Relax, it’s the Given |

Relax, it’s the Given

Dear Editor:

I’ve been reading with interest the wide range of opinions of my colleagues on the, for lack of a better name, “Save the Given” committee.

As many of you know I worked for Harry Weese in Chicago before I moved to Aspen in 1968. I also supervised the construction of the Given. One of the perks of that time of my life was an almost daily encounter with Mrs. Paepcke, who, in the summer at least, was usually decked out in well-worn bib overalls, a straw sun hat with beautiful ribbon, garden boots and gloves. She and a couple of helpers worked her enormous vegetable garden, and watered her beloved giant spruce trees. She chewed out anyone whose construction truck, tools, etc., dare encroach upon parts of her property that she had deemed untouchable.

As the project adhered more closely to the rules she set out, a congenial relationship developed: tea on her porch accompanied by stories of fabulous worldliness, charm and sophistication. Eventually, the conversation moved inside to view and hear about her art collection in first-person detail. She was a force of nature, as they say.

I really have no idea what the solution is to the Given conundrum. Maybe a repository for the Paepke, Bayer and Weese art and papers. I do know that Harry Weese put his considerable talent into this building and was very proud of it. One of Harry’s passions was historic preservation and his many successes in that arena paid reverence to the architecture first and foremost. He certainly had the creativity to rip and replace but that approach was usually off the table for him.

I wonder what he would think of the recent massive yet generally well received addition to one of his most iconic and beloved projects – The Arena Stage Theater in Washington, DC. See this link for a critique, side show, drawings: http:// projects/ Building_types_study/ adaptive_reuse/2011/ arena_stage.asp.

It’s not much use to save a building without also having a plan for its sustainable future. Buildings only come to life when they are suitably occupied. This requires money and the appropriate occupant. My guess is the ever creative Mrs. P would have found a way to reinvent the Given and allow it to remain in some form or another.

Regardless, in moving forward, all involved should keep in mind her deep humanity as expressed in this letter (from her papers at UC) to Dr. Donald King (Given Institute founder and champion): “Dear Donald: I have been a bad friend. Your notes, transcripts and letters lie on my desk unanswered. … I intend to be in Aspen most of the summer. … Be sure to call me after you have arrived and take a few long breaths, then come over to my garden and I will give you a sandwich and we can discuss matters which trouble or elate us.”

Here’s to a “few long breaths.”

Bill Lipsey


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