On a recent visit to Colorado, my first ever, my fiancé mentioned we would be visiting the Air Force Academy. I didn't think much of it; thought it would be a short visit and couldn't imagine that there would be anything of interest to see there. Was I in for a surprise. Not only is the natural beauty surrounding the Academy stunning but as you wind your way up the road towards the Academy you catch a glimpse from an overlook of what looks like 17 jet fighters standing on end. It is actually the Cadet Chapel which was designed by the esteemed architect, Walter Netsch of Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill of Chicago. The design was to reflect the spirit, beauty and to mimic the construction of a jet fighter. It is a sight to behold, a classic modernist structure, and named a U.S. National Historical Landmark in 2004.
Completed in 1962, the most striking aspect of the chapel are the 17 spires. Originally meant to be 19 spires but reduced due to budget cuts (we know something about that). If the outer form is not striking enough you're breathe is taken away as you step into the Protestant Chapel on the main floor. The chapel, inspired by the chapels at Sainte-Chappelle in France and the Basilica of San Francesco d' Assisi in Italy, was designed to have three distinct worship areas on different levels of the building. 100 identical tetrahedrons form the walls of the chapel and are are spaced one foot apart with colored glass filling the gap, as the sunlight filters through the glass it produces ribbons of color that progress from dark to light as they approach the alter.
The pews, which are made of American walnut and African mahogany, are framed with ends that are designed to resemble World War I airplane propellers. Across form the chancel and the 46 ft. high suspended aluminum cross is the choir balcony housing a 4334 pipe organ designed by Walter Holtkamp. In the narthex the walls are lined with strips of wood creating a geometric pattern set against a blue background. As you take your final leave of the chapel it is hard not to notice the brass doors with rivets that resemble the construction of an airplane. All in all the chapel is breathtaking and a masterfully designed building...worth the visit.
The Air Force Academy was not the short, ho-hum visit I expected but a spectacular display of natural and man-made beauty.
We are so much like our Creator.