Masonry at Coors Field

Most people go to Coors Field to root for the Rockies.  But they should also admire the masonry used to construct the ball park.


Most modern ballparks are fairly drab, cold buildings (see the new Yankee Stadium), but Coors Field is anything but that.  Designed by HOK Sport (now Populous), the former sports division of HOK Architects, Coors Field is reminiscent of the old masonry ballparks of the early twentieth century.  I was not surprised to learn that HOK Sports / Populous is responsible for the design of AT&T Park in San Francisco, Citi Field in New York City, and Camden Yard in Baltimore, all of which have similarities to Coors Field. (I did find it amusing, though, that Populous designed the new Yankee Stadium, one of the least welcoming ballparks in the country.)

Most of Coors Field was constructed of a steel structure with poured concrete slabs and concrete terraced seating areas, but the main entry at 20th and Blake is wrapped with masonry.  You can see in the photo above that the main pilasters are supported by heavy bases of brick laid in a corbeled (stepped) pattern.  These pilasters frame a decorative masonry band above the entrance gates.  The masonry is laid in what is known as a diaper pattern.  I have always been curious why this diamond pattern is called diapering, but I learned that the etymology of ‘diaper’ refers to “a white diamond or white cloth used on the diagonal”.


The diaper pattern at Coors Field is laid with three types of brick: a deep red brick is interspersed by some darker red or reddish-brown bricks; a buff-colored brick; and what looks like a glazed black brick.  The red brick is laid in stretchers with projecting headers to make diamond patterns, while the buff brick is mainly laid with exposed headers flush to the rest of the masonry.  Two black glazed stretcher brick form the center of each red-brick diamond.  These masonry diamonds are not only attractive, they also reference the baseball diamond inside the stadium.

The diaper pattern is framed by either buff-colored cast stone or buff-colored glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC).  These materials are often used in lieu of natural stone because they are much less expensive to fabricate.  GFRC is also much lighter than cast stone and natural stone, and is sometimes preferable for structural reasons.  But the architects also made use of natural stone when designing Coors Field.  Each masonry pier at the entrance is supported by a high water table clad with red and buff Lyons sandstone, which is quarried between Boulder and Fort Collins.  I appreciate this nod to regional architecture and materials.


Here’s something else I didn’t know about Coors Field:

“During construction, workers discovered a number of dinosaur fossils throughout the grounds, including a 7-foot-long (2.1 m) 1,000-pound (450 kg) triceratops skull. … This later led to the selection of a dinosaur as the Rockies’ mascot, “Dinger”.” (thanks to Wikipedia)

Pretty cool!

Now that baseball season is winding down, here’s one last look at the ballpark for the year.  Let’s hope the Rockies have a better season in 2015 than they did this year.


Polychrome Brick at the First Avenue Presbyterian Church

Today we are going to look at the First Avenue Presbyterian Church in the Baker neighborhood.  At first glance it’s an average neighborhood church building, as you can see below.


But when you look more closely at the masonry, the polychrome brick work reveals that this church is an architectural gem.

1stAvePBdetail5   1stAvePBdetail4

The First Avenue Presbyterian Church was designed by famed Denver architect Montana Fallis (pdf) fairly early in his career during his partnership with John Stein.  (Fallis designed several churches and commercial or office buildings, but he was best known in his later career for his design of the Mayan Theater and the Buerger Brothers Building.)

Constructed in 1906, the First Avenue Presbyterian Church made extensive use of a mixture of pale pink and light gray brick that is very similar in color to Castle Rock rhyolite.  The brick was probably used instead of rhyolite as a cost-savings measure, but the architect may have selected it as a modern approach to church architecture, which in the 1880s and 1890s was dominated by heavily rusticated stone masonry.  The use of this pale pink and light gray brick is uncommon, but it is even less common to see it accented with yellow and orange bricks at the entrance and windows.


This polychrome brick treatment continues on all four sides of the building but is most prominent at the entrance, with its recessed, but simplified archivolts at the Gothic arch.


What I also found interesting is that the base of the building is supported by Castle Rock rhyolite, which you can see at the right in the photo below.  But the steps are a different type of stone, probably a buff Lyons sandstone from Larimer County.


The architect was clearly familiar with various types of masonry available in the early 1900s, and was comfortable mixing materials and colors to create a unified, polychrome façade.