All
Projects
Products
Events
Competitions
  1. ArchDaily
  2. Detlef Mertins

Detlef Mertins: The Latest Architecture and News

Walter Netsch: The "Radical Mind" That Designed SOM's Air Force Academy Chapel

09:30 - 4 March, 2015
Walter Netsch: The "Radical Mind" That Designed SOM's Air Force Academy Chapel, © Hedrich Blessing
© Hedrich Blessing

Having joined Skidmore, Owings & Merrill after World War Two at the age of 27, Walter Netsch was promoted to become a partner at the age of 31. Netsch entered the firm during what was arguably its defining era, when the reputation of Gordon Bunshaft and the image of a corporate-driven, teamwork-minded made SOM one of the most recognizable practices in the US. He was also, at the age of just 34, responsible for one of SOM's most recognizable projects of the decade, the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and its striking geometric chapel.

To honor what would have been Netsch's 95th birthday, SOM recently republished an interview between Netsch and architecture theorist and writer Detlef Mertins, which had originally been published in 2001 in SOM Journal 1. In the following extract from this interview, Netsch discusses the story of how he developed the design, and what it was like to participate in one of America's most influential practices among a host of strong characters.

© William Lukes Workers prepare the glass strips for installation in the chapel. Image © SOM © William Lukes © SOM + 6