Despite having worked as an architect for decades, 2018 is a big year for Stuart Coppedge, FAIA.

Photo: Oscar + Associates

Photo: Oscar + Associates

First, the RTA principal was recently elevated to AIA Fellowship. One of only two living Fellows in Southern Colorado, this new designation means a lot to both to him personally and to his community, who Coppedge insists played a large role in his career.

“[Being elevated to Fellow] is less about me and more about the great teammates and colleagues I’ve had over the years. It was also pretty special to be recognized at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York,” said Coppedge.

In addition to his career full of important design projects, part of his submission for Fellowship included the civic work he’s led over the past several years. Coppedge has worked to raise awareness of architects, and specifically RTA, in Colorado Springs and the surrounding area. After years of doing projects across the state, the firm has recently placed more of emphasis on getting involved in the local community and doing “work that matters close to home.”

And what better way to work close to home than the new Pikes Peak Summit Complex? For Coppedge, this is a once-in-a-career project. So notable in fact, that he will be presenting the project at this year’s AIA Colorado Practice + Design Conference on October 12.

Pikes Peak welcomes more than 600,000 visitors each year and as Coppedge describes, because of its visibility from virtually anywhere on the front range, most people in Colorado feel a connection to Pikes Peak.

But with the fourteener’s fame comes added challenges for the architects, like community organizing.

Wetterhorn Summit with Uncompagre in the background.

Wetterhorn Summit with Uncompagre in the background.

“A partner and I have presented this project in one form or another more than 40 times over the last two-and-a-half years, only about a half dozen of which were part of the contract with the client,” said Coppedge. “In a way, we have 600,000 clients on this project.”

These presentations have been hosted at places like the Rotary Club, The Independence Center, and even to local historians. The reason? “Getting people engaged and proud of what their community is doing is very important to us,” Coppedge said.

On top of that, RTA is working to make the summit of Pikes Peak the most accessible place in Colorado Springs.

“Whether you are an Olympian or in a wheelchair, you will be able to experience what it feels like to be on top of a fourteen-thousand-foot peak in a high alpine environment,” said Coppedge.

When RTA and visitor center design teammate GWWO Architects originally proposed on the project, they recognized it’s about more than architecture. “It’s not about crafting an iconic building; It’s about crafting an iconic experience. We want to develop a building that is subservient to the mountain,” Coppedge said.

An added challenge to this already-complex project—RTA is pursuing the Living Building Challenge, which “is the world’s most rigorous proven performance standard for buildings, which uses a regenerative design framework to create spaces that give more than they take.”

Though the current Pikes Peak Summit House was built in 1963 and began to fail within the first three years, it has taken until now to redesign it. Still, despite the pressing need, Coppedge believes that the lengthy community-organizing and design process has been worthwhile because they hope this new summit complex will last for the next 75 to 100 years.

“Sometimes the architecture is not the most important thing, but instead, what the architecture supports,” said Coppedge. “It’s about whether it serves the purpose and the people.”

Coppedge with his family in New York.

Coppedge with his family in New York.

Coppedge has been heavily involved with AIA, having served as both a local and national board officer. Currently, Coppedge is serving on the AIA Colorado Equity, Diversity and Inclusiveness Task Force to help the organization rethink equity and accessibility.

If you’d like to hear more about how pursuing the Living Building Challenge has both constrained and enhanced the Pikes Peak Summit Complex project, be sure to register for the 2018 Practice + Design Conference.