"The City of Colorado Springs and many other stakeholders have long been committed to the task of building a new Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center that is truly worthy of the majesty and magnificence of Pikes Peak and the luster of its history. We now have a visitor center we can all be proud of, a place that William Palmer, Spencer Penrose, and the generations of Pikes Peak advocates who have come before us would be proud of. (This building) complements the majesty of a great mountain, and we commence a new era in the history of Pikes Peak and of Colorado Springs.”
Mayor John Suthers, City of Colorado Springs
Pikes Peak, also known as America's Mountain, is one of the most visited mountains in the world and a top tourist attraction for the State of Colorado. At 14,115 feet above sea level, it is the highest visitor center in the United States. The summit is a National Historic Landmark that holds a special place in America's heart, with breathtaking views that inspired Katharine Lee Bates to write the poem America the Beautiful in 1893. Visited by more than 1,000,000 people annually, it is unique in that is the only “fourteener” (a mountain of 14,000 feet in altitude) that everyone can access regardless of age or fitness level.
With deteriorating conditions, the original 1960s era Pikes Peak Summit House could no longer meet the needs of its ever-growing number of visitors. In 2015, the City of Colorado Springs embarked on a decades-long vision to design and construct a new Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center. Over the next six years, a new building was designed and constructed to provide an immersive visitor experience while lightly touching its environment and supporting the mission of each major stakeholder.
The goal for the design team - RTA Architects as Architect of Record and design architect GWWO Architects - was to give visitors to the new Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center a seamless immersive experience with facilities specifically designed for the harsh environment on the Peak, while staying mindful of siting and view sheds. RTA and GWWO guided the design process using extensive public input and deep collaboration among all project stakeholders including the City of Colorado Springs, the US Forest Service, Pikes Peak - America's Mountain,The Broadmoor Manitou & Pikes Peak Cog Railway, and Colorado Springs Utilities, over 50 additional stakeholders, and 500,000 local citizens who see Pikes Peak as their mountain. RTA also provided on-site support through the end of construction and final site work.
The facility's careful placement and sensitive design puts the focus on the stunning landscape, allowing the boundless sky and views to take center stage. Inside the new Visitor Center, guests are exposed to a greater understanding the Peak’s formation, discovery, and its iconic place in American History through interpretive exhibits. The building then guides visitors back outside to continue their experience of the beauty, richness and history of Pikes Peak through the incorporation of accessible walkways and additional interpretive opportunities.
The Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center also has high sustainability goals and is pursuing LEED Platinum certification as well as Living Building Challenge certification, the world’s most rigorous proven performance standard for buildings. If successful, it will be the first building at 14,000 feet in altitude and the first project in the state of Colorado to achieve this prestigious certification. Click here for more information and videos about the sustainability initiatives of the new Visitor Center.