Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) has completed the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Set to open on July 30, the museum will be a tribute to the Olympic and Paralympic movements with Team USA athletes at the center of the experience.
The 5574-m2 (60,000-sf) building features 1858 m2 (20,000 sf) of galleries, a state-of-the-art theater, event space, and café. Inspired by the energy and grace of the Team USA athletes and the organization’s inclusive values, the building’s dynamic spiraling form allows visitors to descend the galleries in one continuous path. This main organization structure makes it one of the most accessible museums in the world, ensuring visitors with and without disabilities can smoothly share the same experience.
Major features include a terraced, hardscape plaza at the heart of the museum complex, cradled by the museum building to the south and the café to the north. The plaza frames a postcard view of Pikes Peak and the Rocky Mountains. With integrated amphitheater seating for 230 people, the plaza is able to host outdoor events throughout the seasons, from the winter games through the summer games.
At the lobby atrium, a skylight illuminates the 12-m (40-ft) tall atrium, while perforated glass fiber reinforced gypsum (GFRG) screens provide views from the lobby. Four balconies at varying heights overlooking the atrium re-orient visitors to this central space.
DS+R designed the gallery space as overlapping petals that wrap around the central atrium. Clerestory lighting at the seams between these petals provide a soft daylight emanating from the central atrium space, terminating at vertical windows at the building’s perimeter. This lighting strategy doubles as wayfinding, orienting visitors back to the atrium, and situating them along a trajectory that moves through the galleries.
The 186-m2 (2000-sf) theater can host a 130-person audience. Two rows of seats are removable to accommodate a maximum of 26 wheelchairs, enabling the potential for a full Paralympic hockey team to sit together.
The 121-m2 (1300-sf) event space features a panoramic view spanning from downtown Colorado Springs to the Rocky Mountains. The space can also open up to an adjoining 46-m2 (500-sf) outdoor terrace.
A 260-m2 (2800-sf) café with an additional 37-m2 (400-sf) outdoor dining area can host a full-service restaurant as well as educational programs, providing a flexible meeting space across the plaza from the primary museum building. The café’s landscaped roof samples native plantings that express the change in seasons.
The 74 m2 (800 sf) multi-functional board room features an adjacent outdoor terrace and an 8-m (26-ft) floor-to-ceiling window.
From the earliest stages of design, the team consulted a committee of Paralympic athletes and persons with disabilities to ensure all visitors could tour the facility together and share a common path. After they have been oriented, all visitors ascend to the top floor by elevator. Ramps guide visitors down a gentle-grade downhill circulation path that enables easier movement. Ramps have been widened to 2 m (6 ft) to accommodate the side-by-side movement of two visitors including a wheelchair. Beyond ensuring all code and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements were rigorously met, material details including glass guardrails in the atrium for low-height visibility, cane guards integrated into benches, smooth floors for easier wheelchair movement, and loose seating in the café optimize the shared experience.
The façade consists of over 9000 folded anodized, diamond-shaped aluminum panels. The taut skin wraps four overlapping petal-like volumes that spiral around the internal structure. Each metallic panel is animated by the light quality in Colorado Springs, producing gradients of color and shade that give the building another sense of motion and dynamism. The primary structural systems consist of a steel frame superstructure, drilled shaft caisson foundations, and cast-in-place concrete lateral cores.