Managed by fear
September 27, 2010
It is OK to admit you made a mistake.
By now, I am certain that you have heard the public outcry against the proposed building for the Aspen Art Museum (AAM). Between the multitude of letters to the editor, guest opinion articles and the more than 1,200 people who have signed up with the group Saving Aspen’s Character, it should be clear to anyone with an open mind that the Aspen community does not support the current proposal.
This group of locals and visitors is opposed to the height, scale and mass of the proposed building, as well as the process by which this ordinance and settlement has been orchestrated by the City Council, the city attorney and others, without any measurable or responsible involvement by the Aspen community.
This ordinance hides behind the threat of a potential legal liability to circumvent the proper authorizations and public input required to approve a construction project of this size and character. We cannot allow this community to be managed by fear. The approval of this project will eliminate the success that the city has had in protecting and enforcing the community’s desire to maintain the character and scale of both the central core and of Aspen overall.
The effect of the proposed AAM structure’s architectural design is of a scale and design that strives to be noticed, rather than a design that respects our community character and works to fit into the surrounding neighborhood. It will be an unfriendly neighbor that dominates the neighborhood rather than complementing the surrounding buildings. Is it, or should it be, the goal of new construction to compete with the historical buildings of this community? Or, should new construction be scaled in such a manner as to fit into the existing neighborhood and be respectful of the buildings that have defined this community for more than 100 years?
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The AAM should be consulting with the citizens who oppose this project, and with the tenants, owners and community members affected by it. The AAM should encourage meetings between these citizens, city leaders, the involved architects and others in the community to openly discuss the plans for the buildings. There are many members in this community with creative ideas who could help the AAM consider alternatives for lowering the building height, creating setbacks and designing a building that will fit in this community.
If the AAM were to meet with these groups and consider and incorporate what they were told regarding the mass, height and character of the building into its architectural design, that might allow the AAM to achieve a building that would be welcomed by the community, rather than condemned.
Finally, I urge City Council not to exacerbate the current problems by allowing demolition permits to be issued for this project until the community has had a fair chance to review and discuss this project.