United States Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel.

Oct 16, 2019

Designed by Walter Netsch of the architectural firm Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, and completed in 1962,its height is about 150 feet (46 m) and 2 floor counts, the United States Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel is one of the boldest and unusual attractive construction ever order by a branch of the United States military. The soaring, 17-spired structure overcame initial controversy related to its design and tubular steel construction to become an undoubted modernist example, as well as a admire nonmaterial  sanctuary.”

The most eye-dropping aspect of the Chapel is its row of seventeen spires. The original design called for twenty-one spires, but this number was reduced due to budget issues. The structure is a tubular steel frame of 100 identical tetrahedrons, each 75 feet (23 m) long, weighing five tons, and enclosed with aluminum panels. The panels were fabricated in Missouri and shipped by rail to the site. The tetrahedrons are spaced a foot apart, creating gaps in the framework that are filled with 1-inch-thick (25 mm) colored glass. The tetrahedrons comprising the spires are filled by triangular aluminum panels, while the tetrahedrons between the spires are filled with a mosaic of colored glass in the aluminum frame. Cadet Chapel itself is 150 feet (46 m) high, 280 feet (85 m) long, and 84 feet (26 m) wide. The front façade, on the south, has a wide granite stairway with steel railings capped by aluminum handrails leading up one story to a landing. At the landing is a band of gold anodized aluminum doors, and gold anodized aluminum sheets apparently covering original windows. The shell of the chapel and surrounding grounds cost $3.5 million to build. Various furnishings, pipe organs, liturgical fittings and adornments of the chapel were presented as gifts from various individuals and organizations. In 1959, a designated Easter offering was also taken at Air Force bases around the world to help complete the interior.

Worship areas

Cadet Chapel was constructed specifically to house three distinct worship areas under one roof. Inspired by chapels at Sainte-Chapelle in France and the Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi in Italy, architect Walter Netsch stacked the area on two head volume. The Protestant nave is located on the upper level, while the Catholic and Jewish chapels and a Buddhist room are located beneath it. Beneath this level is a larger room used for Islamic services and two meeting rooms. Each chapel has its own entrance, and services may be held simultaneously without interfering with one another.

Protestant Chapel

The Protestant Chapel is unearthed on the main ground and is designed to seat 1,200 individuals. The nave measures 64 by 168 feet (51 m), reaching up to 94 feet (29 m) at the highest peak. The center aisle terminates at the chancel. The building's tetrahedrons from the walls and the pinnacled ceiling of the Protestant Chapel. Stained glass windows provide ribbons of color between the tetrahedrons, and progress from darker to lighter as they reach the altar. The chancel is set off by a crescent-shaped, varicolored reredos with semi-precious stones from Colorado and Pietra Santa marble from Italy covering its 1,260-square-foot (117 m2) area. The focal point of the chancel is a 46-foot (14 m) high aluminum cross suspended above it. The pews are made of American walnut and African mahogany, the ends being sculpted to resemble World War I airplane propellers. The backs of the pews are capped by a strip of aluminum similar to the trailing edge of a fighter aircraft wing. Above the narthex, in the rear, is a choir balcony and organ, designed by Walter Holtkamp of the Holtkamp Organ Company, and built by M. P. Moller of Hagerstown, Maryland. The organ has 83 ranks and 67 stops controlling 4,334 pipes. Harold E. Wagoner designed the liturgical furnishings for both the Protestant and Catholic chapels.

Catholic Chapel

The Catholic Chapel is constructed beneath the Protestant Chapel and seats around 500 people. The nave is 56 feet (17 m) wide, 113 feet (34 m) long and 19 feet (5.8 m) high. The focal point of the Catholic Chapel is the reredos, an abstract glass mosaic mural designed by Lumen Martin Winter and composed of varying shades of blue, turquoise, rose and gray tessera to form a portrayal of the firmament. Superimposed on the mural and depicting the Annunciation are two 10-foot (3.0 m) tall marble figures, the Virgin Mary on the left, and the Archangel Gabriel on the right. Above and between these two figures is a marble dove. In front of the reredos is the altar, a gift from Cardinal Francis Spellman, who dedicated the Catholic Chapel on September 22, 1963. The altar is Italian white marble mounted on a marble cone-shaped pedestal above which is a six-foot sculptured nickel-silver crucifix. Along the side walls of the chapel are the 14 Stations of the Cross, also designed by Lumen Martin Winter, and carved from four-inch (102 mm) thick slabs of marble. The figures are done in Carrara marble, from the same quarries where Michelangelo drew his stone. The classical pipe organ, in the 100-seat choir loft, was designed by Walter Holtkamp and built by M. P. Moller Co. It features 36 ranks and 29 stops controlling its 1,950 pipes.

Jewish Chapel

The Jewish Chapel is also on the bottom level. arranging 100, it is round, with a diameter of 42 feet (13 m) and a height of 19 feet (5.8 m). It is enclosed by a vertical grill with inserts of clear glass opening to the foyer. The circular form and clear walls were used to indicate a tent-like formation. The ground is finished with Jerusalem brownstone, donated by the Israeli Defense Forces. The panel of the foyer are purple stained glass panels alternating with green and blue stained accent windows. The circular walls of the synagogue are panels of translucent glass separated by stanchions of Israeli cypress. The paintings, done by Shlomo Katz in 1985 and 1986, depict a Biblical story. They are divided into three groups; brotherhood, flight (in honor of the Air Force) and justice. The focal point of the Jewish Chapel is the Aron Kodesh, which shelters the Scrolls of the Torah, to the right of which hangs the Ner Tamid. In the foyer of the chapel is a display cabinet with a Torah Scroll that was saved from the Nazis during World War II. It was found in Poland in 1989 in an abandoned warehouse and donated to the Jewish Chapel in April 1990. This "Holocaust Torah" is dedicated to the memory of all of those who fought against the Nazis.

Buddhist Chapel

The Buddhist Chapel is a freestanding hall within Cadet Chapel, donated in 2007. It measures 300 square feet and welcomes Buddhists of all denominations. The altar has a Burmese statue of the Buddha and near the entry is a figure of Avalokiteśvara.

Falcon circle

The Falcon Circle it the latest of the Cadet Chapel's worship areas, combined in 2011. It was confirmed through an appeal from the companion of Earth-Centered Spirituality, an umbrella of traditions that includes Wicca, Paganism, and Druidism. It is open to use by all religious communities to worship in a manner respectful of other faiths. The All-Faiths Rooms are worship areas for smaller religious groups. They are deliberately free of god-fearing symbolism so that they may be unused by a diversity of faiths. Distinguishing trust-specific accouterments are provided for each category to use during their worship services.