Pushing the envelope, or the ‘mushroom’ | VailDaily.com

Pushing the envelope, or the ‘mushroom’

Scott N. Miller
Special to the Daily A rendering of Vail proposed conference center as it might look in the summertime.
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VAIL ” Be careful, but go for it.

That was the consensus from an informal survey of locals and visitors after being asked about the preferred design for Vail’s new conference center.

The Vail Town Council voted Dec. 7 for a “natural” design submitted by Fentress Bradburn Architects, the Denver firm designing the center. The council picked the “natural” design, which is purported to reflect the terrain around Vail, over a design with a “modern” theme and one that reflected the Bavarian-style architecture in Vail Village.

People have compared to the design to everything from a forest fungus to a place where Fred Flintstone might attend a convention of the Royal Order of Water Buffalo. But that doesn’t mean they don’t like it.

“It kind of looks like a mushroom,” Kate Marsh said. “But it’s

interesting, it’s something new for the valley.”

Marsh, who works at Kemo Sabe in Vail Village, said the conference center itself could be a boon for Vail. “I think it’ll bring more business, and bring more people into my store,” she said.

While some Tipsline callers and letter-writers have said the design doesn’t fit with the architecture in the rest of town, Ed Moore of West Vail said that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“A lot of stuff in Vail now looks like Beaver Creek,” Moore said. “I don’t want to see Beaver Creek in Vail. Let Vail be Vail.”

A group of sound and lighting engineers from Kansas City took one look at the design drawing and sounded a note of caution.

“It looks nice, but is it really functional?” asked Jay Waller.

Since he’s in the business of providing service to conventions and events, Waller said the designers have to make sure they take things like the ceiling’s height and weight-bearing ability into consideration before building.

Town officials need to be sure big trucks can get into and out of the facility, Waller said.

Another caution came from Charles Thornburgh of San Francisco.

“They’ve done some ruinous jobs (in San Francisco), especially the library and the DeYoung art museum,” Thornburgh said. “It seems like simpler is better.”

But doing something different in Vail appealed to Brad Pennington of Skin Deep Spa.

“I like the Bavarian theme,” he said. “But it’s nice to have something different.”

Like some others, Pennington likened the design to that of the Sydney Opera House in that Australian city. “I think sometimes things that look odd at first become part of the scenery after a while,” Pennington said.

“We’re Australians, of course we like it,” visitor Ian Thrahar said, laughing.

“I like it, though,” he added. “It makes a real design statement for Vail.”

Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 613, or smiller@vaildaily.com.

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