Predominantly a one-story form seemingly carved from the southeast side of the peak, the new center offers the same unobstructed views Katharine Lee Bates beheld as she penned America the Beautiful. Reminiscent of the crags and rock formations found above the tree line, the design uses shade, shadow, and fragmentation to coalesce the building into the peak. Viewed from below, the visitor center is one with the mountain, yet as one arrives at the peak, the modest entry pavilion is a clear destination.
The “design concept is no less than brilliant.”
Sited to frame the view of Mt. Rosa, the location from where Zebulon Pike viewed the peak in 1806, the pavilion’s lobby provides a sheltered area to view the surrounding landscape, while affording access to the main level of the Summit House below. Accentuating the relationship between the two landforms, the 3.5 degree angle from Pikes Peak to Mt. Rosa is reflected in the downward tip of the lobby walls. That same angle is mirrored in the upward slope of the roof acknowledging the expansive views to the east.
Pursing the Living Building Challenge—the world’s most rigorous and progressive environmentally green performance standard—the facility incorporates many sustainable strategies including a vacuum system for toilets, resulting in 90% less water use; a highly insulated concrete shell with in-floor radiant heating; solar arrays on the roof and near the summit to provide 105% of energy needs on sunny days; building zones that vary in temperature based on the activity taking place; biophilic principles; and the use of building materials that are free of toxic red-list chemicals and materials.