Denver’s historic Union Station is a Beaux Arts masterpiece located on the edge of the city’s central business district. SOM was commissioned to expand and transform this station into a major regional transportation hub. To do so, the firm converted 20 acres of former rail yards into an urban transit district that orchestrates light rail, commuter and intercity rail, bicycle and bus routes, and pedestrian pathways into an intuitive intermodal hub. The focal point is the open-air Train Hall, which was conceived as an efficient and formally expressive means of sheltering multiple railway tracks. Its primary structural system comprises 11 steel “arch trusses” spanning nearly 180 feet, clad in tensioned PTFE fabric. In profile, the canopy rises 70 feet at either end and descends in a dynamic sweep to 22 feet at the center, a gesture that allows the structure to protect the passenger platforms below while providing views of the historic station.
A bustling, two-block-long pedestrian promenade links the Train Hall to the SOM-designed Denver Union Station Light Rail Terminal. An enhanced network of pedestrian and public spaces within and around the site seamlessly integrates the hub into the LoDo (Lower Downtown) district to the east and residential neighborhoods to the south, west, and north. Underground, the 22-gate Union Station Bus Concourse services 16 regional, express, and local bus routes. The terminal, measuring 980 feet in length, serves a dual purpose as a pedestrian concourse that connects the constellation of transportation programs distributed across the site. Vivid colors and natural lighting help passengers orient themselves while handsome terrazzo floors and sparkling yellow glass tilework elevate the ambience of terminal beyond the often unimaginative depot experience. A series of skylights and glass pavilions flood the hall with daylight, infusing the station with a sense of motion and spaciousness. One of the largest of its kind in the United States, the redevelopment of the former rail yards at Denver Union Station is a case study of the power of transit-oriented urban design. This substantial public investment has catalyzed an unprecedented wave of private-sector activity. Sensitive to its historic location, but fundamentally forward looking in its technical sophistication and city-building spirit, Denver Union Station sets the standard for 21st-century intermodal hubs.