Site Visit No. 8: U.S. Air Force Academy with Paul Andersen

Ashley and Erik visit the U.S. Air Force Academy campus in Colorado Springs, CO with Paul Andersen, Clinical Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago and director of Independent Architecture.

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September 1, 2018


Paul Andersen is the director of Independent Architecture. His projects range from cruciform bubble gum columns to almost ordinary houses. Paul teaches at UIC and previously taught at the Di Tella, the Harvard GSD, and Cornell University. He has been a guest curator at the MCA Denver and the Biennial of the Americas, a Fulbright Specialist in Architecture, and is the author of The Architecture of Patterns and Curve Culture.

On Today’s Site Visit, we return to Colorado and discuss our visit to the US Air Force Academy campus located in Colorado Springs. Built between 1958 and 1968, the campus spans almost 20,000 acres of land on the east side of the Rocky Mountains, about 60 miles south of Denver. Designed by Skidmore Owings & Merrill, the US Air Force Academy campus abandons the traditional architectural styles typical of the country’s other military academy buildings and instead, embraces a Modernist approach. The massiveness of the campus, along with the austerity and simplicity of its buildings, speaks to the messaging the US Air Force Academy and the country as a whole sought to display during the nation’s post-WWII era. Paul’s interest in the campus ranges from how its material characteristics relate to the surrounding environment, to the influence national politics had over the academy’s design. The Air Force Academy Campus, along with Colorado’s role in contemporary architectural discourse, have inspired much of Paul’s interests and work.

Ashley Bigham