Fentress Architects

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Fentress Architects
Fentress Architects.JPG
The Denver, Colorado office.
Practice information
Key architectsCurtis Fentress, FAIA, RIBA
LocationDenver, Colorado, United States
Significant works and honors
BuildingsDenver International Airport, Incheon International Airport, Colorado Convention Center, National Museum of the Marine Corps, Arraya Tower, National Museum of Wildlife Art, the modernized Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX (2013), and the Green Square Complex in Raleigh, North Carolina (2012
AwardsOver 425 for innovation and design excellence[1]

Fentress Architects is an international design firm known for iconic large-scale public architecture such as airports, museums, university buildings, convention centers, laboratories, and high-rise office towers. Some of the buildings for which the firm is best known include Denver International Airport (1995), the modernized Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX (2013), the National Museum of the Marine Corps near Quantico, Virginia (2005), and the Green Square Complex in Raleigh, North Carolina (2012).

Founded in 1980 by Curtis W. Fentress, FAIA, RIBA, the firm's designs, especially its airports, are often compared to the expressionist architecture of Eero Saarinen.[2] However, architectural curator Donald Albrecht has noted that within Fentress' designs is a "stiff dose of regionalism.[3] " Fentress Architects has studios in Denver, Colorado, Los Angeles; San Jose, California; Washington DC; London; and Shanghai.

Curtis Fentress was honored in 2010 by the American Institute of Architects AIA Awards website with the highest award for public architecture, the Thomas Jefferson Award.[4][5] Fentress was also honored with the Silver Medal in 2010, which is the highest award given to an architect from the AIA Western Mountain Region for the contributions made to the region.[6] In 2012, Fentress was awarded AIA Colorado's Architect of the Year.[7]

Fentress Architects is the designer of the world's 4th tallest building completed in 2009, the Arraya Tower in Kuwait City.[8] The tower is also the tallest in Kuwait and the 53rd tallest in the world [9]


Curtis Fentress graduated with honors from North Carolina State University's College of Design, School of Architecture where he received a Bachelor of Architecture degree.[citation needed] Following graduation, he joined the firm of I.M. Pei and Partners in New York City. As a Senior Designer, he was responsible for the master planning of major site development plans. He became a project designer with the New York architectural firm of Kohn Pedersen Fox. During this time, he came to Denver as Project Designer for the Rocky Mountain Headquarters of Amoco in downtown Denver.

In January 1980, Fentress formed C.W. Fentress and Associates with James Henry Bradburn. After a great deal of early success, the collapse of the oil and gas industries in Colorado in the early 1980s ushered in several years of hardship for the firm. Fentress Architects' fortunes rebounded in 1987 when the firm won a design competition for the Colorado Convention Center. The competition pitted Fentress and his partners against several better-financed and more famous opponents, including Phil Anschutz, who had partnered with the firm belonging to Curtis Fentress' former mentor, I.M. Pei.[10] It was only in the 1990s that Fentress Architects rose to international fame by designing the Denver International Airport. The peaked roof of the terminal has become well known to travelers worldwide and ushered in a revolution in more expressionistic airport design.[3] Curator Donald Albrecht credits the design of Denver International Airport with bringing glamor back to the airport typology.[11]

Unfortunately, the unveiling of DIA was marred by a dysfunctional "state-of-the-art" baggage delivery system (the vendor at fault since replaced the system) that dominated the media. Subsequently, DIA has been voted the "Best Airport in North America" [12] and the fourth "Favorite American Architecture" completed in the last fifteen years.[13]

In 2001, Fentress designed the Incheon International Airport in Seoul, South Korea, voted "Best Airport Worldwide" four consecutive years by Airport Council International's Airport Quality Survey program.[14] Airport Council "Best Airport in the World" in 2007 by passengers surveyed for the Official Airlines Guide.[15] The firm designs a range of large scale projects (see listing below) from museums and conventions centers to stadiums and commercial office buildings.

