USAFA Cadet Chapel by Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill

“Designed by SOM as part of the Master Plan and design of the entire U.S. Air Force Academy campus, the Cadet Chapel was created as a single symbolic religious structure that accommodates the individuality of three major American faiths, thus requiring three distinct chapels.”

In creating a monumental religious building, the design incorporated a monumental structure system. Seventeen rows of spires rise 150 feet high coming to seventeen points shooting towards the sky above, using repetition to enhance the powerful essence of each massive spire. These spires are used with a tubular steel frame of 100 identical tetrahedrons that make up the structure. The tetrahedrons are each 75 feet long and weigh five tons. They are enclosed with aluminum panels and spaced a foot apart. The gaps in between these tetrahedrons are filled with colored glass, reflecting the light of the chapel.

The south facade is the entrance of the chapel, which begins with a granite stairway climbing to a one-story landing that leads to a band of gold anodized aluminum doors. Although a single building, the chapel houses three distinct main worship areas on two main levels, a Protestant Chapel, Catholic Chapel, and  Jewish Chapel, along with two all-faiths rooms and two meeting rooms. The Protestant Chapel is located on the upper level and the Jewish and Catholic chapels and one all-faiths room are located beneath it. Another level below lies the larger all-faiths room and the meetings rooms.

The Protestant Chapel is the largest chapel and is designed to seat 1200 people. The nave is 92 feet tall at its highest peak, and measures 64×168 feet. The tetrahedrons form the walls of the chapel with stained glass windows in between them that progress from darker to lighter as they approach the altar, creating a beautifully lit majestic space. The Catholic Chapel below the main level seats 500 people, and contains arches and stonework that suggest the architecture of the Romanesque Cathedral. The Jewish Chapel is distinguished with a round wooden screen that hides all of the structure, which is unlike what occurs in the Protestant Chapel above it.

By | 2010-06-08T09:13:42+00:00 June 8th, 2010|Architecture|0 Comments

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