By Melanie Lieberman
September 29, 2014

If the Gucci and Prada storefronts weren't enough to dispel any impression of Aspen as a humble mountain town, the Shigeru Ban-designed Aspen Art Museumshould do the trick. The 35-year-old art institution recently debuted a new $45 million building created by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect and funded entirely by private donations from the city's wealthy patrons.

The new museum, dedicated to rotating exhibits of contemporary art, opened its glass doors to a surprising blend of acclaim and criticism. Many applauded the latticework cube for its nod to traditional Japanese craftsmanship, while others (including New York Magazine's architecture critic, Justin Davidson) dismissed the façade as cage-like and unattractive. But there's little argument that the museum strikes a dramatic silhouette against a backdrop of classic alpine brick buildings. From the rooftop sculpture garden, visitors have sweeping views of nearby Ajax Mountain.

Ban's first permanent museum in the United States is something of a departure for the architect, who is best known for his temporary, humanitarian-focused structures, including the Cardboard Cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the stackable shipping-container apartments he created after the Japanese tsunami and earthquake in 2011. But the museum reflects Ban's famous use of recyclable materials: he created the shell out of translucent coated paper and veneer wood planks. Inside is 33,000 square feet of minimalist, naturally lit exhibition space.

Inaugural exhibits include a retrospective of Ban’s disaster-relief buildings, as well as works by contemporary artists Yves Kein, David Hammons, Tomma Abts, and others. According to director Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, the free museum is committed to showcasing international, contemporary work with a social edge.

Melanie Lieberman is theEditorial Projects Assistant and a member of the Trip Doctor News Team. You can follow her on twitter at @LittleWordBites.