The Summit Visitor Center at “America’s Mountain” Pikes Peak is expected to open in early summer

Rendering of the Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center.

The buildings with a spectacular view at 14,115 feet mimic the pink granite that formed the National Historic Landmark in the Rocky Mountains

Pikes Peak is one of the most visited Colorado Mountains. It is also famous for its pink to red granite which formed approximately 1.05 billion years ago around 20 miles deep in the Earth, cooled over a long period, and, after uplifting and erosion of the overlying rocks, became today‘s part of the Rocky Mountains. After more than 5 years of design and construction, its new Summit Visitor Center is expected to open in late May or June (pending weather). GWWO Architects, the design architect for the project, sent us the following press release. RTA Architects, a local architecture firm, assisted during the process:

Nicknamed “America’s Mountain,” Pikes Peak is a “fourteener” (14,115 feet, 4300 m) whose summit anyone can easily reach, regardless of physical ability. Visitors can choose to arrive by car, by cog railway, or via a strenuous 12-mile hike. The new visitor center now ensures that all who make the trip can also enjoy indoor exhibits, dining, gift shop, and restrooms.

More than this, guests who wish to wander the summit and experience the drama of the tundra landscape outdoors can access a series of roof decks and outdoor terraces. A network of walkways, designed with gradual elevation changes and resting areas, seamlessly accommodate people with disabilities and help mitigate the fatigue that can occur at high altitude.

Rendering of the Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center. Rendering of the Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center.

The facility’s careful placement and southern orientation, ideally suited for taking in views, allow boundless sky and vistas to take center stage and offer visitors the same stunning view that inspired Katharine Lee Bates to write the lyrics of “America the Beautiful.”

Embedded into the mountainside, the low-rise structure is seemingly carved from the southeast side of the peak. Its form and materials, with stone inspired by Pikes Peak granite, evoke the crags and rock formations found above the tree line and minimize the visual impact of the building. Inside, warm rustic colors and natural materials, such as locally sourced timber, further connect the interior to the landscape. Seen from below, the building appears as a building of the mountain rather than one on the mountain.

To achieve net-zero energy for the building, passive design strategies were employed to significantly reduce energy needs while equipping the building for an extreme climate where winter temperatures can reach as low as negative 40 degrees. Durable materials, such as high-performance glass, were rigorously tested and chosen to withstand harsh environmental conditions, including winds that can reach up to 230 miles per hour. The building is also designed to achieve net-zero water and saves more than 350,000 gallons of water per year over the current system.

GWWO Architects

RTA Architects

Renderings: GWWO Architects

Pikes Peak seen from Colorado Springs. Foto: Huttari / <a href=""target="_blank">Wikimedia Commons</a>, <a href=""target="_blank">Creative Commons License</a>

(28.02.2021, USA: 02.28.2021)