By Bruce N. Wright, AIA
There’s something about Denver, Colo., and the use of fabric structures. First came the Denver International Airport, with its iconic peaked fabric roof of the Jeppesen Terminal (1995) designed by Fentress Bradburn Architects. The conical skylights were reportedly inspired by the Rocky Mountains backdrop to the airport. Then, in 2014, came a reworking of the downtown 1914 Union Station train terminal with a sweeping, undulating arched fabric canopy by SOM Architects that embraces the railyards and passenger platforms. It has become “Denver’s Living Room,” helping solidify fabric as this region’s material of choice for transportation projects.
Denver’s affinity with fabric became further evident in 2017 with the city’s new intermodal Civic Center Station, a bus transport hub that ties in with Union Station. This $31 million Regional Transportation District (RTD) revitalization includes even more fabric canopies that enliven the look and function of the transit hub. A main structure—in a “boomerang” shape—has a double layer of fabric; atop is a solid polytetra fluoroethylene (PTFE) glass fiber fabric for a waterproof and snow-proof cover, and a PTFE open mesh on the underside offers both reflection and diffuse qualities to night lighting. Two other fabric-clad canopies are straight-line bus queuing stations.
Structurflex LLC engineered, fabricated and installed all three tensile-membrane canopies to provide travelers weather protection from snow, rain and sun. Mesh fabric on the underside keeps birds from nesting or perching, while the PTFE-coated glass fiber top transforms into a glowing landmark at night, providing a beacon for visitors. The outcome matches the architect’s brief: a structure that is elegant, iconic and functional.
This project won an Award of Excellence in IFAI’s 2018 International Achievement Awards competition.
Bruce N. Wright, AIA, is an architect, teacher, consultant to architects and designers and a frequent contributor to Specialty Fabrics Review, Fabric Architectureand Advanced Textiles Source.