We’re Talking About a Place Called Assssssspen

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You may add it to the list of design conferences you might not be able to afford, but this is one you should definitely pass on to your most successful do-gooder friend: the Aspen Design Summit is celebrating over 50 years of giving designers a Rocky Mountain high.

Since 1949, Aspen’s been the place where creatives summer when they want to make a difference. Eero Saarinen designed the conference’s first tent (Herbert Bayer did the second), Matt Groening’s dad used to tell him stories about his visits, and the 2003 conference is where Paola Antonelli’s “SAFE: Design Takes On Risk” show at MoMA took shape.

Once mired in the early 90’s what-are-we-doing sentiment that plagued architects and designers, the Summit has been completely relaunched under AIGA’s socially-responsible watch, and this year participants are asked to choose right up front which issue they want to focus on: education innovation, sustainable community development or social entrepreneurship. The deal is that participants are divided up into groups which function as real design studios, and are asked to work together to solve a problem like world hunger. Seriously. In three days.

With its limited enrollment and exceptional setting, this year’s Aspen Design Summit seems like the perfect vacation, actually. Where else can you talk urban planning with civic-whiz Maurice Cox, go for a bike ride with Aspen architect Harry Teague, make art with Marc Ecko and hang with us–yep, through some combination of planets aligning and bonafied miracles, this writer will be there (full disclosure: working her Aspen off).

June 20-23, 2006.