6 Inspiration: Finding peace (and anxiety) in two of Colorado's art museums

 

I recently toured the #Aspen Art Museum by architects Shigeru Ban and CCY Architects (the latter whom Ken Bridges and I interned with during the early years of our careers).  It was a long overdue visit, but as anyone traveling with young children knows, contemporary art museums are typically the last priority for a 4 and 7 year old on vacation, so I had skipped the museum during our last couple of visits to the Roaring Fork valley. 

Winning a commission to design an art museum from amongst a list of the world's top architects has to be a daunting challenge.  At the core of the design was the fundamental question of how does one design a block long building to house a contemporary art museum where historically streets were lined with ornately detailed brick structures 20'-30' in width.  Consider also that Ban’s clients were some of the wealthiest, most educated, and strongly opinionated citizens in the world, and the Japanese architect had a tough job.  So what did Shigeru design for the site? – a three story woven wood box encasing a glass and steel box.  You may have guessed that as a concept, I think it falls far short of what Aspen or the setting deserved, but none-the-less the interior spaces were quite beautiful and the detailing was impeccable (kudos to our friends at CCY).  The roof-top deck and restaurant will undoubtedly serve as a fitting setting for the celebrity filled parties for which Aspen is known.    

My trip to the AAM left me with a desire to make a trip to see another of Colorado’s art museums, my favorite, the #Clyfford Still Collection by Allied Works.  Having picked up my two kids from school, I subjected them to yet another stage in their forced indoctrination into the world of high-design.   They at least pretended to listen to me as I explained the simplicity and complexity of the perforated concrete ceiling panels which fill the galleries with diffused northern light through a thousand perfectly formed tunnels.  The peace I typically feel when visiting the galleries sans kids was tempered by the anxiety of whether my children were going to trip an alarm or fall over a glass rail.  Despite this, I have to believe that I was successful in my quest to increase their aesthetic IQ.  For some reason, though, I still don’t think they have yet developed an appropriate appreciation for museum quality board-formed concrete.  Our next trip may just have to be a Tadao Ando pilgrimage to Japan :) .

Detail of #Clyfford Still PH-385 (the Clyfford Still Collection) 

Detail of #Clyfford Still PH-385 (the Clyfford Still Collection) 

Allied Works - #Clyfford Still Museum (impressions of concrete)

Allied Works - #Clyfford Still Museum (impressions of concrete)

Shigeru Ban - #Aspen Art Museum

Shigeru Ban - #Aspen Art Museum

Shigeru Ban - #Aspen Art Museum (interior screen wall)

Shigeru Ban - #Aspen Art Museum (interior screen wall)

Allied Works - #Clyfford Still Museum

Allied Works - #Clyfford Still Museum

Shigeru Ban - #Aspen Art Museum (exterior stairway)

Shigeru Ban - #Aspen Art Museum (exterior stairway)

Allied Works - Clyfford Still Museum

Allied Works - Clyfford Still Museum

Allied Works - Clyfford Still Museum (with my daughter... how many shades of sunshine did we find?)

Allied Works - Clyfford Still Museum (with my daughter... how many shades of sunshine did we find?)

 
Stuart Brummett