Aspen Institute updating its Paepcke Auditorium |

Aspen Institute updating its Paepcke Auditorium

Contributed imageAn artist's rendition of a new Paepcke Auditorium in Aspen shows the foyer area.

ASPEN – The Aspen Institute has embarked on its latest multimillion-dollar reinvestment to its campus with the renovation of Paepcke Auditorium.

The $10.4 million project commenced in August, and the job is expected to be completed before next summer, with a grand opening June 1, 2010.

The bulk of the work is focused on bringing the mechanics and the building into the 21st century. Designed by Fritz Benedict and Herbert Bayer, the auditorium was built around 1961 and much of its systems are now outdated and inefficient, said Jim Curtis, the planner for the project.

Nearly half of the budget is dedicated to energy efficiencies. Curtis estimates that after the improvements are made, the Paepcke Auditorium will consume 55 percent less energy than it does now.

Energy efficiencies include a new insulated building shell and roof, a ground source heat pump heating and cooling system, double-paned windows, new mechanical systems and lighting, among other improvements.

Besides consuming less energy, the institute has contracted with Holy Cross to buy wind power to offset its electric use.

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As far as interior improvements, the auditorium will be expanded by about 600 square feet – 300 on each side to accommodate 60 new seats. Those expansions off each aisle will feature glass doors leading out to the patio, where people can sit and watch lectures via mounted TV screens.

“You’ve got this beautiful outdoor setting” that should be utilized, said Amy Margerum, executive vice president of operations for the institute.

All 404 seats inside the auditorium will be brand new and feature a light wood.

The lobby will be opened up by removing a wall so there is direct connection to the library and art gallery, which serve as overflow rooms for audiences. The projector room has been pushed back, which lends more space to the lobby, which now has a skylight.

“You will feel much more connected,” Curtis said. “Everything will feel much lighter and fresh.”

The entire building has been made to comply with the Americans with Disability Act, with lifts, ramps, wider aisles and a bathroom.

The Paepcke Auditorium is the latest renovation to be done on the institute’s campus. Over the years, more than $35 million has been poured into various buildings, which hadn’t been improved for decades.

“There was 30 years when nothing was done,” Curtis said.

Margerum said the institute’s capital fundraising campaign for the Paepcke Auditorium is about $1 million shy of its goal. She noted that locals have donated as little as $50 toward the effort.

For more information on how to donate, call (970) 544-7925 or log onto

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