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Most people in the Denver area have probably already heard about the controversy with the new Westin hotel at the Denver International Airport. Though it has finally opened, there were a lot of hang-ups along the way that pushed the project far behind schedule. You might be surprised how much money was spent over the course of the project, and the end result, while a beautiful building in it’s own right, is far from the design that was originally planned which has led many to bash the building.

But do you think this is a big deal? After all, they eventually got the hotel up and running, right? Well, it’s true that the hotel is finished, but a lot of people are less than pleased with the finished product. It all comes back to design, and this project is a perfect illustration of how critical design is to customers, the community, and the overall feel of your building or space.



The Importance of Great Design

The original design for the Westin Denver International Airport. Image via

If you look at the original design that was created for the Westin hotel (above), it looks extremely different from the finished product (below). The original design, by ‘starchitect’ Santiago Calatrava, played off the existing tented structure and evoked feelings of flight with a white steel structure, his trademark. Many people have been complaining about the finished product and talking about how it is less aesthetically pleasing than the original plans. Some people have gone so far as to claim that the original design was given a “black eye” while others have even compared the finished product to the Death Star from Star Wars.

The completed Westin Denver International Airport. Image via

If you’ve never thought about how much value there is in great design, this is the perfect illustration of how much people care about it. Some people think that the only architectural characteristic they need to worry about is functionality, but that simply isn’t true. Though this example is a massive hotel, the same concept holds true for any building and space. Many people tend to see lighting as a utility of functional addition to their property, but all it takes is one poor design to make your space look subpar.

The Legacy of the Westin

The last thing you want is for people to compare the aesthetics of your property to a Death Star (unless you’re building an evil space base), and a poor design can be a real turn-off to customers. The Westin has the benefit of being located at the airport, so they have a constant stream of traffic that they can convert to customers. But what about your building? The controversy surrounding the Westin will eventually settle, as these things tend to do, but there will undoubtedly be those who hold strong feelings about it for years to come.

While it’s unlikely that the lighting and specialty fabrication of your building or space will garner as much attention at the airport hotel did, it’s still a valuable lesson for anyone attempting to design a space: aesthetics and feeling matter just as much, if not more in some cases, than function.

You simply can’t afford to skimp on good design. It may have been difficult to understand how design impacts the general public’s opinion of a business, but the Westin is a prime example of how design can make or break public opinion on a property. They say a smart person can learn from their own mistakes, but a wise man can learn from the mistakes of others. Take note and give every element its due attention the next time you have a lighting or architectural project!

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