Posted in projects on February 26, 2014 10:20 am EST

Case Study: A Destination to Lift the Spirit

Denver-area Stapleton Fellowship Church takes the concept of adaptive re-use to a new level

Concrete thin-shell structure designer Milo Ketchum originally designed Hangar 61 at Stapleton International Airport. The structure’s barrel vault is 33 feet high at its apex and spans 160 feet with no intermediate columns.  /  Launch gallery (in new window)











Sign up for our bi-monthly newsletter Designer Today to stay up to date with all we do at Designer and with what's going on in the field of house of worship architecture.


TAGS: adaptive reuse, historical buildings,


By Mel McGowan

Amidst an economy that has stopped the “American Dream” of single-family sprawling subdivisions and single-use mega campuses in their tracks, alternative models are emerging for community. One of the largest “cities on a hill” pointing the way out of the darkness is the Stapleton community in Denver, and in the heart of it is now a sacred space in a one-of-a-kind structure: Stapleton Fellowship Church.

Today, the historic Hangar 61 is home to Stapleton Fellowship Church. Image courtesy of PlainJoe Studio.

The close of Denver’s Stapleton International Airport in 1995 launched a unique opportunity to develop 7.4 square miles as a massive mixed-use, smart growth community only 15 minutes from downtown Denver. International eyes carefully watched the development of the community as leading planners intentionally set it apart from previous models of suburban development. As part of the nation’s largest New Urbanist infill development, Stapleton’s Phase I, 2.1-square-mile community now boasts human-scaled, walkable streetscapes featuring porches (with garage doors hidden behind alleys), 36 miles of biking trails along parks and streams, and vibrant live/work/play “Main Streets.” As Jason Whitlock, regional director of Visioneering Studios based in Irvine, Calif., describes, “This is one of the largest and [most] influential sustainable developments in the nation’s history.”

Ideas take flight

Along the eye-catching thoroughfare of Central Park Boulevard an isolated airplane hangar—one of the last vestiges of the site’s history—was rapidly deteriorating. A unique opportunity existed to tell the story of the site, while facilitating the living out of “His story” (i.e., the Gospel).

“Hanger 61 was originally designed by Milo Ketchum, world-renowned for his design of concrete thin shell structures, and was also the first structure of its kind in the USA to feature the use of ‘lightweight concrete,’ meaning concrete that weighs just two-thirds [the weight of] normal weight,” says Ben Nelson, structural engineer and principal at Martin/Martin Consulting Engineers with an office in Lakewood, Colo.  continued >>





Click images to launch full-sized gallery (with captions) in a new window