The first major building erected on the Air Force Academy campus since the iconic Chapel was completed in 1963 is the brand new Center for Character and leadership Development (CCLD). This new building was designed by SOM New York Office. SOM was the firm that designed the original campus which has become a national historic district.
The CCLD is also known as Polaris Hall for the signature feature of the building: A tower canted at a 39-degree angle in order to align with the North Star, symbolizing the academy’s “unchanging core values,” The tower’s four sides taper to a squared-off roof containing an oculus. SOM collaborated with an astronomer, Dr. Devin Della-Rose, to ensure Polaris would always be due north of the building at 39° altitude.
From inside the CCLD’s Honor Board Room, a cadet accused of violating the academy’s honor code can look up at night and see Polaris through the opening, an intimidating reminder, perhaps, of the value of a moral compass. The glass tower also serves as a majestic skylight for the CCLD’s “forum,” a large gathering space for meetings and TED Talk – style events, which is located next to the board room but doesn’t share the same alignment with Polaris.
The Forum which is the main hall under the skylight is sunken below grade and has three levels needing to be made accessible. Entry is from the office level (top) which is at grade. The next level is down to the stage and then finally down to the forum floor.
Handi-Lift, Inc. was first approached to consult on the design of the lift in 2011. After many delays (including a pipe break just before opening was scheduled) the building was finally completed in April, 2016.
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