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New architectural images released of Denver International Airport. Oh, wait, that's Denver Union Station.

train roof.JPG
Courtesy of Skidmore Owings Merrill
The proposed Union Station train shed

While debate continues over the planned construction of two wing buildings in front of Denver's Union Station as part of the historic station's transformation into a new transit hub, some of the attention -- and debate -- may soon shift to the train shed to be built behind the station. Concept images recently released by project architect Skidmore Owings Merrill (SOM) depict a streamlined train-shed structure made of Teflon fabric and steel supports similar to the materials used in Denver International Airport's iconic roof -- a similarity that may not be welcomed with open arms.

After all, why choose a design that feels a bit derivative, as well as dated? While cost constraints may be one reason to do so, it's not unreasonable to expect more from internationally recognized architectural superstars SOM -- something that takes the grand, sweeping station halls of old and injects something new and lively into the mix.

The Union Station Advocates, a citizen group focused on Union Station's public spaces, seem to be thinking along these lines. "The Teflon roofing material is still an issue with us that we will address in our upcoming Round Table and board meetings," Union Station Advocates co-chair Luke O'Kelley writes in an e-mail. "The architects are trying to strike a balance between cost, materials and views from the west side of the station. Hence, they continue to advocate the tubular steel infrastructure, epoxy paint and Teflon roofing material, saying that these materials are lighter, cheaper and less obstructive. They maintain that they are not trying to relate to DIA architecture."

So far, the Advocates are reluctant to take a strong stand in pushing for a revised train-shed approach. After all, it's possible that there's already movement afoot to spice up the architecture. As O'Kelley notes, "Marilyn Taylor and Roger Duffy of SOM stressed that the design was still in the concept phase and would evolve with input from the public and project team." Or maybe there's a more troubling reason for their lack of grumbling. It could be that, considering the crumbling economy, folks in the know have decided to focus their energy on making sure the proposed train shed and the rest of new transit hub are built at all.


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