INSIDE LOOK: Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel reconstruction

Digital Now

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY — Nearly 50 truckloads of scaffolding now cover the inside of the Cadet Chapel at the U.S. Air Force Academy. 

It’s the beginning of a four-year renovation process to repair water leaks, damaged pews, refurbish pipe organs, and more. 

“We roughly receive about 800,000 visitors a year, so it is a national historic landmark, it’s a structure that people want to come see from all over the world,” said Pete Peterson, Cadet Chapel Public Relations Director. 

Once the outside structure surrounding the chapel is complete, it will be enclosed, creating a cocoon. 

USAFA says it will keep weather from hindering the renovation process. 

“We’ve taken all the acoustic plaster down inside the chapel, so although you’re not going to be able to see it with the cocoon in place, the building is going to be taken all the way down to its structure and rebuilt from there,” said Duane Boyle, Campus Architect for USAFA. 

USAFA says one of the biggest challenges has been matching aluminum to the exterior of the chapel. 

Now, they’re one step closer to understanding how original architect, Walter A. Netsch Jr., designed the building to give it a “living” look. 

“What Walter consciously chose to do was not to use anodized aluminum and that allows the aluminum to patina down over time. And that’s how he got the building to actually show age through the years and changing through the decades,” Boyle said. 

According to USAFA, the pews will be restored locally. The pipe organs are being restored in Georgia, and the stained glass will be restored in Los Angeles. 

“It’s truly a national effort trying to restore this building back to the unique building that it is, and one of America’s greatest buildings. When the building opens up, it’s going to look like it did when it was brand new. It’s going to be a much more silver color, much more shiny, and once again, as the original design intent, the building will all patina down over time and get back to the color that it is now and have that same characteristic of changing as the sun rotates around to the south and to the west,” Boyle said. 

The chapel closed its doors in September of 2019. 

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