U.S. Air Force Academy – Cadet Chapel

  • Photo © William Lukes
  • Photo © SOM
  • Photo © Hedrich Blessing
  • Photo © William Lukes
  • Photo © Hedrich Blessing

The Cadet Chapel was the culminating architectural element of SOM's master plan and design of the entire U.S. Air Force Academy campus. The striking building features a succession of 17 glass and aluminum spires — each composed of 100 tetrahedrons — enclosing the upper level. Continuous panels of brilliant stained glass clad the tubular tetrahedrons, enabling diffused light to enter the building.

The 150-foot-tall chapel is situated on a podium adjacent to the Court of Honor. The program required three distinct chapels: a 900-seat Protestant chapel, a 500-seat Catholic chapel, and a 100-seat Jewish chapel. Each chapel has a separate entrance. The main floor Protestant chapel is enclosed by tetrahedrons clad in extruded aluminum separated by continuous colored glass panels, with windows of special laminated glass. The terrace-level Catholic chapel is characterized by precast masonry forming the ceiling pattern, with side walls of amber glass and strip windows of faceted glass. The Jewish chapel is a circular room enclosed in cypress frames and stained-glass slabs, with a foyer of brown Jerusalem stone donated by the Israeli Air Force.

In 1996, the Cadet Chapel won the Twenty-five Year Award from the American Institute of Architects. SOM recently completed a comprehensive rehabilitation and modernization plan for the iconic landmark.