Bradburn retired and, in 2007, the firm's name was abbreviated from Fentress Bradburn Architects to Fentress Architects. To date, the firm has won 425 design and innovation awards and has a design portfolio of $27 billion. Each year, more than 330 million people worldwide visit a project designed by Fentress Architects.[1]

Now Boarding[edit]

In 2012, a major museum exhibition of Fentress Architects' airport designs entitled Now Boarding: Fentress Airports + the Architecture of Flight was opened at the Denver Art Museum.[16] Curated by Donald Albrecht, architectural curator for the Museum of the City of New York whose previous exhibitions include well-received retrospectives on the work of such architectural notables as Eero Saarinen and Charles and Ray Eames,[17] Now Boarding ran for nearly three months.

The exhibition is described as the "first ever museum exhibition of airport architecture," and offers visitors a tour through the past, present, and future of air travel while focusing especially on six of Fentress Architects' most notable airport designs and their role in defining the modern airport. The exhibition also includes a segment called Airport of the Future that showcases work from a student exhibition as well as theoretical airport designs in the years 2062 and 2162.[11] These theoretical airports, developed by an internal think tank at Fentress Architects consisting of architects, engineers from Stanford University, futurists, and artists, became a popular highlight of the show, and will be exhibited separately from the rest of the exhibition at the A+D Museum in Los Angeles beginning in March 2013.

A travelling version of the exhibition appeared in Amsterdam in November 2012,[18] and the exhibition's full version will open in at the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica, CA beginning in March 2013.

Awards and honors[edit]

Highest award for public architecture: Curtis Fentress will be honored in 2010 by the American Institute of Architects AIA Awards website with the highest award for public architecture, the Thomas Jefferson Award.[5] The Jefferson Award recognizes Fentress for "a portfolio of accomplishments that evidences great depth while making a significant contribution to the quality of public architecture."[19] The award is a testament to Fentress' vision, design philosophy and excellence in public architecture for the past 40 years. In the last 18 years since the Jefferson Award was first bestowed, only 7 architects have been recognized in the 'private-sector architect' category.[20]

Best Firm to Work For: Fentress ranked as a "Hot Firm" and a "Best Firm to Work For" finalist by ZweigWhite.[21]

Best Managed: Fentress ranked as 1 of only 11 best-managed architecture firms, the "Circle of Excellence," by PSMJ | Resources Inc.[22]

World's Best Airports: Fentress-designed Incheon International Airport in Seoul, South Korea was voted "World's Best Airport" by Skytrax's 2009 World Airport Awards, a survey of 8.6 million international travelers.[23]

World's Most Beautiful Airports:

Since its opening in 2001, Incheon, designed by Denver's Fentress Architects, has been a frequent presence at the number one spot on lists of the world's best airports. Not only is it efficient and welcoming, it is intended to be a showcase of Korean culture. The bow of the roofline emulates a traditional Korean temple, the arrival hallways are lined with 5,000 years of Korean artifacts, and the airport's wildly biomorphic train terminal is one of the few places on earth that still looks genuinely futuristic.[24]

Denver's airport, routinely voted the best airport in North America by business travelers, is beloved for its billowing roofline. The product of a hasty sketch by Denver-based architect Curtis Fentress, who had three short weeks to cook up a design concept, the airport features a Teflon-coated tensile fabric roof—the world's largest when the airport opened in 1995—and looks like a village of giant white tepees. The airport is at its most beautiful when you approach by air from the east and see the glowing man-made peaks silhouetted against the Rockies.[24]

World's 4th tallest building completed in 2009: Fentress is the designer of the world's 4th tallest building completed in 2009—Arraya Tower in Kuwait City, also the tallest in Kuwait.[25] Arraya is one of 14 high rises in Fentress' design portfolio in the Persian Gulf.

