Ann & H.J. Smead Aerospace Engineering Sciences, University of Colorado-Boulder

The University of Colorado Aerospace Engineering Sciences (AES) building was designed as the ‘Center of Gravity’ for the Aerospace Department. The new building is specifically designed for students, researchers, and private partners to collaborate. Located in Boulder, Colorado on the University’s East Campus, the Aerospace Engineering Sciences building is on a prominent site, seen immediately upon turning from Colorado Avenue onto Discovery Drive.

Inspired by principles of aerospace engineering, the building was designed from the inside out, ensuring the goals for collaborative research and hands-on learning drove the layout. The exterior of the building explores the concept of propulsion, the action of driving forward, through the vertical precast plates that ‘pleat’ across the south façade pulling toward the entry. The ‘pleated’ façade controls heat gain and glare while allowing views and daylight to the laboratories and drawing visitors into the expansive lobby. At 180,000 GSF, the building offers a mix of active-learning classrooms, lecture classrooms, offices, laboratories and collaborative lounge spaces. The layout maximizes energy efficiency and daylight for all occupied spaces.

The building was designed with an efficient layout for the laboratories – Dry Labs and Computing in one wing of the building and Wet Lab and Heavy Utilities in the other wing. The laboratories were designed to be flexible and adaptable. They were designed on a lab module. This allows the large open labs to be divided in the future for specialty research. Since the future of aerospace research is unknown, we designed the dry laboratories to be adaptable to grow or shrink lab benching space for computing workstations.
RATIO Architects served as the Design Architect for this project.


  • Flexible “future-proof” grad suites and labs
  • PILOT Lab for aerospace research
  • Top funded aerospace program in U.S.
  • Design/Bid/Build

Size: 180,000 sf
Construction Cost: $73.2 million
Completion Date: August 2019

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