Newsletter Subscription
Print Subscription
Change Address
Unveiled> U.S. Airforce Academy
SOM designs a celestial Center for Character and Leadership Development for Colorado Springs.
Courtesy SOM

Center for Character and Leadership Development, U.S. Air Force Academy
Architect: Skidmore, Owings and Merrill
Client: U.S. Airforce Academy
Location: Colorado Springs
Completion: 2014

In October, the U.S. Air Force Academy broke ground on its Center for Character and Leadership Development (CCLD) in Colorado Springs. Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), the firm behind the academy’s 1954 campus, provided the new academic center’s design.

Situated on the campus’ central square, the 46,000-square-foot steel and glass-clad structure finds its focal point in a 105-foot-high skylight. This oculus points toward Polaris—the North Star—and serves symbolically as an instrument of cadet navigation. The soaring, slanted spire, consisting of 966 glass panels, shoots out of a sunken pavilion and will house a maple-clad, daylight-infused gathering space called the Forum. Classrooms, meeting rooms, offices, and a library will hug two adjacent courtyards, where they will benefit from the ample quantities of natural light.


The facility, which employs natural ventilation, radiant heating and cooling, and photovoltaic panels, is seeking LEED Silver certification. Its architectural goal is to be not only energy efficient, but also a reflection of the Air Force’s commitment to its cadets’ integrity.

“Leadership and character development are paramount in all that we do,” explained Duane Boyle, deputy director of the Academy’s Directorate of Installations.

Veronica Alif