Exhibit Columbus: A New Era of Celebrating Design

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By Amanda Dameron / Published by Dwell
The unique energy of Columbus, Indiana, continues to resonate thanks to the efforts of a dedicated local community.

We are at our best when we collaborate; communities thrive when citizens share a commitment to the future. This is perfectly illustrated in Columbus, Indiana, the site of many an architecture student’s pilgrimage. Here, a family’s dedication to modern design led to a rich, and arguably unmatched, urban tapestry. Today the city represents something important, and through the efforts of a new generation of locals, the hoped-for future for this "Athens of the Prairie" is secure.

Inaugurated in 2016, Exhibit Columbus, led by Landmark Columbus director Richard McCoy, is an annual exploration of design and architecture. Through temporary site-specific installations conceived by the global design community and fabricated by local makers using local materials, Exhibit Columbus represents the next chapter for the city. 

J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prize Installations 

Following a juried competition, five firms respond to iconic sites in the city.  The following installations will be on view August 26–November 26 in Columbus, Indiana. Read an interview with the curator, designer Jonathan Nesci, here

Exhibit Columbus: A New Era of Celebrating Design - Photo 1 of 9 - Wiikiaami by Studio: Indigenous&nbsp;</p><p><br> Constructed of rebar  and perforated copper scales, a contemporary "wigwam"—wiikiaami  in the language of  the indigenous Miyaamia people—serves as  a gathering space  as well as a gateway  to Eliel Saarinen’s First  Christian Church.

Wiikiaami by Studio: Indigenous 


Constructed of rebar and perforated copper scales, a contemporary "wigwam"—wiikiaami in the language of the indigenous Miyaamia people—serves as a gathering space as well as a gateway to Eliel Saarinen’s First Christian Church.


Exhibit Columbus: A New Era of Celebrating Design - Photo 2 of 9 - Another Circle by Aranda\Lasch &nbsp;</p><p><br> Comprising 2,800 pieces of salvaged Indiana  limestone, a 3.5-acre circle ties together three sites at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates’ Mill Race Park—the round lake, the People Trail,  and the river. Within the circle, additional stones  are placed to create a theater, areas for games, and more.

Another Circle by Aranda\Lasch  


Comprising 2,800 pieces of salvaged Indiana limestone, a 3.5-acre circle ties together three sites at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates’ Mill Race Park—the round lake, the People Trail, and the river. Within the circle, additional stones are placed to create a theater, areas for games, and more.

Exhibit Columbus: A New Era of Celebrating Design - Photo 3 of 9 - Anything Can Happen In The Woods by Plan B Architecture &amp; Urbanism&nbsp;</p><p><br> An installation reimagines the pergola at the Cummins Corporate Office Building, designed by Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates, as an urban forest—including mirrored columns, conversation pits, outdoor rooms, and grass-covered mounds.

Anything Can Happen In The Woods by Plan B Architecture & Urbanism 


An installation reimagines the pergola at the Cummins Corporate Office Building, designed by Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates, as an urban forest—including mirrored columns, conversation pits, outdoor rooms, and grass-covered mounds.


Exhibit Columbus: A New Era of Celebrating Design - Photo 4 of 9 - Untitled by Oyler Wu Collaborative&nbsp;</p><p><br> Eero Saarinen’s interest  in Euclidean geometries, contrasts between solids and voids, and tectonics informs Oyler Wu’s design, which uses three canopies at the Irwin Conference Center—legacies of  the building’s history  as a drive-up bank—to  create a self-contained complex of solid and semipermeable walls.

Untitled by Oyler Wu Collaborative 


Eero Saarinen’s interest in Euclidean geometries, contrasts between solids and voids, and tectonics informs Oyler Wu’s design, which uses three canopies at the Irwin Conference Center—legacies of the building’s history as a drive-up bank—to create a self-contained complex of solid and semipermeable walls.

Exhibit Columbus: A New Era of Celebrating Design - Photo 5 of 9 - Conversation Plinth by Ikd&nbsp;</p><p><br> Inspired by the conversation pit in Eero Saarinen’s Miller House, large shifting timber discs compose a series of plinths around the Henry Moore sculpture at the Cleo Rogers Memorial Library by I. M. Pei &amp; Partners. The installation was designed in collaboration with cross-laminated timber (CLT) specialists.

Conversation Plinth by Ikd 


Inspired by the conversation pit in Eero Saarinen’s Miller House, large shifting timber discs compose a series of plinths around the Henry Moore sculpture at the Cleo Rogers Memorial Library by I. M. Pei & Partners. The installation was designed in collaboration with cross-laminated timber (CLT) specialists.


Exhibit Columbus: A New Era of Celebrating Design - Photo 6 of 9 - Rick Valicenti’s  energetic graphic identity for Exhibit Columbus recalls the legacy of Alexander Girard.

Rick Valicenti’s energetic graphic identity for Exhibit Columbus recalls the legacy of Alexander Girard.

Exhibit Columbus: A New Era of Celebrating Design - Photo 7 of 9 -
Exhibit Columbus: A New Era of Celebrating Design - Photo 8 of 9 -

Detour: Columbus, Indiana 

A tremendous number of design destinations await visitors to Columbus. We’ve plotted the sites we photographed for this feature, as well as several of the city’s seven National Historic Landmarks. The Miller House and Garden, not shown here, is located in a residential area and is accessible only via a tour that begins at the Columbus Visitors Center. 

Exhibit Columbus: A New Era of Celebrating Design - Photo 9 of 9 -

See/Do/Read

Continue learning about the "Athens of the Prairie."

-- Our photographic appreciation of the city, published in the July/August 2017 issue "Ideas for Life".

-- Exhibit Columbus (August 26–November 26) 

-- Alexander Girard: A Designer’s Universe (June 17–October 8) at the Cranbrook Art Museum 

-- Columbus Indiana: A Look at Architecture by Paul Rand