Recent Pritzker award winner Shigeru Ban has completed his first Museum in the U.S. The Aspen Art Museum opens to the public today, August 9, in the ski city’s downtown district. The 33,000 sq ft building, shaded by a facade of woven wood strips, represents an extension to the institution’s current facilities. The glitzy city of Aspen, which boasts even its own reality TV series inspired by its wealthy, upper class demographic, might seem like an odd match for Ban, whose humanitarian practice has been called “an architectural iteration of Doctors Without Borders.” But Ban will be quick to point out that “many of the houses around here cost more” than $24 million museum.
Unsurprisingly, the structure itself was inspired by Aspen’s breathtaking views and culture as a hub for skiing. Instead of entering on the street level and working your way up through the galleries, visitors climb an external staircase to arrive at a rooftop garden where they take in the views. From there they descend through the museum much like skiers climbing a ski lift, arriving on top and the skiing down.
When asked if Ban had multiple designs for the Aspen museum, Ban said, “No… I only do one design… If I do three, obviously one is going to be the best. You’re only going to want the best, so I’m only going to show you one.”
Where most museums, with their particular needs for climate and moisture controls, are notoriously energy inefficient, Ban’s museum created many work-arounds that try to mitigate this. One is what the architects call “the thermos.” “The concept is to put the most demanding spaces at the center of the building and surround them with circulation space. This created a double layer—a wrapper or envelope—around the galleries that helps maintain climate conditions in that space.”