United States Olympic & Paralympic Museum



Located on the border of the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains, Colorado Springs is a city of extremes. Sitting below the dramatic fourteen-thousand-foot ridgeline of Pikes Peak, the city and its sharp, dry air have long been a draw for high-altitude training. Here, the first ever U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum (USOPM) was constructed to officially present the life stories, sacrifices, and achievements of America’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

Acting as a catalyst for the formerly industrial edge of downtown Colorado Springs, this new icon builds on the popular appeal of the city’s U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center, just three miles away. The museum structure and its extension, containing a restaurant, retail shops, and educational spaces, cradle a new public plaza and frame a dramatic view of Pikes Peak from the primary downtown approach. The design translates the energy, grace, and dynamic motion of a discus thrower into the centrifugal organization of the building’s programs—galleries, auditorium, and event spaces—which pinwheel around a twisting and light-filled central hall. The building’s fish scale–like skin is made of nine thousand folded diamond-shaped anodized aluminum panels, each unique in shape and size. The shimmering skin flexes over its twisting inner frame, picking up the ever-changing natural light outside.

Within, visitors follow a universally-accessible path, ascending to the top of the building by elevator and gradually spiraling down through a sequence of loft galleries. The ramped path takes visitors back and forth from the dynamic and introspective atrium through the galleries at the building’s perimeter, each of which grants a view of Colorado Springs and the mountains. The black-box galleries present the history of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and their athletes, the evolution of sport technology and training, the role of the media, and transformative political events. The system of gentle gallery ramps unites pede­strians and wheelchair users as they traverse the museum to­gether. The building has been lauded as among the most accessible museums in the world. Upon entry, each guest is given a keepsake visitor credential powered by Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, which automatically generates content specific to their accessibility needs, including audio-enhanced video and text-to-speech screen readers.

The USOPM sits along an active rail yard that severs the city from the America the Beautiful Park and a bucolic sixteen-mile pedestrian and cycling greenway. Dubbed the “Rip Curl” for its cresting design, the pedestrian bridge (Park Union Bridge) extends from the museum’s plaza, leaping 250 feet over 14 active train tracks to connect the museum to existing trails on the other side of the tracks. The stressed-skin structure of the bridge simultaneously acts as an arch and a truss. Forming an asymmetrical portal, it frames the views in both directions. Pre­fabricated bridge sections were delivered to the site, assembled on the ground, and welded together section by section. Because the bridge had to be installed with an absolute minimum of disruption to national freight-train traffic, it was driven fully assembled to the side of the tracks by self-propelled modular transporters and attached to its abutments in a carefully orchestrated process that was completed within an eight-hour window.

Together, the USOPM and the Park Union Bridge welcome a national and international audience, proving that midsize American cities can combine new and existing assets to resuscitate a struggling downtown core.

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Project information
Size (GSF)60000LocationColorado Springs, United States
groundbreakingJune 2017Commission2014opening30th July 2020
PartnersBenjamin Gilmartin,Elizabeth Diller,Charles Renfro,and Ricardo Scofidio
Project ArchitectHolly Deichmann
Project Architect, Concept DesignSean Gallagher
Project DesignerYushiro Okamoto
TeamAnthony Saby,Merica May Jensen,Ryan Botts,Charles Curran,Imani Day,Roberto Mancinelli,Rasmus Tobiasen,Ning Hiransaroj,Andreas Kostopoulos,Dino Kiratzidis,Emily Vo Nguyen,Jack Solomon,Valeri Limansubroto,and Sanny Ng
External credits
Anderson Mason Dale ArchitectsArchitect of Record
Gallagher & AssociatesExhibition Designers
Barrie ProjectsMuseum & Content Development
KL&A Inc. in collaboration with ArupStructural Engineer
Kiowa Engineering CorporationCivil Engineer
Jensen HughesFire Engineer
The Ballard GroupMechanical & Plumbing Engineer
ME EngineersElectrical Engineer
ArupAcoustics, Audio/Visual, Theater
Ileana RodriguezAccessibility
Tillotson Design AssociatesLighting
NES, Inc. in collaboration with Hargreaves JonesLandscape Architect
Advanced Consulting EngineersCode
Iros Elevator Design ServicesVertical Circulation
Dharam ConsultingCost Estimating
IconergyEnergy Modeling
Heitmann & AssociatesExterior Energy Consultant
MG McGrathFacade Fabrication
GE JohnsonConstruction Manager and General Contractor
    Photography by Jason O'Rear,Nic Lehoux,and Iwan Baan