The United States Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel: Menacing Elegance


Cadet Chapel was the highlight architectural element of the master plan by the architectural firm SOM for the entire campus of the United States Air Force Academy. The SOM architectural firm is generally known for their high rise structures, they have recently also completed two airport projects in India as well, the expansion of Mumbai and Bangalore airport.

The beginnings of the chapel were marred with controversy surrounding the design, but the design gained acceptance as an example of modernist architecture. In fact, the chapel won the Twenty-five Year Award from the American Institute of Architects in 1996. This chapel was named national monument in 2004 as well due to its striking imagery.


Oddly, the outside shape of the structure was inspired by the insides of Sainte-Chapelle chapel in France and the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Italy. The intersecting lines are reminiscent of the lines inside the churches mentioned. The challenges faced by the architects was to create a place of worship where people of different faiths can congregate. This problem was solved by was extending the structures instead of widening it. The most striking feature of the structure is the row of seventeen towers which is influenced by the wings of jets. The structure is a tubular steel frame consisting of 100 identical tetrahedrons, each 23m long and weighing 5tn, coated aluminium panels. Tetrahedrons 0,30 cm are spaced from one another, creating holes in the frame are filled with stained glass 25mm thick.

Multiple Faiths

As mentioned before, this chapel houses smaller areas dedicated to different faiths. There is a Catholic Chapel, the crystals still form of traditional windows, vertically running along the side walls of the space. It has been used prefabricated masonry and glass faceted amber. On the altar, the altar is represented by a glass mosaic mural, an abstract representation of the sky, designed by Lumen Martin Winter. The Protestant Chapel is the largest, and here glass panels form coloured ribbons with dazzling colours, along with the lines of architectural tetrahedra. The colours are dark and rich on the back of the space, becoming brighter as you move towards the altar.

1 thought on “The United States Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel: Menacing Elegance”

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate your efforts
    and I am waiting for your next write ups thanks once again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *