Shigeru Ban's Aspen
Art Museum opens


News: this year's Pritzker Prize winner Shigeru Ban has completed work on a new art gallery in American ski resort Aspen (+ slideshow).

Aspen Art Museum by Shigeru Ban
Photograph by David Prutting

The Japanese architect has designed a new home for the Aspen Art Museum, his first permanent museum building in America.

Aspen Art Museum by Shigeru Ban
Photograph by David Prutting

The new 3,000-square-metre building opened to members over the weekend and will open to the public on 9 August as part of the institution's 35th anniversary year celebrations. It occupies a site at the corner of East Hyman Avenue in downtown Aspen.

Aspen Art Museum by Shigeru Ban

Woven wooden cladding made from Prodema, a composite of resin and paper sandwiched inside wood veneer, wraps around two sides to create a permeable facade and is echoed in the building's wooden roof structure.

Aspen Art Museum by Shigeru Ban
Photograph by David Prutting

A triple-level grand stairway between the exterior screen and the interior of the building is divided by a glass wall, creating a ten-foot-wide outdoor space and a six-foot-wide indoor space.

Aspen Art Museum by Shigeru Ban

A rooftop sculpture garden was designed to offer unobstructed views of Ajax Mountain, Aspen's main skiing destination. The roof also features a cafe, bar and outdoor screening space.

Aspen Art Museum by Shigeru Ban

"In designing the Aspen Art Museum, I wanted to create a site-specific sequence that took into account the mountain views and the building's purpose as an art museum, and to open the building to the outside so visitors could appreciate the beauty of Aspen from inside the building," said Shigeru Ban.

Aspen Art Museum by Shigeru Ban
Photograph by Derek Skalko

Inside, the architect has included six galleries as well as a shop, on-site artist's apartment and education centre. In total, the building provides more than triple the exhibition space of the museum's previous facility.

Aspen Art Museum by Shigeru Ban
Photograph by Derek Skalko

"I made the entrance foyer on the rooftop," explained Ban. "It is like the experience of skiing — you go up to the top of a mountain, enjoy the view, and then slide down."

Aspen Art Museum by Shigeru Ban
Photograph by Derek Skalko

A large glass elevator in the north east corner also acts as a "moving room" within the building, connecting galleries across the building.

Aspen Art Museum by Shigeru Ban
Photograph by David Prutting

The museum's inaugural exhibitions include a show focusing on the work of artists David Hammons and Yves Klein, and Shigeru Ban: Humanatarian Architecture, which includes full-scale examples of the architect's projects.

Aspen Art Museum by Shigeru Ban

Ban was announced as the recipient of the prestigious Pritzker Prize in March. He told Dezeen he intends to work on fewer projects following the award, which he received during a ceremony in June. See a roundup of his key projects.

Aspen Art Museum by Shigeru Ban

Photography is by Billy Farrell, unless otherwise stated.

  • The problem with tight grids in architectural photos, is without a reference, the sense of scale is lost.

    I really enjoy the play between the heavy ceiling structures and the woven paper facade. There is a good sense of passing through the outside into the inside. This is a welcomed design for Aspen.

    • Liberty? “Welcomed design for Aspen?”

      Not so fast. Limousine liberals love to preach tolerance, yet have none.

      The museum which made worldwide headlines by banning the leader of Occupy Wall Street Aspen from its premises several years ago went even further by banning a senior citizen on oxygen, an Aspen community member for over 40 years, from its premises for taking over 1500 signatures protesting the museum’s non-transparent, secretive bypassing of the normal approval process (in a town of 7000+) to Aspen’s City Council. [For documentation, see Aspen Police Report #4456].

      And from the Aspen Daily News on the museum’s lovely decision to axe the Valley Kids Show, deeming it “refrigerator art”.

      What kind of art institution bans senior citizens on oxygen and kicks the local kids’ show out? The original article has gone viral on art websites:

      Aspen Art Museum wall climbers winding through city court system

      Photo courtesy of Cooper Means Aspenites Cooper Means and Lauren Twohig posed for this picture on the Aspen Art Museum wall on Aug. 10. The college students, who were issued citations by Aspen police, said they were barely one foot from the ground and didn’t climb any higher.