Architectural philosophy[edit]

Fentress has developed a design process he calls the "Patient Search". He has said of the process; "I don't begin with a preconceived notion of what the building needs to be – it is not a sculpture. I patiently search, walk the site, study the culture, follow our process until I find a seam somewhere, crack it open and discover the art inside." Asked about his philosophical approach, Fentress once stated, "My philosophy is ultimately ... pragmatism".[26]

I don't begin with a preconceived notion of what a building should be – it is not a sculpture. I prefer to patiently search through extensive discovery until I find a seam somewhere, crack it open and discover the art inside.[27]


  • Architectural Record's "Top 150 Architecture Firms" – Fentress Architects ranked #24 among architecture-only firms [28]
  • Building Design & Construction's "Giants 300," Top Architects – Fentress Architects ranked #18 among architecture-only firms [29]
  • Engineering News Record's "Top 500 Design Firms" – Fentress Architects ranked #29 among architecture-only firms [30]
  • Engineering News Record's "Top Airport Design Firms" – Fentress Architects ranked in top 25 firms
  • In 2003, Colorado Construction ranked Fentress Architects as the Top Architectural Firm in Colorado.[31] Fentress ranked #14 in California Construction's "Top Design Firms" in 2005.[31]

Sustainable design[edit]

  • 1993 Architecture and Energy Award for the Natural Resources Building in Olympia, Washington.[citation needed]
  • About half of the firm's design professionals are LEED accredited.[32]
  • More than 60% of Fentress' projects under construction or completed in 2009 were LEED certified or pending certification.[32]
  • 2003 LEED Gold 2.0 award for California's Department of Education Headquarters Building, which received Platinum certification in 2006 by the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. It was featured as a case study in the Fall 2009 issue of High Performing Buildings.[citation needed]

LEED certified projects include, but are not limited to:[33]




Commercial Office & Mixed-Use



  • Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine, La Jolla, California, USA
  • David E. Skaggs Research Center, Boulder, Colorado, USA
  • Natural Resources Building, Olympia, Washington, USA
  • University of Colorado Denver (UCD), Anschutz Medical Campus, Research Complex I, Aurora, Colorado, USA
  • UCDHSC, Anschutz Medical Campus, Research Complex II, Aurora, Colorado, USA

Public Assembly


  • Tennyson Center for Children, Denver, Colorado, USA
  • Denver Academy High School, Denver, Colorado, USA
  • Mathematics Building & Gemmill Engineering Library, University of Colorado at Boulder, Colorado, USA
  • Humanities Gateway, University of California, Irvine; Irvine, California, USA

Hotel & Residential

  • One Polo Creek, Denver, Colorado, USA
  • One Wynkoop Plaza, Denver, Colorado, USA
  • Palmetto Bay Plantation, Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras
  • Tritch Building Renovation into Courtyard by Marriott, Denver, Colorado, USA
  • Watermark Luxury Residences, Denver, Colorado, USA

Further reading[edit]

  • The Master Architect Series III, Fentress Bradburn Selected and Current Works (Australia, The Images Publishing Group Pty Ltd., 1998)
  • Curtis Worth Fentress (Milano, Italy: L'Arca Edizioni spa, 1996)
  • Fentress Bradburn Architects (Washington, D.C.: Studio Press, 1996)
  • Gateway to the West (Australia, The Images Publishing Group Pty Ltd., 2000)
  • Millennium, Fentress Bradburn Selected and Current Works, Images Publishing, 2001
  • Architecture in the Public Interest, Edizioni, 2001
  • Civic Builders, Wiley-Academy, Great Britain, 2002.
  • National Museum of the Marine Corps, North Carolina State University College of Design Publication, 2006
  • 10 Airports — Fentress Bradburn Architects, Edizioni Press, 2006.
  • Portal to the Corps, Images Publishing, 2008
  • Touchstones of Design [re]defining Public Architecture, Images Publishing, 2010
  • Public Architecture: The Art Inside, Oro Publishing, 2010

