Smead Aerospace Engineering Sciences Building

Smead Aerospace Engineering Sciences Building

Boulder, Colorado

Propelling Aerospace Innovation

Aerospace innovation continues its impressive trajectory in Colorado, thanks in part to research institutions like the University of Colorado Boulder. With a top-five national ranking, the university’s aerospace engineering sciences (AES) department sought a new space — to further propel not just its programs, but an industry, a state, and a nation.

University of Colorado Boulder
180,000 SF

Previously situated on CU Boulder’s main campus, the AES building was relocated to the adjacent research campus with excellent views of the area’s iconic Flatiron Mountains. This afforded an opportunity to make a statement on the research campus, to respect and embrace the natural environment, and to create a visual connection between the two campuses.

We oriented the site around the arrival sequence, developing a sense of air movement and propulsion. Undulating plant material, the lines on the ground leading to the front doors, the pleated façade, even the vertically hung ceiling tiles arranged as if by air currents, allude to aerospace principles. The building also meets vigorous sustainability and building performance requirements. Material choices and scale are sophisticated and subtle, not obvious. Interior layouts maximize daylight for all spaces, inviting students and researchers to collaborate and socialize.

The Smead AES building fits in the context of the Front Range and the stylistic language of the historic CU Boulder campus while simultaneously making a singular statement. From advanced maker shops to contemplative spaces, ingenuity is producing significant results. Ultimately, it embodies diversity, innovation, and the dynamics of flight.

Pleated Façade

The building’s exterior explores the concept of fluidity, expressing the movement of forces rippling past the vertical precast plates that ‘pleat’ across the south façade, pulling toward the entry.

“The building is an answer to a ‘call to action’ from the state and the nation. It helps us [Colorado] lead the way for the nation’s ambitious future in aerospace.”

Chancellor Phil DiStefano, University of Colorado

vertical-hung ceiling tiles

The interior design builds upon the theme of fluidity. Vertical-hung ceiling tiles imitate air moving rapidly through the lobby, forwarding the backyard.

iconic views

Open design allows for easy reconfiguration and maximum access to daylight and views of the area’s iconic Flatiron Mountains, with 75% of desks or regularly occupied spaces located within 25 ft. of an atrium or view windows.

The site design reduces heat island effect with lush plantings of native and adaptive species, and an irrigation system utilizing gray water from roof runoff. The landscape design mimics natural hydrology to limit runoff, and rain garden channels were installed to filter stormwater prior to entry into the nearby Skunk Creek riparian corridor.

Pilot spaces

The building features 5,000 sq. ft. dedicated to PILOT (Practical Innovation and Learning through Observation and Teaching), an aerospace-specific program within CU-Boulder’s internationally recognized Integrated Teaching & Learning Laboratory.