Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Climbing Starchitecture

Not since two daredevils scaled Renzo Piano's New York Times building in 2008 have I heard controversy about people climbing buildings designed by well known architects. The latest news is in regards to Shigeru Ban's Aspen Art Museum, which one must admit looks inviting to climb:

[Photo by Jim Kehoe]

The museum certainly knew that people might try to climb the basket-weave facade made of Prodema, so they installed a sign:

[Photo by Jim Kehoe]

But that sign has not stopped one person – Aspen resident William Johnson – from trying to climb the building after "he had three or four beers"; two college students – Cooper Means and Lauren Twohig – from posing for a photo by the sign and getting in trouble with security, even though they denied they were going to climb any higher; and one person – Aspen artist Lee Mulcahy – from "offering $500 to anyone who climbs at least three-quarters of the way up the building."

Of the above incidents and offer, all part of this Aspen Times article, the last two are most interesting because they are a means of criticizing the building's design and the museum's administration. It's no secret that many Aspen residents hate the building. In the case of Cooper Means, a design student, he said, "It’s the worst thing to happen to Aspen since I was born there. ... It wasn’t designed as a part of the town."

Mulcahy, on the other hand, is banned from the museum, "because of an incident in November 2011 in which museum officials alleged that he placed 'For Sale' signs around the future site." He disagrees with a sculpture outside the museum that reads "WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL," saying it is, "Liberty and justice for all, except for artists and others banned for disagreeing with the museum’s policies."

So unlike the Times building climbers, who did it for the thrill, here we have people drawing attention to what they see as faults of the building and the institution. A bit humorous, to be honest, but I'm guessing these will not be the last incidents we hear about people climbing the basket weave facade, even though the Aspen Art Museum has a "zero-tolerance policy for climbing the wall."

1 comment:

  1. The Aspen Times reported:

    And so it begins.

    With the Dow tickling 17,000, property listings in Aspen scraping $90 million and parking spaces for the private jets at Sardy Field getting scarce, it would seem that our long national nightmare is over. Yes, when we went into the “financial crisis” back in 2008 it seemed like the entire world was in danger of collapse. That’s what the Titans of Wall Street told us as they accepted their bail-outs, bought out their struggling competitors for pennies on the dollar and began the foreclosure and write-off spree that would transform their companies by magically ridding them of debt.

    Fortunately, they were wrong. The world did not collapse, and here we are, less than six years later, and the world is back on track. Well, at least it is for those who accepted their bailouts, bought out their struggling competitors for pennies on the dollar and began the foreclosure and write-off spree that would transform their companies by magically ridding them of debt.

    And this summer they are all coming back to Aspen with vigor, confidence and swagger.

    For a couple of years, things seemed to slow a bit here in terms of open ostentation. There were fewer mountains being leveled for polo fields, fewer fences dividing the haves and have-nots, fewer purchases in the mega-millions by those with mega-billions. One could almost see a slight, white-ish lining to the recession/depression. But those who cannot contain their “irrational exuberance” have returned to the Valley with the singular goal of reshaping paradise in their own image.

    Not that there won’t be more ostentatious happenings in the city between now and then, but the Aug. 9 grand opening of the new Aspen Art Museum certainly will be an event worthy of a 24-hour celebration.

    Thirty-thousand feet of architectural elegance and simplicity (just slightly bigger than the steel cathedral), this is a building that would have been beautiful on say, 63rd and Park Ave. I’ll leave it up to you decide if it is an amenity or an intrusion, but, there is little doubt that for the investors/benefactors and the management of the museum, this is an exercise in monument building. I’m sure they all love art. And I’m sure they all love Aspen. But this building is all about self-aggrandizement.

    If it wasn’t, then the plan of attack would have been to accept the will of the voters (who rejected, by a margin of nearly 2-1 the original museum plan in 2009) and find a way to fund and build a new museum that would utilize, say, the land where the current museum exists.

    In both cases, and in so many more, the will of the few to use their influence and loopholes and connections to do things that benefit themselves exclusively, affects us all.

    --------------------------- http://www.aspentimes.com/news...

    Limousine liberals love to preach tolerance, yet have none.

    The museum which made worldwide headlines by banning the leader of Occupy Wall Street Aspen from its premises several years ago went further by banning a senior citizen on oxygen, Richie Cohen, an Aspen community member for over 40 years, from its premises for taking over 1500 signatures protesting the museum's non-transparent, secretive bypassing of the normal approval process (in a town of 7000+) to Aspen's City Council. [For documentation, see Aspen Police Report #4456].

    And from the Aspen Daily News on the museum's decision to ax the Valley Kids Show, deeming it "refrigerator art:" http://www.aspendailynews.com/section/letter-editor/163308.


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