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Architecture for the People

BY The Editors | April 24, 2018 | Feature Features

David Johnston looks back at 20 years as one of Aspen's top architects.

Architect David Johnston sits at his desk inside the Spring Building, his firm’s own design, and looks out the window toward the Boesky West Gallery, another of his projects (in collaboration with Selldorf Architects in New York). He talks about the transformation of the downtown core—to which David Johnston Architects ( has contributed several designs in addition to the Spring Building—including the Jerome Professional Building, and 625 Main St., the site of the former Stage 3 theater. “If there is any personal motivation to do great work in Aspen, it’s that I walk past my own designs every day,” he says. “These buildings are a part of the Aspen landscape now. They have to work.”

Known for his laid-back attitude— thanks to a Midwestern childhood in Ohio—Johnston, with business partner Brian Beazley and their team of four architects, recently celebrated the 20th anniverary of their firm. The father of two young children says life has changed since he first arrived in Aspen in 1991 as a 26-year-old post-grad, but in his view, the spirit of Aspen has not. He balances home and design with the same perspective. “Living and raising a family in Aspen is a gift,” he says. “There is a freedom and lifestyle here that you just can’t find anywhere else.”

One of Johnston’s signatures is the ability to design for both the highest-end clientele and the Aspen local. His firm is behind a handful of award-winning custom residences and most recently was selected to design three affordable housing projects for the City of Aspen. “Quality design should always be about managing challenges whether it is how to access the best view on Red Mountain or how to utilize a small space in subsidized housing,” he says. “Good design can make life better for our clients, and it should be accessible to everyone.”

At the core of all of his work, Johnston says, is a design’s great connection to the land, to the materials and understanding how, driven by a sense of place, a structure fits within the larger community. “Every project we work on is architecture for the community,” he says. “When one arrives in Aspen, you instantly become a part of this place, whether you live in a studio or an estate. We want our work to say, ‘We are Aspen.’”

Photography Courtesy Of: