Santiago Calatrava Pulls Out of Denver Airport Expansion Project

September 14, 2011

By David Hill

Santiago Calatrava Pulls Out of Denver Airport Expansion Project
Image courtesy Santiago Calatrava


Santiago Calatrava Pulls Out of Denver Airport Expansion Project
Image courtesy Santiago Calatrava
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Last summer, Denver International Airport officials announced, with great fanfare, the selection of Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava to design a $650 million expansion, including a 500-room hotel, public plaza, and commuter-rail station. Now, just one year later, Calatrava is walking away from the project.

In a letter obtained by the Denver Post, Calatrava’s wife and business manager, Robertina, cited “financial constraints, unnecessary time delays, and deep divisions” between Calatrava’s design team, DIA, and Parsons Transportation Group, which is collaborating on the expansion project.

In the letter, sent to DIA manager Kim Day, Robertina Calatrava added: “The project still lacks sufficient funding … [and] it continues to set an unrealistic schedule with little or no room to develop and consolidate the design in keeping with the standards and quality of a Calatrava signature design.”

In February, airport officials announced that the budget for the project, called the South Terminal Redevelopment Program, had been cut to $500 million. To save money, Calatrava’s hotel was downsized by one floor, and other design elements were scaled back. The budget for a separate Calatrava project—an arched commuter-rail suspension bridge, described by Day as “a stunning gateway element that would’ve been the envy of other cities and airports around the world”—went from $60 million to $22 million before it was scrapped entirely.

DIA spokesman Jeff Green declined to comment on the specifics of Robertina Calatrava’s letter, but he said the airport will move forward—on schedule and on budget—using Santiago Calatrava’s completed expansion-project designs, for which the architect’s firm has been paid about $13 million.

“It is our feeling that we can use the amazing vision that Mr. Calatrava provided for us,” Green said. “Both sides are currently working that out right now.” He added that Denver firm Anderson Mason Dale Architects was recently retained as architect of record for the plaza and train station, and that Gensler has the same role for the hotel. “There was going to be a transition at some point to those firms to do the actual work,” Green says. Now, with Calatrava out of the picture, that transition will happen immediately.

Calatrava, in a statement released September 12, said he and DIA were parting amicably and working toward a “mutual agreement” to end the working relationship.

“For the past several years,” the architect said in the statement, “Denver International Airport and I have worked with a team of dedicated architects and engineers to try to bring this ambitious project to fruition. From the beginning, we have had the project’s best interests at heart, and although we have decided to part ways, I wish DIA all the best with the South Terminal Redevelopment Program and its future success.”

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