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Aspen Art Museum

CCY Architects

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2017 AIA Institute Honor Award winner in Architecture

Shigeru Ban, Hon. FAIA, is a master of material sorcery, a designer who’s made magic out of such humble stuff as recycled paper and wooden boxes, stacking and laminating them into structures that are visually boggling and yet relatively inexpensive. The Aspen Art Museum is a little (though not too far) further up the budget food chain, and it shows what the Japanese architect can do when given room to run.

The 33,000-square-foot building features a wooden brise soleil over two sides of its glass façade, a suitably organic cladding system given the rustic Rocky Mountain locale. The material theme continues onto the roof, where a wooden truss supports a sculpture garden that also happens to be the only public rooftop in the snowbound city. Programmatically, the scheme lures visitors up to the terrace by way of a large, glazed elevator that is set into a corner and fully visible from the street: Passersby get to enjoy the spectacle of watching it float gently up and down, as the museum-goers ascend to the uppermost floor and then work their way down through the galleries.

Besides the obvious gravitational logic of this earthward progression, it also ensures that everyone who gets to the top will get a good gander at the extraordinary view of the snow-capped mountains through the layered frames of the windows, the truss, and the wood lattice. The success of Ban’s solution is borne out in the bumper five-fold increase in museum attendance since it opened in 2014—the same year, appropriately, that its designer won the Pritzker Prize.

Project Credits
Project: Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, Colo.
Client: Aspen Art Museum
Design Architect: Shigeru Ban Architects, Tokyo . Shigeru Ban, Hon. FAIA, (principal); Dean Maltz (partner); Nina Freedman (director of projects); Zachary Moreland, AIA (project architect); Ji Young Kim, AIA (architect); Grant Suzuki, Takayuki Ishikawa, Mark Gausepohl, Jesse Levin, Christian Tschoeke (project team)
Architect of Record: Cottle Carr Yaw Architects, Basalt, Colo. . John Cottle, FAIA, Rich Carr, AIA, (partners, principals); Robin Schiller, AIA (principal, project manager); Chad Weltzin, AIA (project architect); Erica Golden, AIA, Maura Trumble, Matt Smith (project team)
Interior Designer: Shigeru Ban Architects; Cottle Carr Yaw Architects
M/E Engineer: BG Buildingworks
Structural Engineer: KL&A; Hermann Blumer (Création Holz Gmbh)
Civil Engineer: Sopris Engineering
Lighting Designer: L’Observatoire International
Landscape Architect: Bluegreen
General Contractor: Turner Construction; Summit Construction
Building Envelope: Front
Climate Engineering: Transsolar
Specialty Timber Fabricator: Spearhead
Owner’s Representative: O’Connor Consulting
Size: 33,000 square feet
Cost: $24 million

To see the rest of ARCHITECT's coverage of the 2017 AIA Institute Honor Awards, click here.

Project Description


The Grand Staircase: The space of the staircase mediates between the screen and the interior. It provides exterior access to the public roof and interior access to all gallery levels. Mobile art platforms inhabit the exterior stair, bringing a gallery space to the outside.

The “Moving Room” also known as the Glass Reception Elevator - The large, transparent elevator, will animate the northeast corner of the museum. Visitors will be able to ascend to the roof from the entry, to experience a slow, unfolding, focused mountain view at the rooftop. The rooftop space will be the only public rooftop in Aspen.
The Wooden Screen - The wooden screen shades the building on the two main facades. It creates the signature for the building and reveals the structure and gallery spaces beyond. Light coming through the openings in the screen cast beautiful shadows on the museum stairs, corridor and entry spaces.

The Wooden Roof Structure - The innovative triangular wooden roof structure covers the interior space of the roof. The remainder of the roof is open to a terrace. The structure gives a depth and beauty to the interior of the ceiling.
The “Walkable” Skylights on the Rooftop Sculpture Garden - Skylights on the roof and terrace surface will bring light to the gallery below. Upper roof skylights bring light down to these lower skylights.
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