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Behind the scenes of the Aspen Art Museum opening with Carolyn Powers

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Colorado will open a newly expanded venue for art this coming summer with the Aspen Art Museum’s 33,000 square-foot building, said museum supporter Carolyn Powers, a renowned Philanthropist for Art and Music.

For eight years, Carolyn Powers served on the Board of Directors for the Aspen Art Museum. She notes that the move marks a significant expansion for the museum: it will gain three times its current exhibition space. The building is privately funded, raising over $58 million to-date, with an overall fundraising goal of $65 million.

In In 1979 the Aspen Art Museum opened its doors at the Holy Cross Power Plant, on the banks of the Fork River. The meteoric growth of the museum in recent years has seen a 200% increase in budget, the number of students served and annual visitors. The organization has grown into a major cultural institution.

It was decided that a new facility was needed and the project moved forward in 2011 when the AAM Board of Trustees, acquired the property at the corner of Spring Street and Hyman Avenue, in downtown Aspen. The project broke ground in 2012 and is on track and on budget, advises Carolyn Powers.

Designed by internationally acclaimed Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, the four story building will house 12,500 square feet of exhibition space. The museum’s inspiration came from the surrounding ski slopes.

“I want the experience of visiting the museum to be like the experience of skiing,” Ban said. “You take a lift to the top of the museum, and first you enjoy the view, and then you come down the slopes. I want visitors to the museum to take the elevator or the stairs to the roof, enjoy the view and sculpture garden, and then come down to the galleries.”

The five key design elements for the building are the grand stair, the moving room, the wooden screen, the roof design and the walkable skylight. The walkable skylights are located above the main gallery and filter light into the interior. The moving room is a transparent elevator that provides a means of travelling throughout the building. A giant wooden shade screen will cover the buildings’ exterior on two sides, shielding the interior from overheating, glare, and the elements.

The structure will have six galleries, a cafe, a bookstore, offices, workshop and storage space, and an apartment for visiting artists. The building has been built “green’ and is environmentally sustainable.

Ban is widely respected. Ban’s nearly 50 awards include a Royal Institute of British Architects Award, Japan’s Grand Prize for his Nicolas G. Hayek Center, and The Royal Institute of Canada, and The American Institute of Architects.

Shigeru Ban is famous for his innovative work with paper, particularly recycled cardboard paper tubes as material for building construction. Most people look at cardboard tubes and see something for the recycling bin. Ban turns them into beautiful buildings.

Ban is recognized for his innovative approaches to environmentally-sound architecture and his devotion to humanitarian efforts. He was the first architect in Japan to construct a building primarily out of paper. The paper house required special approval to pass Japan’s building code. Ban was attracted to using paper because of its low cost, it is recyclable, low-tech and it produces very little waste.

Ban’s experimental development of paper tubing structures came in 1986. He found paper’s structural integrity to be much better than expected. Because of his humanitarianism, he was attracted to the fact that it was available all around the world, and the paper tubes could be used quickly, and efficiently house disaster victims.

In 1994, Ban created shelters for refugees in Rwanda. The following year after the Japan earthquake he built a local church out of paper tubes. His low-cost dignity buildings have housed those affected by disasters in Taiwan, China, Haiti, Turkey, New Zealand, and Sri Lanka.

Carolyn Powers has followed Ban’s career closely. Ban’s designs encompass more than just disaster relief buildings. He recently won an international design competition to erect “Cité Musicale,” a new mixed-use cultural center located in southwest central Paris, on Sequin Island. The multi-purpose hall will have 6,000 seats, a classical music hall, and will have facilities and housing for the Paris Opera Ballet Music School.

The town of Aspen is set to reveal Ban’s next masterpiece in the summer of 2014, with the unveiling of The Aspen Art Museum.

“Inaugural exhibitions will focus on Shigeru Ban’s humanitarian architecture, featuring full scale examples of his design”, said Philanthropist for Art and Music Education Carolyn Powers.

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