Denver Union Station – Structural Engineering

The city of Denver commissioned SOM to expand and transform the historic Union Station into a major regional transportation hub. The project converts 20 acres of former rail yards into an urban district that orchestrates multiple transit modes—light rail, commuter and intercity rail, bicycle and bus routes, and pedestrian pathways—into an intuitive network.

To give a clear identity to the district, SOM's structural engineers and architects worked together to develop a consistent visual language through the use of exposed, painted structural steel. The team collaborated on the design several steel and fabric pavilions, including the Train Hall—the focal point of the expanded station. This iconic structure was conceived as an efficient, cost-effective, and formally expressive means of clear-spanning 180 feet across multiple railway tracks.

The primary structural system for the Train Hall consists of eleven steel arch-trusses that support a tensioned PTFE fabric. These trusses span nearly 180 feet from a single large-diameter pin connection atop 18-foot-tall arched column supports. Each truss is stabilized by bracing struts. At the center of the Train Hall, the arch-trusses are replaced by cantilevered trusses, opening the canopy to the sky. 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 protects the passenger platforms below, while providing views of the historic station.