Chapel for America’s Airmen

JBSA-Lackland AFB, Texas

SLA Architects was the architectural and interiors consultant on this project for the Fort Worth District US Army Corps of Engineers on the Kenall/Freese and Nichols JV team. The goal of the project is to consolidate the current insufficient and scattered worship and educational facilities into one well-planned, well-designed area. The new building(s) should inspire spirituality and be welcoming for all trainees at JBSA-Lackland AFB and will serve as a place of spiritual respite for all trainees during their stay.

Our task was to develop the Planning Charrette Report, Level II which documents the validation of programming and initial budget for the Chapel for America’s Airmen at Joint-Base San Antonio in Lackland AFB. The facility must accomodate nineteen separate religions while respecting the traditions of each but not giving more significance than any other. The Chapel Center & Ed/Admin facility totaled 86,977sf and featured a 10,370sf canopy. The proposed design provides worship spaces, administrative and religious educational classrooms for the great variety of religious groups that attend the Basic Military Trainee (BMT) program at JBSA-Lackland AFB.

The challenge was to design an “architecturally significant building” that would serve as a showcase location on base “similar to the US Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel” in Colorado Springs, CO. With no budgetary numbers given at notice-to-proceed, we provided a cost estimate based on other significant buildings such as the Perot Museum in Dallas, TX and the Sydney Opera House in Australia. The initial budget came in at $150M, which well exceeded the government’s preliminary costing analysis. Through an intensive week-long charrete at Lackland AFB with the full Project Delivery Team on site, we engaged with the nineteen different religions who required both worship and educational space to determine their space requirements and special needs (which were abundant). After the charrette, we returned back to the office and developed a new program that provided a slightly less “architecturally significant” facility, but that still met all user needs and had an initial cost estimate of $49M.