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A Mile Higher
Denver International Airport's Gensler-designed hotel tops out.
Courtesy Gensler

On May 22, The Architect’s Newspaper was looking on as Denver Mayor Michael Hancock ceremoniously signed the last beam to be flown into place in the topping-out ceremony for the new Westin Hotel at Denver International Airport. Designed by global design firm Gensler—after Santiago Calatrava walked off the project—the hotel is a graceful, expressive form that sits opposite Jeppesen Terminal. The hotel’s completion will be the final piece in the original master plan for the airport, which was completed more than 20 years ago by Fentress Architects.


On-site, there was evidence of the high-tech facade going in. When completed, the skin of the building will wrap smoothly onto the roof to create a taut, sculpted form that references the tensile membrane structure of Jeppesen terminal (also designed by Fentress) in more modern terms. The transverse axis of the hotel sits astride Denver Regional Transportation District’s new East Rail Line, which will connect passengers directly to downtown Denver’s Union Station. Above, a graceful cantilevered steel and glass grid-shell juts out from the hotel to shelter incoming trains. On the opposite side of the hotel, the form is mirrored, creating a covered public plaza between the new hotel and Jeppesen Terminal. The site organization creates a strong circulation axis from the light rail station, through the center of the hotel and a massive four-story sky-lit escalator space, onto the public plaza in front of Jeppesen terminal.


The following day, when AN caught up with Brent Mather, design director at Gensler’s Denver office, he said, “Seeing the canopy at the topping out party with all of the people there… It is really going to be a powerful space.”

While Gensler is heading the project, the firm is receiving support from a number of local offices, including Iron Horse Architects, Anderson Mason Dale, and MHS, a cooperative corporation between Mortenson, Hunt, and Saunders general contractors.

The hotel is scheduled for completion in late 2015. The East Rail line will commence operation in 2016.

Nick Cecchi