Art Restoration at the Denver International Airport

Back Again!

One of Several Visits

Denver Airport Art Repair

This is the latest of several visits to Denver International Airport (DIA) to restore the large Michael Singer sculpture in Concourse C.

On at least two occasions since the sculpture was installed in 1994 irrigation has failed and the art has been removed to repair or replace the irrigation. In these instances I set the artwork back in place. On another occasion, rot required the replacement of several elements.

This is always a delightful project as the staff of DIA are wonderful.

Critics Love It!

art repair of Michael Singer sculpture

Here’s what one local has written about this striking work of art:

“In 1994 nature took over the 650 square meter Concourse C within the Denver International Airport and changed the usual anonymous, expected airport in both a dramatic and evocative way.

Singer’s public art project brought nature into the antiseptic airport setting by creating a vast, indoor garden, in which various climbing plants creep up the walls and across the concrete surfaces.  There is, on the whole, a multitude of intense connections between the non-linear growth elements and the more linear structures in the sculptural forms.

The garden can be viewed from the level above, where there is a McDonald’s restaurant and other fast food shops, a fascinating contrast. Singer comments, “the garden is covered with vines, ferns, all manner of growth. It becomes a living ecology, and therefore a complete contradiction to its surroundings.”   The garden, akin to the Japanese Zen-gardens, can be viewed from several vantage points but is not open and available directly to the public, which gives it a mysterious air.

However, it establishes a network of expressive, contrasting effects in its grey, cold surroundings.  The moss-covered surfaces in the northeastern end of the space lead one’s thoughts to the Moss Gardens in Kyoto, creating a poetic Japanese reference.”

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And here’s what the artist says about his Atrium Garden:

“Concourse C of the Denver International Airport was re-imagined as a garden oasis within the steel and concrete cathedral-like core of the building. The garden encompasses the entire circulation space where passengers enter and exit the airport train connecting the concourse to the main airport terminal. On the lower level, adjacent to the trains, is a sculpted 7,000 square foot plaza of patterned inlaid granite and copper. Exiting the train one immediately steps upon this patterned plaza and can see hints of the garden above where the sculpted walls emerge from the platforms above the trains. As one travels up the stairs or escalator to the main concourse level the garden slowly emerges as two surrounding stepped gardens bounded by sculpted walls. The two facing gardens, each built over the train system below, frame the entire circulation core, creating the experience of ascending into the garden from below or descending into the garden from above (when returning to the main terminal). The design of the garden takes advantage of this unique experiential space with a layering of multiple sculptural levels and details that are sequentially revealed by moving through the building and ultimately understood as a whole by viewing the entire interior garden from above.

Repair of Sculpture at DIA

The two 2,500 square foot gardens are sculpted from stone, wood, concrete panels, stucco, soil and vegetation. The walls of the garden space are fifteen feet high and constructed at an angle, creating the illusion of deep hallow spaces behind the walls. Carefully selected vines climb and weave through the patinated walls and over the ground plane and sculptural elements. A moss garden is placed at the northeast end of the space, in other areas ferns abound. During periods of growth the garden vegetation can overtake the sculptural elements, leaving only traces and glimpses of the complex pieces below, and creating the sense of an archeological ruin. In the original construction irrigation water was allowed to wet the sculptural elements creating small pools of water within the garden, making the interior garden seem as though it were outdoors.

This project was restored in 2007 at the request of Denver International Airport. Prior to the restoration Michael Singer Studio received numerous inquires about the gardens expressing concern that the irrigation system had been turned off and the garden was dying. Several individuals, including travelers and people who work in the concourse noted that the gardens were also providing a refuge for birds trapped within the airport. They feared without the garden that the birds might not survive. In part due to these inquires, the waterproofing and irrigation systems were upgraded and the gardens were restored and re-planted.”

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The Restoration

My team and I completed the latest art repair, restoring it to the artist’s original intent.

The moss in one of the central concrete and wood elements did not establish itself despite the special addition of buttermilk to the concrete mixture which fosters moss growth on concrete. This failure was due to a lack of moisture. The irrigation has never been able to deliver enough moisture to this area. So artificial moss is now used and surprisingly looks quite nice.

It’s a beautiful airport terminal complex with lots of wonderful art. I highly recommend visiting DIA even if you’re not flying.