Aspen Institute plans party to celebrate Paepcke reopening |

Aspen Institute plans party to celebrate Paepcke reopening

ASPEN – The Aspen Institute will revisit its roots and unveil a glimpse of its future Sunday, June 27, when it holds a celebration to reopen the Walter Paepcke Memorial Building after 10 months of renovations.

Roaring Fork Valley residents and visitors are invited to drop by to see the new facility, bring a picnic lunch to eat on the campus and attend events that will be free and open to the public throughout the day, said Amy Margerum, executive vice president of operations.

The celebration will feature tours of the Paepcke building from 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Refreshments will be served.

From 10 a.m. to 11:15 a.m., there will be a presentation called, “Why Goethe? Why 1949? Why Aspen? – Walter Paepcke and the Birth of The Aspen Institute” by Steven Wickes, director of the Institute’s Society of Fellows. That will be followed with a performance honoring the history of Aspen by the Aspen Historical Society Players.

From 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Gwen Chanzit of the Denver Art Museum will make a presentation on “The Genius and Relevance of Herbert Bayer.”

Short film screenings will be featured between 1 and 2:30 p.m.

The celebration will conclude from 3:15 to 4:30 p.m. with a live performance by Anna Deavere Smith honoring the Paepcke family, along with a presentation by Aspen Institute President and CEO Walter Isaacson on “The Role of The Aspen Institute in the World Today.”

The Institute spent about $11.4 million to renovate the nearly 50-year-old Paepcke building, the hub of the Aspen Meadows campus, Margerum said. Work started in August and will be completed right before the grand opening.

The bulk of the funds were raised from three couples: Evelyn and Leonard Lauder; Gail Neeson and Stefan Edlis; and Lynda and Stewart Resnick. Each couple donated $3 million, Margerum said. The community celebration is sponsored by American National Bank and Shaw Construction.

The interior rooms of the 18,500-square-foot building were essentially gutted while the historic integrity of the exterior was preserved, said Jim Curtis, project manager for the Institute. The Paepcke building was designed by Herbert Bayer and Fritz Benedict, so razing the building was never considered, Margerum said. The interior was lightened up significantly and given a much fresher look and feel.

The history room/library and gallery, to the right as you enter the lobby, were made more visible with glass doors. “Before you didn’t even know they existed,” Curtis said.

New glass was installed in the lobby skylight. The foyer was enlarged by sliding the projection room farther into the auditorium, and a skylight was installed in the foyer.

The rear of the auditorium was expanded by 600 square feet and 64 seats were added. The seating increased from 346 to 410. The back of the auditorium used to pinch in toward the entrances/exits. But by punching out the walls a bit, the auditorium is more the classic “V” shape from stage to rear. Movable garage-style doors were added to provide sunlight and fresh air when possible, and the fin windows can be opened for ventilation.

Lighter-colored wood was added throughout the auditorium, and the chairs were reupholstered with blue fabric. The Ann W. Richards Stage received light wood veneers, updated theatrical lighting and cinematic electronics that include 3-D capability. The auditorium will also have surround sound.

The unique design of the ceiling panels was retained even though the roof had to be replaced. The idea when the building was constructed in 1961-62 was to use escaping heat to melt the snow, Curtis said. Now the emphasis is on efficiency. Insulation was added throughout the building, and double-pane windows replaced the single panes. Staff offices had the carpets replaced for the first time in decades and had heat added. Curtis said he doesn’t believe there had been a major renovation of the interior since it was dedicated in 1963.

Curtis and Shaw Construction found a few surprises during the renovation. The duct work turned out to be cardboard with aluminum foil lining the insides. He said about 50 percent of the construction budget went toward invisible necessities like structural improvements and the heating and cooling system.

The improvements to energy efficiency are expected to reduce energy consumption by 45 to 55 percent, Curtis said. A geothermal system was installed to handle a major portion of the heating and cooling. In addition, the Institute will buy wind power for some of its remaining energy use. Curtis was uncertain if the energy efficiency steps will make the building carbon-neutral.

The geothermal pond and infrastructure were paid for from contributions made by John and Ann Doerr and Greg and Karen Amadon, Margerum said.

Curtis said people attending The Aspen Institute’s various events this summer will find a Paepcke building that honors its past by sticking with the Bayer-Benedict design, but is also prepared for another 50 or so years of service through the renovations.

“I think it’s a light touch,” Curtis sad. “Hopefully people will like it.”

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