US Olympic Museum Opens in Colorado
29. July 2020
Photo: Jason O’Rear, courtesy of Diller Scofidio + Renfro
The US Olympic and Paralympic Museum, designed by New York's Diller Scofidio + Renfro, opens to the public on July 30 in Colorado Springs.
The museum's opening on Thursday would have coincided with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, originally scheduled to take place from July 24 to August 9, but the coronavirus pandemic pushed that event to 2021. So the museum opens amidst approximately 60,000 new virus cases in the United States every day and around 700 daily cases in the state of Colorado. Needless to say, what should be a joyous occasion is relatively subdued, with timed ticketing, attendance caps, face coverings, social distancing, and other prolonged measures in place for the safety of visitors and employees.
Still to come is a pedestrian bridge spanning the active railroad tracks to the west, which will connect the museum to America the Beautiful Park. It is visible on the other side of the tracks and is expected to be put into place by September 22. (Photo: Jason O’Rear, courtesy of DS+R)
Coming to fore during a virtual tour of the museum with architect Benjamin Gilmartin, partner in charge at Diller Scofidio + Renfro, a couple days before the opening was its accessibility, which is clearly aligned with the dual purpose of celebrating Olympic and Paralympic athletes and events. (The opening happens to coincide with — within four days, at least — the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act into law.) Outside, ramps lead from the plaza to the petal-like museum and grass-covered educational/cafe components (left and right in the above aerial). An elevated plaza between those masses will soon connect to American the Beautiful Park via a 250-foot-long pedestrian bridge also designed by DS+R.
DS+R designed the atrium and surrounding galleries as "overlapping petals" with openings that enable light from the atrium to enter the galleries and balconies to protrude into the three-story central space. (Photo: Jason O’Rear, courtesy of DS+R)
A focus on accessibility continues inside, where visitors take an elevator to the top floor and descend through the building. Ramps are wide enough for two wheelchairs to pass each other and cane guards are integrated into benches, two of the numerous accessibility features integrated into the interior architecture. DS+R confidently calls the building one of "the most accessible museums in the world." A three-story atrium, pierced by projecting balconies, sits at the heart of the museum and serves as a means of arranging the galleries in plan and of orienting visitors.
The façade, per DS+R "consists of over 9,000 folded anodized diamond shaped aluminum panels, each unique in shape and size." (Photo: Jason O’Rear, courtesy of DS+R)
DS+R was selected to design the US Olympic and Paralympic Museum in 2014, unveiling a preliminary design concept in May 2015. Although the museum was not able to meet the then optimistic target of opening it to coincide with the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, comparisons of the renderings — both in 2015 and in 2017 — to the finished photography reveal no dramatic changes in the architectural design.
2017 rendering of the museum at a similar vantage point to the photo above. (Image: DS+R)
DS+R worked with Denver's Anderson Mason Dale Architects as architect of record. Consultants included Gallagher & Associates as the exhibition designer and Barrie Projects of Cleveland as consultant for museum and content development.