Don’t demolish the Given
July 13, 2010
Aspen’s Victorian-era history as a silver mining boom town is well known. Many buildings from this era have been restored and protected. But many of the structures that tell the story of Aspen’s more recent history, though equally significant, are very much at risk.
A case in point is the Given Institute. Designed by the prominent Chicago architect Harry Weese and completed in 1972, the Given Institute is among the most important buildings from Aspen’s post-World War II history. Along with the Aspen Center for Physics and The Aspen Institute, the Given provides a tangible connection to the legacy of Elizabeth Paepcke and her husband Walter, who envisioned Aspen as an international center for intellectual inquiry and modern design. Ms. Paepcke donated the land for the Given and personally selected Weese to design the building. As a national gathering place for discussions regarding medical research, the Given has attracted some of the most prominent leaders in the field, including a number of Nobel laureates. In recent years, the Given and its “U.N. style” amphitheater has also been used for numerous community events and discussions.
The University of Colorado School of Medicine, which owns the Given, has announced a plan to demolish the building and sell the land to a private party. This would be a great loss for Aspen, erasing a landmark of modern design and eliminating an important public gathering place. Rather than moving forward precipitously with the decision to demolish this irreplaceable community asset, we strongly urge the university to allow time for alternatives to be more fully explored.
If sufficient time is allowed, we believe that a creative, win-win solution can be found that addresses the needs of the University of Colorado while also preserving this important structure.
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director, Mountains/Plains Office, National Trust for Historic Preservation