      Andre Salvail The Aspen Times

      What’s the price for climbing the wooden-basket facade of the 47-foot-tall Aspen Art Museum?

      As three people without criminal records have learned, it’s a $150 probation fee, 10 hours of useful community service and a one-year deferred judgment on a municipal trespassing charge.

      And they’ll get one more thing: a warning from Aspen Municipal Court Judge Brooke Peterson to stay out of trouble. If any of the perpetrators should get arrested again over the course of the next 12 months, they might find themselves back in Peterson’s courtroom — a meeting room in the basement of Aspen City Hall — facing a fine of as much as $2,600 or jail time.

      Peterson handed down the latest deferred judgment to Aspen resident William Johnson, 29, on Wednesday morning. Johnson didn’t say much in court but told Peterson he had three or four beers before committing the infraction, which a police summons says occurred just after midnight on Sept. 9.

      Johnson said he didn’t see the “No Climbing” sign on the side of the new $45 million museum, which has been a source of controversy since even before it won City Council approval in August 2010. Critics have claimed the 33,000-square-foot structure is too big and its design is completely out of character for downtown Aspen. Some have contended that the process leading to its approval was rushed and conducted under the threat of litigation.

      In court, Johnson didn’t voice any concerns about the politics behind the museum. He said he is a restaurant owner in Aspen Highlands.

      “Has anyone ever tried to climb your building?” Peterson asked, failing to get much of a reply.

      City Attorney Jim True commented that of all the people who have been cited for climbing the museum, Johnson was among the more successful — although he never reached the top.

      “I think he got a little higher than most,” True said.

      Aspen natives Cooper Means, 22, and Lauren Twohig, 20, both college students in Prescott, Arizona, only got a couple of feet off the ground on the evening of Aug. 10 — the day after the museum opened — before a museum security guard confronted them.

      Means said he and his friend weren’t trying to scale the building but were merely posing for a photograph. After the security guard tried to detain them, they walked away, toward City Market. The guard and an Aspen policeman tracked them down inside the grocery store.

      They settled the matter with the court before returning to college in late August.

      “We didn’t climb it,” Means said Wednesday. “The point was to take a photograph. We only got 15 inches off the ground before we were immediately confronted by a museum security guard who thought we were going to climb it.”

      Means, a design student, said he is no fan of the museum. He grew up in Aspen and doesn’t see the building’s exterior or interior as things that belong here.

      “It’s the worst thing to happen to Aspen since I was born there,” he said. “The old art museum was a great place to go with local artists and fun people to talk with. Now the museum is part of the ‘art industry.’ You go up Aspen or Shadow or Smuggler Mountain, and it stands out. It wasn’t designed as a part of the town.”

      The facade that is attracting climbers is made of a material called Prodema, a composite of wood and paper pulp reinforced by resin and encased in a wood veneer.

      “It’s sturdy. It’s definitely climbable,” Means said.

      Controversial Aspen artist Lee Mulcahy — who is barred from the museum because of an incident in November 2011 in which museum officials alleged that he placed “For Sale” signs around the future site — is offering $500 to anyone who climbs at least three-quarters of the way up the building.

      To claim what he calls the “$500 Wild West Bounty,” a person has to provide photographic evidence and post it on Twitter. While the dare may seem dangerous, Mulcahy said it’s much riskier to scale cliff walls on the mountainsides up Independence Pass.

      Why the bounty? Mulcahy, a Libertarian candidate for the upcoming Senate District 5 race, said it’s because of the sculpture that the museum placed outside the building in large, capital letters: “WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL.”

      “Liberty and justice for all, except for artists and others banned for disagreeing with the museum’s policies,” he said.

      Jeff Murcko, communications director for the museum, said that security guards will continue to monitor the facade and alert police of any suspicious activity.

      “We have a zero-tolerance policy for climbing the wall,” he said.

  • Politics aside, I was commenting on the design.

    The controversy over their selection of exhibits and guests is interesting. I’ll read into that further, thanks.