United States Airforce Academy Hotel and Convention Center (Hotel & Convention Center)

This facility is a 375 key up-scale conference hotel located at the entrance of the north gate into the United States Air Force Academy campus. It is one component of a larger development that would include office, retail, and the new USAFA welcome center and museum. The project includes 27,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space and all of the typical business hotel amenities. The design was inspired by the mid-century modem vocabulary that is used for all of the campus facilities.

Design Challenge

The primary challenge with the project was an inherent conflict between maximizing views from the hotel to the iconic USAFA chapel and the dramatic front range of the Rockies from and minimizing glare and solar heat gain into the building. The project site is directly east of the existing United States Airforce Academy campus and the front range of the Rocky Mountains. All of the dramatic view from the site are directly west facing. It was important that the Cadet Chapel could be seen from most of the guestrooms, the ballroom, the roof top terrace and the lobby. This required an orientation of the building that resulted in the majority of these spaces facing due west. In order to maximize view from these spaces, floor to ceiling window wall was a requirement. Several features were introduced into façade to help address the glare and view conflict. Horizontal roof and floor slab projections were created to mitigate heat gain and glare for mid-day and summer solar orientations. Some of these shading devises project out as much as 10’ to address the issue. Tightly spaced vertical aluminum fins were integrated into the façade design to mitigate glare in the winter months and to help with heat gain in the late afternoon. These were introduced primarily where there was floor to ceiling glazing in the west facing guestrooms. A metal mesh system was the final layer of protection, introduced at the upper portions of the ballroom and lobby glazing.

Physical Context

The context and site for the project is very unique and rich with both natural and built environmental aspects to respond to. Nature is ever presence in Colorado and both physical and visual connections for the hotel guests is very important. Exterior transition and function spaces are programmed throughout the design to facilitate interaction with the natural environment, including exterior event lawns, ballroom terraces, exterior roof top lounges, and curated garden spaces. Floor to ceiling glazing is used throughout the project to ensure that guests are never visually separated from the beauty of the mountains and surrounding prairies of the site. The other relationship to the context of the project that was critical to the success of the design was the connection and reference that needed to exist between the existing campus architecture and this new component. The existing architecture is very consistent and follows a fairly ridged planning system with a limited and sophisticated material pallet. The 7’ grid that the campus was laid out on was utilize in this project to help transfer the DNA of the existing facilities into the hotel. The mid-century modern vocabulary of the existing facilities was adapted to reflect current building systems, the specific programmatic requirements, and a more contemporary aesthetic, while still paying homage to and directly linking to the essences of the USAFA campus. The materials in the hotel are also are a direct reference and response to the context of the campus.