Newspaper/Magazine articles

  • "Fentress Architects' DIA work opened global doors," Denver Business Journal, December 2007
  • "Fentress has designs on Denver," Denver Post, July 8, 2006
  • "Civic Minded Centers," Facility Manager, August/September 2006
  • "The Seoul Experience: Incheon International Airport," Airport World, summer 2006
  • "Airport Architecture Taking Flight," International Airport Review, July 2001
  • "Humanistic Architecture Yields Economic Benefits," Passenger Terminal World, June 2004
  • "Airport Architecture: a blueprint for success," Passenger Terminal World, May 2004

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-02-28. Retrieved 2013-01-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-01-16. Retrieved 2013-01-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-01-09. Retrieved 2013-01-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ "AIA Jefferson Award recipients". Aia.org. Retrieved 2019-07-29.
  5. ^ a b "AIArchitect website". Archived from the original on February 19, 2012. Retrieved Jul 29, 2019.
  6. ^ "Silver Medal". Design Team Information. Archived from the original on 2011-10-02.
  7. ^ Colorado, A. I. A. "Architectural Jobs, Resources, & Education". AIA Colorado. Retrieved Jul 29, 2019.
  8. ^ "Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat: Tallest Buildings Completed in 2009". Ctbuh.org. Retrieved 2019-07-29.
  9. ^ "The Skyscraper Center". www.skyscrapercenter.com. Retrieved Jul 29, 2019.
  10. ^ "Seeds of the center". May 20, 2005. Retrieved Jul 29, 2019.
  11. ^ a b "'Now Boarding: Fentress Airports + The Architecture of Flight' Exhibition". ArchDaily. Feb 17, 2012. Retrieved Jul 29, 2019.
  12. ^ [Airport Council International's (ACI) Passenger Quality Survey of 200,000 world travelers every year for the past four years, 2006-2009]
  13. ^ [American Institute of Architects (AIA) survey conducted by Harris Interactive, 2008]
  14. ^ Airport Council International
  15. ^ "Official Airlines Guide Awards". Archived from the original on 2008-03-06. Retrieved 2008-03-27.
  16. ^ "Now Boarding". Denver Art Museum. Retrieved Jul 29, 2019.
  17. ^ "Donald Albrecht". Retrieved Jul 29, 2019.
  18. ^ Vélez, Nathalia (Nov 27, 2012). "Now Boarding takes off at Airport Exchange 2012 in Amsterdam". Westword. Retrieved Jul 29, 2019.
  19. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-02-19. Retrieved 2012-04-16.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  20. ^ http://www.aia.org/practicing/awards/AIAS075273
  21. ^ "ZweigWhite Hot Firms". Archived from the original on January 6, 2010. Retrieved Jul 29, 2019.
  22. ^ "PSMJ Resources "Circle of Excellence"". Archived from the original on March 8, 2010. Retrieved Jul 29, 2019.
  23. ^ "Skytrax World Airport Awards". Archived from the original on August 5, 2013. Retrieved Jul 29, 2019.
  24. ^ a b "World's Most Beautiful Airports". Travel + Leisure. Retrieved Jul 29, 2019.
  25. ^ "CTBUH website". Ctbuh.org. Retrieved 2019-07-29.
  26. ^ [The Patient Search and Other Architectural Adventures]
  27. ^ "Curtis W. Fentress Quotes :: Quoteland :: Quotations by Author". www.quoteland.com. Retrieved Jul 29, 2019.
  28. ^ "Architectural Record Top 150 Design Firms". Retrieved Jul 29, 2019.
  29. ^ "BD&C Giants 300". Bdcnetwork.com. Retrieved 2019-07-29.
  30. ^ "ENR Top 500 Design Firms". Enr.construction.com. Retrieved 2019-07-29.
  31. ^ a b "Reports". www.construction.com. Feb 8, 2017. Retrieved Jul 29, 2019.
  32. ^ a b [1]
  33. ^ "U.S. Green Building Council - LEED projects directory". Archived from the original on December 19, 2016. Retrieved Jul 29, 2019.
  34. ^ http://ctbuh.org/HighRiseInfo/TallestDatabase/TallestBuildingsCompleted/2009BuildingsCompleted/tabid/1353/language/en-US/Default.aspx

External links[edit]