A big idea originated from the big screen and stage for the upcoming Exhibit Columbus event, building on temporary architectural displays.
Call it a concept with Broad(way) appeal.
In fact, Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” Tony Award-winning musical and popular movie inspired Bimal Mendis and Joyce Hsiang, principals of Plan B Architecture & Urbanism in New Haven, Connecticut. That’s why their work of chrome pillars and grassy mounds around the Cummins Corporate Office Building, 500 Jackson St., Columbus, is titled “Anything Can Happen in the Woods.”
“It’s basically built on the idea of the enchanted forest of a fairy tale,” Hsiang said, outlining a cast of characters coming together in imaginative, fanciful surroundings.
Story continues below gallery
She would like to see people gather in the space she and her business partner will create with about 40 total 18-foot columns and maybe six 3-foot-high mounds under Cummins’ much-photographed shaded pergola or colonnade.
“Essentially, it’s a place where people really can have fun,” Mendis said of their design. “What we don’t want to do is create a space in which only someone with an architectural degree can understand it.”
Exhibit Columbus is meant to highlight art, architecture and design while promoting fresh ideas about the city’s current structures to birth new concepts for new possibilities and structures, according to organizers. The event is under the umbrella of Landmark Columbus, caring for the city’s art and architectural heritage.
Architect T. Kelly Wilson, director of the IU Center for Art + Design in Columbus and a part of the Exhibit Columbus organizing team, invited the pair to participate in the exhibition. Wilson also is a former faculty member at Yale University in New Haven Connecticut, where Mendis and Hsiang currently teach at Yale’s school of architecture. Plus, architect Deborah Berke, current dean of Yale’s School of Architecture, has designed two structures here and spoke in town at last fall’s Exhibit Columbus inaugural symposium at The Commons.
Their other links to the local scene include architect Cesar Pelli, who designed the original Commons.
“So, certainly Columbus wasn’t an unknown entity to us,” Hsiang said. “In fact, it’s quite familiar to us. There are a lot of New Haven (Connecticut) and Columbus connections.”
The duo has participated in past architectural biennials in metropolises such as Instanbul, Hong Kong and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
“These allow to push forward new ideas, or a kind of experimentation and innovation,” Mendis said. “That’s the spirit of what architectural biennials are all about — how one challenges or pushes the boundaries of the discipline, and pushes the boundaries of what architecture ultimately can be.”
Hsiang said she has been especially impressed in Columbus with how organizers have engaged and united differing local components ranging from city leaders to high school students in the exhibition.
“Wonderfully magical and strange and lovely things can happen (like that),” Hsiang said.
That idea fits well into what she terms “a stage or scene-ography for things to come together” when she describes Plan B’s Cummins installation that she wants to be, well, picture perfect.
“We took note of all these wonderful wedding and prom photos people seem to take in that space,” Hsiang said.
Travis Perry works as one of the owners of the construction firm Tovey-Perry Co. in Columbus, the business now building the exhibit, including one mound that is complete. He believes passersby will be impressed.
“I love the reflective aspect of this,” Perry said of the chrome that will act as a mirror of surroundings. “It’s going to be the kind of thing that reaches out and grabs you.”
Ultimately, Mendis and Hsiang hope their installation inspires something more permanent for the building’s majestically lined space.
“If one can plant a seed within that space,” Mendis said, “maybe something like this (idea) can continue there.”
Who: Plan B Architecture & Urbanism of New Haven, Connecticut with principals Bimal Mendis and Joyce Hsiang.
Piece name, installed site: “Anything Can Happen in the Woods”; Cummins Corporate Office Building, 500 Jackson St. in Columbus.
Consisting of: About 40 total 18-foot chrome columns and about six 3-foot grassy mounds spread to make what designers call “outdoor rooms.”
To be built by: Fabricating work already has begun at Columbus Tovey-Perry Co. on Long Road.
Exhibition impact: Organizers have estimated that the exhibition could draw at least 10,000 people from a regional area. But already on social media and elsewhere online, the star structures of the new event have been seen in recent months by thousands, according to participating architects.
A key of Exhibit Columbus: Five design teams representing some of the nation’s top architects recently were named as the event’s Miller Prize winners. Each winning team gets $70,000 to design and build a temporary architectural creation to complement one of those five downtown structures.