‘Architecture of Flight’ Exhibition is World’s First to Focus on Airport Design

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Now Boarding: Fentress Airports + The Architecture of Flight offers multi-media tour of airport design of the past, present and future; Exhibit debuts at the Denver Art Museum summer 2012 and travels internationally through 2015

Denver International Airport. Photograph © Ellen Jaskol

This exhibition will allow visitors a rare opportunity to explore the evolution of airport design and to discover, in particular, the creative process of Curtis Fentress, whose airports are known for their functionality and beauty.

Can brilliant architecture make an airport beautiful? Can it make flying exciting again? Can it make the vital engines of our globalized economy cleaner, better, and more efficient? One architect believes it can. And now his work is the subject of a first-of-its-kind museum exhibition entitled Now Boarding: Fentress Airports + The Architecture of Flight. Here, the revolutionary designs of Curtis Fentress come to life with rich multimedia displays that show the past, present, and future of airport architecture.

In only a century airports have become symbolic gateways, artistic and cultural representations of our highest aspirations, and an indispensable part of our economy. How did they transform from bare grassy fields to thriving cities within themselves? And what changes are in store for the next 100 years of human flight?

Now Boarding answers these questions and many more. Through the use of film, digital art, animation, models, drawings, photographs and architectural elements, the exhibit will explore the architectural evolution of airport design.

“Many people travel through airports, but few understand the creative and technical influences behind their design,” said curator Donald Albrecht. “This exhibition will allow visitors a rare opportunity to explore the evolution of airport design and to discover, in particular, the creative process of Curtis Fentress, whose airports are known for their functionality and beauty.”

The exhibit will take visitors on a journey through six airports designed by Curtis Fentress. Denver International Airport in Colorado and Incheon International Airport in Seoul, South Korea were Fentress’ first efforts with the building type. Designed together with his partner Jim Bradburn, these two projects represented a radical departure from the bland “big-box” airport designs of the 1970s and 1980s. Many saw the Fentress designs as a return to the glamour and excitement of air travel’s golden age. After Bradburn’s retirement, Fentress went on to design Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Washington; Mineta San Jose International Airport in northern California; Raleigh-Durham International Airport in North Carolina; and Los Angeles International Airport in southern California.

“I am honored to be featured in this groundbreaking exhibition,” said Curtis Fentress, Founder and Principal-in-Charge of Design for Fentress Architects. “So often the creative process in architecture occurs quietly between the design team and the client, so it is exciting to give everyone a chance to see ‘behind the scenes’.”

This exploration of airport design does not end with the airports of today, however. Visitors will also take an interactive, multimedia look into the imagined future of airport design, 50 to 150 years from now.

Airports are shaped by many influences, including aircraft design; sociological, political and cultural forces; technological innovations and more. As a building type, airports are still in their infancy—even skyscrapers are older, predating airports by almost forty years. The Airport of the Future gallery will showcase ideas for the future of airport design proposed by leading innovators from a multitude of disciplines. Many of the ideas are based upon concepts and innovations being advanced today, while others are based upon pure imagination.

The Airport of the Future gallery will also feature winning designs from the Fentress Global Challenge: Airport of the Future. In this international competition, students worldwide were invited to present their vision for the airport of the future. Over 900 submissions were received from 77 countries and were reviewed by a jury of industry experts. Visit http://www.theairportofthefuture.com for more information.

Now Boarding is being developed by noted architectural curator Donald Albrecht, in collaboration with the Denver Art Museum. Peter Christensen served as the exhibition’s assistant curator along with Darrin Alfred, Associate Curator of Architecture, Design and Graphics at the Denver Art Museum.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue, also called Now Boarding: Fentress Airports + The Architecture of Flight, featuring essays by Christoph Heinrich, Donald Albrecht, Peter Christensen, Gillian Fuller, Tibbie Dunbar and Curtis Fentress. The book will be available through web retailers, including http://www.amazon.com, as well as the Denver Art Museum Shop.

The Denver Art Museum is located on 13th Avenue between Broadway and Bannock Streets in downtown Denver. Open Tuesday–Thursday and Saturday–Sunday 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Friday 10 a.m.–8 p.m.; closed Mondays, Thanksgiving and Christmas. General admission for Colorado residents: $10 adults, $8 seniors and students, $3 for visitors 6-18, free for children 5 and younger. Admission for non-Colorado residents: $13 for adults, $10 for seniors and students, $5 for visitors 6-18, free for children 5 and younger. For information in Spanish, call 720-913-0169. For more information, visit http://www.denverartmuseum.org or call 720-865-5000.

Donald Albrecht is curator of architecture and design at the Museum of the City of New York, and is also an independent curator. His exhibitions include international traveling retrospectives of architect Eero Saarinen and designers Charles and Ray Eames as well as Cecil Beaton: The New York Years: Cars, Culture, and the City: and Paris/New York: Design Fashion Culture, 1925–40.

Fentress Architects is a global design firm that passionately pursues the creation of sustainable and iconic architecture. Together with their clients, Fentress creates inspired design to improve the human environment. Founded by Curtis Fentress in 1980, the firm has designed US$26 billion of architectural projects worldwide, visited by over 300 million people each year. Fentress is a dynamic learning organization, driven to grow its ability to design, innovate and exceed client expectations. The firm has been honored with more than 385 distinctions for design excellence and innovation, and in 2010, Curtis Fentress was recognized by the American Institute of Architects with the most prestigious award for public architecture, the Thomas Jefferson Award. Fentress has studios in Denver, Colorado; Los Angeles, California; San Jose, California; Washington, D.C.; and London, U.K. http://www.fentressarchitects.com

Please contact Angela Potrykus at 303.282.6192 or potrykus@fentressarchitects.com for more information or images.

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Fentress Architects
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