Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center
"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.
- Square footage: 38,000 sf
- Project cost: $60M
- High-profile public project
- Improved ADA accessibility
- Indoor and outdoor interpretive exhibits
- High-performance sustainable design, pursuing LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge certifications (click here to learn more about the project's sustainability initiatives)
- New dining, retail, and back-of-house support spaces
- Outdoor gathering and dining areas, wide elevated walkways, and an overlook platform
- Fundraising assistance
- Collaborative design process with extensive stakeholder engagement
- 45% energy reduction compared to the original Summit House
- 66% freshwater reduction compared to the original Summit House
- Glass tested to withstand wind speeds of 230 MPH
- The highest total-precast concrete structure in the world, with 462 precast concrete components delivered one at a time via the multi-switchback Pikes Peak Highway
- Click here for more facts about the new Summit Visitor Center
- Photography by Moss Photography
- 2022 Project of the Year, presented by Engineering-News Record (ENR) Mountain States
- 2022 Best Projects Winner: Cultural/Worship and Specialty Construction, presented by Engineering-News Record (ENR) Mountain States
- 2022 Build America Award, New Construction $10M - $75M, presented by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America
- 2022 PCI Design Awards. Special Award: All-Precast Concrete Solution, presented by Precast/Prestressed Concrete Instistute
- 2022 PCI Design Awards, Special Award: Sustainable Design, presented by Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute
- 2021 CSI Environmental Stewardship Award, presented by the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI)