Project Name: “The Transformation of The Gant”
Project Location: Aspen, Colorado
Construction Budget: $485,000 – Category 1B (Under $500,000)
“The Transformation of The Gant” bridges the gap of a 1970’s condominium resort to a first class establishment
emerging with an environmentally sensitive, socially interactive, artistically engaged environment. The result
of the site redevelopment has revealed significant economic return on investment for the homeowner
association, higher occupancy rates for the rental pool, reduction in water and energy consumption,
engagement of public art, and a design that fully engages the human senses, thus reconnecting users to the
outdoor environment. The success of Phase I resulted in the homeowner association expediting future phases
of improvements and expanding their capital improvement budget by an additional 40% to ensure the highest
quality of design, programming and implementation.
Purpose of Project
“The Transformation of The Gant” represents the often-overlooked ability which landscape architects possess to
identify opportunities to breathe life into dilapidated properties. The Gant, one of the first condominium
resorts in Aspen, was built in the 1970s. Just three blocks from Aspen Mountain and the downtown, The Gant
is known for the quality of its services to residents and guests, such as ski storage and overnight tuning,
personalized concierge, and complimentary in-town transportation.
Unfortunately, over the years the structures have become dated and the grounds have deteriorated; gardens
were overgrown and unsightly failing timber retaining walls overshadowed common areas. In addition,
competition from newer resorts was beginning to impact The Gant’s popularity. To maintain their market
position, the owners decided to transform the grounds of the five-acre site by revitalizing outdoor spaces
towards tranquility and environmental sensitivity, and enhancing the property’s exterior structures. Although
a mere 4,000 square feet in size, the first phase served as a catalyst for four additional phases that would soon
transform The Gant into the most successful renovation project for the community of Aspen in recent years.
Relationship to Context: A Project Immersed into its Surrounding Culture
Aspen is known worldwide for its natural beauty, culture, and recreational activities. Given this, the landscape
architects recognized that the redesign of the space needed not only to bridge the gap between 1970s
architecture and modern-day expectations, but also to provide a world-class guest experience. The design
intent was to create a landscape that encouraged users to gather and interact with the outdoor environment,
enhancing the natural setting by using native materials, and appeal to guest’s senses through water, sound,
and art features. Energy-saving technology, native plantings, and conservation techniques to reduce resource
consumption provided owners with a positive financial return. A strict construction schedule was maintained
to not disrupt the availability of units for rent.
The design team began by creating a site plan, but soon found code issues and failing walls due to the age of
the site. The project altered course to address ADA compliance, health and safety issues, and new city code
requirements. The designers then turned their attention to planning new and timeless amenities that would
create a strong sense of place, optimize sun exposure and views to the mountains, as well as complement and
mirror natural elements found around Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley.
Role of Landscape Architect vs. the Role of Other Participants
The firm was originally retained by The Gant Homeowners Association (HOA) to provide an Improvements
Master Plan for the property, including inventory/analysis, concept alternatives, sketches, plans, and a
preliminary cost estimate. Upon completion of the Master Plan, the HOA decided to move forward on the
recommendations and retained the designers to prepare schematic design, design development, and
construction drawings. The scope also included construction observation, coordination with the City,
assistance in all PUD amendments, and weekly update meetings with HOA board representatives.
Phase One: The Catalyst for a New Era of The Gant
The master plan was divided into five phases, each concentrating on the surroundings of one of the buildings.
Phase One, focused on two interior courtyards, and was recognized as the areas needing the most
improvement. Designers were challenged by the quality and design of the site’s existing materials. Declining
railroad tie retaining walls and crumbling concrete paving were an eye-soar for guests and residents.
Furthermore, the retaining walls took up the majority of the courtyard, keeping guests to dark-fill corridors
and virtually-unusable gathering spaces. The vision was straightforward; introduce the spaces with light and
openness, creating an elegant and artistically-designed corridor which connects the visitor to the five senses,
and relate the spaces to the larger context of Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley.
Upon entering the interior courtyard, residents and guests are greeted with over-sized sculptures of flowers,
trees and wildlife, created by a local artist. The composition is a reflection of the mountainous landscape and
ones place within it. A total of 6 sculptures were created for the courtyards. The existing retaining walls were
removed and replaced with a series of beautiful sandstone walls that provide the backdrop for accent lighting
and perennial gardens below. The walls were also designed to provide seating for guests to congregate. Stone
similar in color and texture to nearby the Shadow Mountain rock outcroppings, establish a tie between the new
spaces and their surroundings. Water is the unifying element between the two courtyards, adding sound,
reflection and light to the space. The south courtyard water feature is a four granite spillway into an
illuminated linear pool. The north courtyard boasts a single spillway balanced between two sculptural wall
panels. Water spills from eye level over a carved granite weir to a shimmering pool below. The white noise of
the two courtyards provides ambient noise echoing through the four story building surrounding the open
An aspen forest was designed above the top retaining walls, drawing one’s eye vertically and minimizing the
once-overbearing four-story buildings through the use of plant material. Shade tolerant native perennials fill
the planters, providing a punctuation of color for the interior gardens. Custom-designed zinc planters provide
accents throughout the courtyard and are filled seasonally to provide an ever-changing landscape for
residents. The overall design has elevated The Gant into a sanctuary of serenity that serves as habitat for
hummingbirds and other creatures.
Because the buildings were built before Aspen had a proper regulatory building department, two of
the main challenges were steering clear of utility pipes and other underground obstacles, and shoring
up building footings discovered to be only 18 inches deep.
The Gant’s utility bills were bloated by an outdoor, high pressure sodium lighting system that
operated on 70 watts a piece. The project was awarded a grant by the Center for Renewable Energy
that allowed The Gant to convert all exterior site lighting to an LED system, which runs on
approximately 3.5 watts per light, significantly lowering The Gant’s energy consumption.
The pre-existing planting and irrigation system wasted water. Conservation techniques, such as drip
irrigation, were introduced over most of the site, while diseased trees and noxious weeds were
removed to make way for native species. An analysis of microclimate and solar angles matched plant
materials to their appropriate niche to further encourage a healthy landscape.
This intensive development transformation maintains a higher density than would otherwise be accepted in
Aspen today. It guards the value of the original project and the integrity of the City without contributing to
urban sprawl or the discouraging trend towards developing the steep, mountainous surroundings. In addition,
the improvements have boosted The Gant’s competitive edge in the marketplace and have measurably
increased the individual value of its units. Owners were at first reluctant to make the financial investment
necessary to restore the site, but have become buoyed by the success of the first phase. Based on recent sales
data, unit values have nearly tripled since the inception of the project — an average increase of $1,200,000 and
a twelve-fold return on the original investment in the project.
More importantly, however, is the legacy the new design leaves behind. Due, in part, to the era The Gant was
built, it had become energy inefficient. Introducing energy-saving lighting and drip irrigation reduces resource
consumption, thus aiding the City of Aspen at large in its commitment to the environment. Dark, uninviting
outdoor spaces were transformed into welcoming, sunlit courtyards with innovative water features, tactile
artwork, and bright, colorful flowers that invite guests and residents to celebrate the landscape around them.
And finally, by using native plants and materials and a forward-thinking concept, The Gant’s outdoor spaces
have gained a timeless elegance and a park-like ambiance that will appeal to future generations.
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