dancing with architecture: longmont, colorado

Working my way back to the airport, I stopped in to visit Prospect New Town, a New Urbanist project in Longmont, Colorado. I first read about the development in Karrie Jacob's "The Perfect $100,000 House". It's a neat development with mixed use, neighbor restaurants and bars, and houses that hug the curbs and lot lines. While there's a healthy share of traditional throwback architecture, there's also quite a bit of contemporary and Modern architecture, some of it quite spirited. The houses are humongous, in the 4,000 to 5,000 square-feet range.


dancing with architecture: aspen, colorado!

A scene outside of Leadville.

I traveled to Aspen (water, water, water...) with no idea that this mountain town of ~6,600 has a rich history of Modern architecture. Now it ain't Los Angeles' Silver Lake or Stuttgart's Weissenhof, but for a small town four hours outside of Denver, it's Modernism is rather remarkable.

The story starts with Walter Paepcke, a German-American industrialist who made his fortune in corrugated cardboard with the Container Corporation of America located in Chicago. Paepcke was also interested in Modern industrial design, hiring Herbert Bayer, a Bauhaus design veteran, to work for his firm and supporting the work of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy to create the New Bauhaus in Chicago with the IIT Institute of Design.

In 1946, Paepcke founded the Aspen Skiiing Company with the goal of turning the remote area into an international skiiing destination. Paepcke employed Bayer to design posters for his paper company but also to promote skiiing in the Aspen area. In 1949, Paepcke organized a celebration in Aspen of the 200th anniversary of the birth of the writer and scientist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Paepcke used Bayer to promote the event with posters and commissioned Eero Saarinen to design the tent for the event.

A year later, in 1950, Paepcke formed the Aspen Institute, employing Bayer to co-design Modern buildings (along with the Taliesin-trained Fritz Benedict) for the effort. The Institute is dedicated to “fostering enlightened leadership, the appreciation of timeless ideas and values, and open-minded dialogue on contemporary issues" in a natural setting intended to promote outside-the-box thinking (and create an income stream for the town outside of ski season...).

The Institute's Modernism inspired similarly-designed structures throughout town, although much of the town is littered with cliched interpretataions of Alpine architecture. One of John Lautner's curvey concrete houses is located here as is quite a bit of new construction in the Modernist vein.

A great resource on local Modernism: AspenModern

Bayer is most famous for his fonts, particularly this all-lowercase design.

A Bayer poster for CCA

Eero Saarinen's tent for the Goethe celebration.

Got Goethe?

Bayer self portrait from his Bauhaus days.

Bayer later in life.

The aspens have eyes!!! (photo collage by Bayer)

Bayer's house and studio (designed by Gordon Chadwick; 1950)

At the airport!

A plate of New Mexican red (that looked better than it tasted).

Driving to Aspen...




Switchback on Independance Pass

Independance Pass

Independance Pass

Independance Pass

Independance Pass

Independance Pass

The Bayer/Benedict-designed guest quarters. These were later torn down and then rebuilt.

Bayer-designed rug/tapestry

Bayer-designed rug/tapestry

Bayer/Benedict-designed health center (original)

The Health Center back in the day.

Bayer/Benedict-designed townhouses for staff

The trees have eyes!

Buckminster Fuller designed a dome for one of the Institute's events. Afterwards, the Institute placed it over the the pool. The dome has been "restored", but it's really just a dome in the spirit of the original.

One of the first buildings on the site is the meeting hall designed by Bayer/Benedict. It's an interesting building with Bauhaus infleunce on the outside and a Taliesin influence on the inside with hexagonally-round meeting spaces.

Bayer's imprint in the concrete.

A Bayer tapestry.

A later meeting hall by Bayer/Benedict that is Brutalist in design.

Now for some wandering in town:

Bayer-designed duplex (1963).

Bayer-blue, a color he used on a lot of the restorations of the older buidlings in town.

Some more Bayer blue on this Streamline Moderne building.

Shigeru Ban designed the art museum downtown.

The John Denver contemplation zone.

Public restrooms built with breathable gabions. 

Even found a mural!

Paepcke Park bell tower (1930s)

A Frank Loyd Wrigthesque library deisgned by Bayer/Benedict (1966).

Taliesin-inspired lodge by Robin Molny (1961)

A wee bit of Googie by Taliesin-trainined Charles Patterson (1956). With house lots going for $1.5 million, old construction is always in jeopardy of being torn down.

1957 (architect unknown)

The Lautner (1982)!

Leaving town...