Shigeru Ban encases the new Aspen Art Museum in a woven wood façade

Shigeru Ban's new Aspen Art Museum
Shigeru Ban's new Aspen Art Museum, Colorado, is set against the scenic backdrop of Ajax Mountain.
(Image credit: David X Prutting/BFAnyc.com)

A haven for the well-heeled pleasure seeker, the mountain town of Aspen is known for good skiing, even better après-ski, and the surrounding White River National Forest. Now it is adding the polished programme of the Aspen Art Museum (opens in new tab) to its attractions, in a new 33,000 sq ft structure by 2014 Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Shigeru Ban, which officially opens to the public on 9 August.

Located in downtown Aspen, the building, a new home for the existing institution, founded in 1979, is Ban's first US museum. 'Right from the start of the selection process, Shigeru received the highest scores,' recalls Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, the museum's CEO and director. 'He was up for several other museum projects at the time [2007], but as we were the first team to visit him in Tokyo and tour his projects, I think he was charmed by our commitment.'

Wallpaper* visited the building earlier in the year, featuring it in our July 2014 issue (W*184) while it was in the late stages of construction. The now complete museum's simple glass box structure exposes it to postcard-perfect surroundings on all fronts. Ban added another layer, literally, by draping a wooden screen over the glass façades. Reminiscent of his intricate paper and cardboard experimentations, the textured overlay is made from a durable, fire-resistant composite of wood and paper, reinforced with resin.

'Because the museum doesn't have collections, there are many different exhibitions - it's like a basket and you can put anything you like inside,' Ban explains. The building's public rooftop is accessible either via a glass lift or the three-level grand staircase, and showcases a sculpture garden set against unobstructed views of Ajax Mountain. 'Without going through the lobby, you can go up to the roof,' smiles Ban.

The new Aspen Art Museum will open with several heavy hitters - an unprecedented pairing of Yves Klein and David Hammons, and abstract painter Tomma Abts and Venice Biennale alumna Rosemarie Trockel. The unique rooftop exhibition space will feature a new project by Cai Guo-Qiang, while the first level will house the debut museum showing of Ban's humanitarian work (opens in new tab), such as his Paper Partition System for the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees, created for victims of natural disasters in various versions from 2006 to 2011. It's a perfectly pitched opening for a perfectly placed museum.

The architect draped the simple glass box structure with a woven wood screen.

The architect draped the simple glass box structure with a woven wood screen.

(Image credit: David X Prutting/BFAnyc.com)

Paper and cardboard experimentations


(Image credit: Billy Farrell/BFAnyc.com)

Reminiscent of his intricate paper and cardboard experimentations, the textured overlay is made from a durable, fire-resistant composite called Prodema, an amalgam of paper and resin encased within a dual-sided wood veneer.

The Grand Stair


(Image credit: David X Prutting/BFAnyc.com)

The Grand Stair - a three-level passageway between the building's woven exterior and its interior structure - is intersected by a glass wall dividing it into a 10-ft-wide exterior space and a six-ft-wide interior space

The Grand Stair, designed to blend outdoor and indoor spaces.

(Image credit: David X Prutting/BFAnyc.com)

Shigeru Ban Architects America managing partner Dean Maltz, project architect Zachary Moreland and Shigeru Ban descend the Grand Stair, designed to blend outdoor and indoor spaces.

The woven wood screen exposes museum

The woven wood screen exposes museum visitors to the mountain views at every level.

(Image credit: Billy Farrell/BFAnyc.com)

The entrance foyer on the rooftop

(Image credit: Derek Skalko)

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

A bar and an outdoor screening space.

(Image credit: Derek Skalko)

As well as offering an outdoor sculpture sculpture, the roof deck will also offer exhibition and event space, as well as the café, So, a bar and an outdoor screening space.

The outdoor area is partially covered by a complex roof structure.

(Image credit: David X Prutting/BFAnyc.com)

The outdoor area is partially covered by a complex roof structure. The museum's roof deck offers the only unobstructed public rooftop view of Ajax Mountain.

Light beams through the lattice roof structure

Light beams through the lattice roof structure, casting graphic patterns on the floor.

(Image credit: Derek Skalko)

A firework event left, installation view, right.

(Image credit: David X Prutting and Billy Farrell/BFAnyc.com)

As part of his exhibits at the museum, artist Cai Guo-Quiang created a firework event (left) during the ribbon-cutting ceremony on 2 August. The building is being inaugurated by several heavy-hitters - including an unprecedented pairing of Yves Klein and David Hammons (installation view, right). 

Installation view

Installation view of the David Hammons Yves Klein/Yves Klein David Hammons exhibition, on view from 9 August until 30 November.

(Image credit: Billy Farrell/BFAnyc.com)

Installation view of the Rosemarie Trockel exhibition

Installation view of the Rosemarie Trockel exhibition, on view from 9 August until 26 October.

(Image credit: Billy Farrell/BFAnyc.com)

The grid effect of the facade

When lit up at night, the grid effect of the facade is seen all the more prominently

(Image credit: Billy Farrell/BFAnyc.com)

The Aspen Art Museum

(Image credit: David X Prutting/BFAnyc.com)

The Aspen Art Museum officially opens to the public on 9 August, with a 24-hour launch event including film screenings, a concert and a silent disco. The following day, the museum will host family workshops, performances, a panel discussion and a food tasting at the new café, So.

The museum under construction

(Image credit: Laura Wilson)

We visited the museum in earlier this year, featuring it as our 'under construction' story in our July 2014 (W*184). Here, you can see the Ajax Mountain in its snow-capped glory.

Pei-Ru Keh is the US Editor at Wallpaper*. Born and raised in Singapore, she has been a New Yorker since 2013. Pei-Ru has held various titles at Wallpaper* since she joined in 2007. She currently reports on design, art, architecture, fashion, beauty and lifestyle happenings in the United States, both in print and digitally. Pei-Ru has taken a key role in championing diversity and representation within Wallpaper's content pillars and actively seeks out stories that reflect a wide range of perspectives. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, and is currently learning how to drive.