SOM in the Press

How the Air Force Academy Helped Set the Bar For Modernist Campus Design

Photo © Magda Biernat

Source: Curbed

Back-to-school time brings visions of quads ringed by brick buildings, and idyllic institutions basking in tradition. When most universities follow the blueprints set by traditional forebearers such as Harvard or Oxford, how do you create a modernist campus that still resonates with pride and symbolism, without lifting from the language of ivy-clad academia?

For the legendary Air Force Academy outside of Colorado Springs, Colorado, it required a radical jump into midcentury design. Master planned in the ‘50s by a Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill (SOM) led by the then 34-year-old Walter Netsch, the site high in the Rockies has become a National Landmark, due to its sharp layout and striking Cadet Chapel, a transcendent religious building that looks like a fleet of jet straining towards the heavens.

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