic moment for Denver International Airport. Mr. Santiago Calatrava is one of the world's premier designers of rail stations and airports. His recent work includes the Olympic Sports Complex in Athens."

While the unveiling was pitched as conceptual designs with an emphasis on conservative fiscal, Ms. Day assured the attendees that the estimated Phase One expansion cost of $650 million for the new terminal, rail station, 500 room terminal hotel with convention center, offices and signature rail bridge will be paid for by the airport's cash flows.

Mayor John Hickenlooper also spoke, "We have a world-class airport. 6,500 plus jobs will be created by RTD and this construction. No tax money or general fund money will be used".

Hickenlooper introduced Mr.Calatrava who shared his vision by sitting down at a drawing table and painting "live" for everyone to see while his drawing was projected on a large screen causing jaws to drop as this modern-day Picasso painted long strokes across canvas illustrating how the new architecture fit into the backdrop of the current airport terminal and the mountains to the west of DIA. At the end, all of his paintings were gathered by his assistant, so that they could preserved perhaps in a museum or exhibit some day.

A futuristic animated movie was also shown which gave viewers a front side ride into the airport, passing under the new signature rail bridge as an RTD train transported passengers overhead from Downtown Denver. The modern rail station resembles a classic open air European Rail Station and the plaza and terminal hotel will rival modern airport terminals such as the new terminal in Munich, Germany.

Mr.Calatrava is as big as they get in Architecture as well as the art world. In 2006 he had a major exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art called "Sculpture Into Architecture". Philippe de Montebello, director of the Metropolitan Museum, stated: "It is a rare delight to present the work of such an accomplished architect and artist. This exhibition takes an intimate look at Santiago Calatrava's inventive practices, and uncovers the connections between the private artist and the public architect as he meditates over forms, themes, and construction."

Before leaving the presentation, Mr. Calatrava commented, "I am inspired by the city, the people, the landscape and the existing airport. I have tried to do an addition that complements and connects with the existing architecture".

The construction won't begin until December 2011 and is scheduled to be completed by 2013. The hotel architecture was designed by Gensler, a global design firm with an office in Denver. M.A Moretenson Construction, who recently completed construction of 1800 Larimer St, in Denver—the First LEED-CS Platinum Pre-Certified High Rise West of the Mississippi--will
be the construction manager/general contractor.

On August 26, 2010, RTD broke ground on the $1 billion East Corridor commuter rail line, the largest single rail project in the voter-approved FasTracks program. The groundbreaking ceremony was held at Denver International Airport (DIA) on the south lawn of the Jeppesen Terminal, the future site of the DIA rail station.

The rail station will be completed in 2016.

The future of Denver International Airport is bright and destined to open increased routes to Asia and Europe. I commend airport management, Mayor John Hickenlooper and RTD for having the vision to take DIA to such a outstanding level.

Note: All images supplied by The Denver International Airport


Denver International Airport

View the animated movie and learn about construction progress:


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