Just who likes this project?

Dear Editor:

I am writing because I am very concerned about the proposed art museum at the Wienerstube site. It is not going to be the asset to Aspen that an art museum should be.

For many years, England’s Prince Charles has been highly critical of what he has called “the blight of modern architecture” in his beloved London. He called these structures “massive carbuncles on the face of a much-loved friend … that will disfigure precious views and disinherit future generations of Londoners.” I’m certain that he would say the same about what a structure such as the proposed art museum would do to Aspen.

Architecture, like art, is something about which so many people have very strong opinions. But architectural structures, unlike paintings or sculptures, are not tucked away in museums or homes, but can be very prominent and constantly on view, whether you like it or not … and, in the case of this proposed art museum, forever altering the Aspen skyline and the core of Aspen and our views of the mountains.

We should not allow a small group of people to force upon us their very subjective tastes and to forever change the intimate core of our historic mining town, with this highly contemporary and massive (almost 50 feet high) structure. It is so totally out of place in scale and design, and so contrary to the character of Aspen. It has been designed by a Japanese architect, whose designs would certainly be a better aesthetic fit in Japan, not in our historic mountain town.

We are certainly a sophisticated town and we love our cultural offerings, but I believe that most of us love, even more, the character of Aspen and the views of the mountains and nature that surround us. We don’t want to have the views of our beloved mountains blocked, especially by an almost five-story box.

In the 33 years that I have lived in Aspen, I have seen many changes. There have been certain buildings that have gone up that many of us have not been terribly fond of, but this proposed art museum, with its height and mass and its Japanese design … a huge glass box with a bamboo screen 47 feet high and going the length and width of the building … just doesn’t fit in Aspen.

If we just sit by and let it happen, we will be stuck with it forever. I haven’t spoken to a single person who likes this proposed project. I personally don’t understand why the art museum people aren’t even a little bit sensitive to the desires of the people of Aspen. Why wouldn’t they want to have their $28 million project appreciated and supported by the majority of the community?

A short time ago, the Aspen City Council hurried this project through in one meeting, with most Aspenites not even knowing what was going on. In a matter of a few hours that afternoon, City Council gave their approval. The developers of the art museum and the adjacent “mixed-use building” got their approval without going through any of the normal review process. There was no Planning and Zoning review, and this development violates several important codes. There are so many potential problems that don’t appear to have been addressed in City Council’s rush to approve this project … and there was minimal opportunity for the neighborhood and the Aspen community to address their concerns.

The art museum group seems to be committed to moving the art museum from its current lovely, park setting to a prominent downtown location. They say that they have more than $28 million to make it happen. But, even if they do have the big bucks, the art museum and the developers should be required to go through the same review process required of any other similar development in Aspen.

As I said, I haven’t spoken to anyone who likes this proposed project … the height and size, which block the views and cast the street and sidewalk into shadow … and the design, which doesn’t fit the character of Aspen. I hope that everyone will take a good, hard look at this proposed development (the art museum and the adjacent “mixed-use” building), and just imagine it on Hyman and Spring streets … for the rest of our lifetimes and beyond.

Lani White