Art Review


The redevelopment of Stapleton International Airport by mega-developer Forest City has been surprisingly successful. The town center at 29th Avenue and Quebec Street is very nice, being the best-designed of the many ersatz downtowns that have sprung up all over the metro area. Like Lowry before it, Stapleton has made a national name for itself as an exemplar of the new-urbanist movement, a highly popular philosophy that advocates building suburbs with a mix of commercial and residential units to make them look something like cities.

One thing that lends an urban touch to a neighborhood is the presence of historic architecture. Stapleton has a lot less of it than Lowry does, which is surely one of the reasons Lowry is more desirable and thus more expensive. There are not many historic buildings on the Stapleton site, but there is at least one -- and do you know what Forest City wants to do with it? Tear it down. And to add insult to injury, the City of Denver still owns it!

I'm referring to Hangar 61, a masterful mid-century modernist structure built in 1959 to hold the Ideal Basic Cement Company's corporate plane. The building at 8695 Montview Boulevard has a unique form, created by the intersection of two partial hyperbolic arches that rise from a pair of concrete anchors on the ground. Hangar 61 -- it just sounds so 007 -- is by the architectural firm of Fisher and Fisher and Davis, which traces its origins back to William Ellsworth Fisher, who designed several LoDo landmarks. The firm continues its legacy through its successor, the Davis Partnership, which is currently collaborating with Daniel Libeskind on the Denver Art Museum's Hamilton Building.

All-around good guy David Walter, an artist and a partner in the Ironton Studios and Gallery, is heading up the volunteer effort to save the marvelous structure. Toward that end, a public hearing before the Denver Landmark Preservation Commission is slated for November 16. Let's hope Walter and his allies prevail, because Denver can't afford to lose any more cultural assets of the caliber of Hangar 61.

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Michael Paglia is an art historian and writer whose columns have appeared in Westword since 1995; his essays on the visual arts have also been published in national periodicals including Art News, Architecture, Art Ltd., Modernism, Art & Auction and Sculpture Magazine. He taught art history at the University of Colorado Denver.
Contact: Michael Paglia

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