'Natural' design draws a buzz in Vail

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The "natural" option presented uses a "curvilinear" roof to mimic and create snow cornices. Vail Town Councilman Greg Moffet said a structure that resembles the one pictured here "could be our Sydney Opera House."

Scott N. Miller
October 22, 2004

VAIL - There weren't any outright "ooohs" or "aaahhhs," but most eyebrows in the room arched when architect Mike Winters showed the third design for the Vail conference center.

Winters, of Denver-based Fentress Bradburn Architects, must be used to arched eyebrows by now. The firm designed the passenger terminal at Denver International Airport, the U.S. Marine Museum in Quantico, Va., and the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyo.

The design team led by Fentress Bradburn architects of Denver also presented a "modern" design option featuring wood, stone, and lots of glass. Vail Town Councilwoman Diana Donovan said the drawing looked like "you've encased the Lionshead parking structure in glass."
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All those designs are different, but all reflect the firm's philosophy of using either natural or historic elements in a building's design.

At DIA, the pointed roofs of the terminal look like a cluster of Indian teepees rising from the plains or a mountain range. In Jackson, the museum uses the rock formations of the nearby mountains as inspiration.

Winters first showed the audience of a few dozen people a traditional design that echoes European themes found in Vail Village. That, said some, looks too much like Beaver Creek. The second was a more contemporary design using glass, wood and stone.

"It looks like we put a glass cover around the Lionshead parking structure," Councilwoman Diana Donovan said.

The third used natural elements found around Vail - forests, rock outcroppings and snow cornices - for inspiration. That design features a "vertical element" that evokes an evergreen tree and a curving roof that will form snow cornices in the winter.

The "traditional" design option for the Vail conference center evokes themes found in Vail Village, but was criticized by some as looking to much like something that might be built at Beaver Creek.
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While that design drew the most positive comments, some worried if the town could afford in a $42 million budget.

"I think it's exciting and interesting, but will it work?" Vail resident Paul Rondeau asked.

Winters said the "curvilinear" roof would be a challenge, but it could be done.

"We've discussed using sod, or formable shingles," he said.

As to whether the town could afford such a structure, Winters said the conference center in Palm Springs, Calif., which is about the same size, and also is designed to reflects its surroundings, cost about $30 million.

While money questions remain, the design clearly created a buzz.

"We need to create our own Sydney Opera House," Councilman Greg Moffet said. "To the extent we can afford it, we need to pursue this."

Residents and others had a chance to look at the designs at a Wednesday open house at the Vail Public Library. And there will be more opportunities for public comment over the next few weeks.

"This is a community decision," Councilman Kent Logan said. "I hope this becomes a project we can rally behind."

Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or smiller@vaildaily.com.


Design sessions

Following a pair of public meetings this week, the Vail conference center design team will bring "refined" design concepts to the Vail Town Council's Nov. 2 meeting. Community meetings will be held through the fall.

Next steps include selection of a general contractor. The project schedule calls for bonds to be issued by the end of the year, with construction to begin in April of 2005. The 100,000 square foot facility, which will be located just east of the Lionshead parking structure, will cost approximately $42.5 million.

For more information, call Vail Community Development Director Russell Forrest, 479-2146, or e-mail conference@arcinc.to.