'It is like the experience of skiing'

05 Aug 2014

Shigeru Ban's Aspen Art Museum completes

The Shigeru Ban-designed Aspen Art Museum was celebrated with a gala and ribbon-cutting event this past weekend in preparation for the public opening on Saturday 9 August. This is Ban’s first permanent museum within this United States and his work will be celebrated further through an exhibition at the Aspen Art Museum which considers his widespread humanitarian work, on display until 5 October 2014.

Of his freshly completed scheme Ban says: “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.

“I made the entrance foyer on the rooftop. It is like the experience of skiing - you go up to the top of a mountain, enjoy the view, and then slide down. I also achieved this sequence by opening the Museum to the beauty of nature with five important design features: the Grand Stair, the Moving Glass Room Elevator, the Woven Wood Screen [made using Prodema - a blend of paper and resin encased in dual-sided wood veneer], the Wood Roof Structure (Wood Truss System), and the Walkable Skylights.”

The soon-to-open building triples the space of the original Aspen Art Museum, comprising 33,000 sq ft of public space which will be free to all visitors year-round. 17,500 sq ft of exhibition space is coupled with education facilities, a shop/bookstore, an on-site artist residence, art storage and preparation space, and a rooftop deck for exhibitions, events and a café. There are also facilities to screen films on the rooftop deck.

Key to Ban’s design is to maximise the museum’s scenic location on the corner of South Spring Street and East Hyman Avenue in downtown Aspen. From the rooftop space, visitors will be able to enjoy uninterrupted views towards the Ajax Mountain (the main skiing peak in Aspen).

As mentioned in Ban’s statement above, the intention is for visitors to experience the space from the top down. There are two options for moving through the building: the Moving Glass Room Elevator in the northeast corner; and the Grand Stair on the east side. This three-level stairway is split into two sections, with a 10ft-wide exterior form separated from a 6ft-wide interior stair by a glass wall. 

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