A high-style homage to the Olympic spirit is unveiled in Colorado.
The museum is wrapped in a taut “skin” that plays with the light and suggests the dynamic muscularity of the Olympic athlete.
How do you capture the displays of herculean strength, balletic grace and gravity-defying agility that are the Olympic Games—in a building? If you’re renowned New York City-based architecture firm Diller Scoft dio + Renfro (the designers behind the High Line and L.A.’s the Broad art museum), you pay tribute to the athletes themselves with a muscular facade that wraps itself taut like a skin around the structure and seems to be in perpetual motion.
Over 9,000 folded, anodized, diamond-shaped aluminum panels—each unique in shape and size—cover the facade.
The result is the recently unveiled United States Olympic & Paralympic Museum, a 60,000-square-foot wonder at the base of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado Springs that isn’t just stunning, it’s one of the most accessible museums in the world. Here, DS+R partner Benjamin Gilmartin shares his passion for the project.
20,000 square feet of gallery space wraps around a central atrium
The Olympics are such a powerful element of American culture. How did that influence your approach? When we were brought on, we—like everyone—were inspired by the Olympic athletes and the way they seem to effortlessly and elegantly defy gravity. This is a museum that had to not only capture that impossible effortlessness, but also had to be a stage to tell the athletes’ stories of sacrifice and struggle that led to these achievements. The building is organized according to a continuous path that spirally wraps around a series of cantilever tunnels. The inflected and curved shape of the internal structure evokes a sense of struggle and aspiration. The architectural language that expresses effort and elegance evokes the athletes’ performance and prepares visitors for the extraordinary stories that the museum tells.
Why is it important that all guests experience the museum the same way? From the earliest stages of design, the team consulted a committee of Paralympic athletes and persons with disabilities to ensure that, from entrance to exit, all visitors could tour the facility together and share a common path. Upon entry, visitors ascend the building to the top floor in an elevator located in the atrium. Ramps then guide visitors toward the ground floor along a gentle-grade downhill circulation path that enables easier movement. It’s a singular route that enables a shared, common experience.
One of the most accessible museums in the world, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum can be experienced by all.
What aspect of the museum are you proudest of? A common goal among all of DS+R’s projects is to make more space accessible to more people. The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum shared a similar ambition: to build one of the most inclusive and accessible museums in America. Every aspect of our design strategy has been motivated by the goal of expressing the extraordinary athleticism and progressive values of Team USA. After leading the museum’s design, I’m so moved by the collective, herculean effort that allowed us to now share these stories of perseverance with the public.