This isn’t New York or L.A.
November 22, 2010
Dear Editor:I was asked to go the meeting about the Aspen Art Museum at the Oct. 20 Aspen Business Luncheon. I’d read some negative things about the project and museum spokeswoman Heidi Zuckerman. I thought maybe it was not as bad as that and I’d hear for myself; found out they were worse than I’d been told. I wasn’t on the approved list to enter, but was admitted after about an hour wait. It’s a private group; they can limit it to whomever.It began with a summary from a moderator, then Heidi and her man from the city spoke on the side of the museum. Then the opponent got a turn. I was not the only one at our table who noticed that the speaking allotment was thus 2-1 on the pro-building side. Hey, it’s a business group and preservation is not likely their main interest.The city guy said council had done things right, and besides we’d be better than Loveland, where he was from, no matter what was built here. He used the Boogie’s building as an example of what can be built and Aspen still survives. The Boogie’s building is not a very high level of design to measure others by, or is part of Loveland. Heidi seemed ecstatic in telling us what a great job she’d done and how much people in New York and L.A. love her museum. She talked about all the local firms who would work on the building; I think she only forgot to mention the delivery postman as a local to benefit. She brushed pretty quickly over the fact that they have outsourced to a Japanese architect, and spoke of one from Basalt that is junior. That firm jogged my memory, and I checked on it later. I may be wrong, but I recall that they designed the building at 620 Hopkins, where Stewart Title now is. It is a three-story concrete box with metal windows and, if so, they’d certainly fit right in doing another such eyesore.One thing she emphasized was that the building would be built on private land with private money. Questions began, and I asked where on this private property was any provision for parking for employees and guests. Heidi first began to talk about how people in Aspen like to ride bikes (maybe she thinks winter here is like L.A.), and when I asked the question again she gave the mike to the city guy. I heard a lot of evasion, but never anything about providing parking. So it seems the museum not only won’t be adding any parking, but it looks like (not sure) that there will be a loss of about 15 spaces in the private lot there now. No one asked about employee housing, but I’d bet they are not supplying any of that, either.Next, a lady pointed out how tall the building would be, 47 feet, and asked if Heidi was willing to discuss a compromise on lowering that. Again Heidi talked around it (“I am not a designer”), but gave no answer. She was able to dodge this one herself without help from the city guy. The same question was asked by another lady later; again Heidi avoided a straight answer, even when the moderator repeated the gist of the question. I must give Heidi credit for holding the company line, and never being diverted by any concern for what the public wants as evidenced by the 1,200 people who signed the petition against the project. Some of us out here in the West are a little laid back, and are no match for that New York way of doing business.So what’s wrong with Mick’s Mausoleum? I am not an expert on this part, but the museum got a sweetheart deal from council without going through P&Z, and on a fast track. Some of us trusted that City Council would do what they should without the public looking over their shoulder. The design is a big ugly box, not fitting in style with any of the history of Aspen. Why not build it in New York, where it would fit right in?And to add insult, no Aspen architect, no Colorado one, not even one anywhere in the U.S., was good enough in the museum people’s view to do the project, so it was outsourced to Japan. I have not seen a public list of donors to the museum or where the money for this will come from. I wonder if the museum is legally required to provide this.In any case, if some of these folks do have any concern for doing the right thing, they could do another project, a better designed building here, or something out of town, or perhaps something different, like funding a new wing on the Holocaust Museum in D.C.Bill GreenwoodAspen