There’s a line from the “Columbus” movie spoken by Casey, played by Haley Lu Richardson, which has not failed to draw laughter from the YES Cinema audience.

When Jin, played by John Cho, asks her what the local residents think of the architectural mecca they live in, she replies directly that most of them don’t care that much about the famous buildings they drive by every day or know the backstory of their design.

Whether that’s accurate is debatable. But for local residents who don’t know about the significance of local buildings designed by distinguished architects such as I.M Pei, Eliel Saarinen, Eero Saarinen, Kevin Roche, Harry Weese and Deborah Berke, or why their buildings are showcased in “Columbus,” there is no better time than now to explore that backstory.

Exhibit Columbus has placed guest installations near many of the city’s most architecturally significant buildings, and the new “Columbus” movie is a chance to explore where the cast and crew filmed the movie and how they did it.

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The Columbus Area Visitors Center saw 135 percent more visitors the week of the movie’s Sept. 1 local premiere, compared to the same week last year — about 1,100 people in one week stopping in, said Karen Niverson, the center’s executive director.

Visitors have come from around the globe and Indiana, as well as Columbus residents themselves who are rediscovering their hometown after seeing the movie, Niverson said.

This week, a couple from Seattle saw the film, booked a flight to Columbus and signed up for the visitors center tour in a matter of days.

“It’s been crazy for the week of the movie opening,” Niverson said, describing the visitors center staffing as “all hands on deck.”

More often than not, the office has been “swamped” with visitors, she said.

While the public may book tours on the visitors center website weeks into the future, the online schedule doesn’t include tours being booked by private groups.

“We’re seeing a lot of people from New York, Washington D.C., Los Angeles,” said Jan Banister, gift shop manager at the visitors center.

But the Midwest is the strongest base for tourists coming to Columbus, particularly from Chicago and Michigan, she said.

The visitors center has increased the walking tour schedule from two days a week to six, but has not yet increased the frequency of other tours, Banister said.

“Will we be able to sustain this brand new excitement? Could this be going on for the next three months?” Banister asked as tour groups were forming Friday morning at the visitors center. “It’s yet to be seen.”

Exhibit Columbus walking tours have had a terrific response, Banister said, and most are filling up quickly as visitors realize that in addition to the architecture tour they planned to take, there are new installations to view.

And more local residents are stopping in at the center, realizing after walking Fifth Street and seeing the movie that they might have missed something about their hometown.

“I came here as a college student. I was standing out in the library plaza area. It was October and in the 70s, and the colors were just unbelievable,” Banister said of what drew her to Columbus.

Taking what she described as a step-on bus tour, she remembers thinking that spot on Fifth Street was the “center of the architectural universe.”

“I swore someday I would move here and be a tour guide,” she said.

The “Columbus” movie has given local residents that same sense of wonder about the city, she said.

“It’s ‘Oh my goodness, this is incredible, what is it like to live here?’ “ Banister said. “The important thing that everyone doesn’t understand is that this isn’t a museum. These are functional buildings that we love and treasure and not everyone is aware of their significance.”

Where to find books on architecture

Columbus Area Visitors Center

Address: 506 Fifth St.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sundays


Extra: The visitors center features a gift shop that has Exhibit Columbus and “Columbus” memorabilia.

Bartholomew County Public Library

Address: 536 Fifth St.

Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays.


Extra: Check out the library’s Exhibit Columbus installation, and the “Avenue of the Architects” exhibit inside.

Viewpoint Books

Address: 548 Washington St.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday; closed Sundays.


Extra: The bookstore has some special books available including selections on Alexander Gerard and Paul Rand. Of special note is a Rand children’s book specially ordered for this fall.

Take a tour

The Columbus Area Visitors Center offers a variety of tour options for visitors and local residents. Tours fill up fast and reservations are required. To book a tour, visit

Architecture Bus Tour

Cost: Adults $25, students $15, fees included

Time: 2 hours, requires minimal walking, begins and ends at the visitors center

Capacity: 25

Tours available: 10 a.m. Fridays; 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturdays; and 2 p.m. Sunday

Next available: Today, Sunday and next week.

Miller House and Garden Tour

Cost: $25, includes all fees

Time: 90 minutes, includes interior and exterior of the home, tours begin and end at the visitors center. There is no public access to the house.

Capacity: 13

Tours available: 12:45 and 2:45 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; and 12:45 p.m. Sunday.

Next available: Tuesday through Friday

Note: The guided tour is for adults and children 10 and older; all guests must purchase a ticket.

Exhibit Columbus Walking Tour

An overview of many of the 18 installations around downtown and the iconic Columbus landmarks and sites they’ve been created in relationship to. This tour is headphones-enhanced. Bring your own pair of earbuds or headphones, if you choose, for the guided walking tour offered through Nov. 25.

Cost: $12

Tours available: 10:30 a.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; and 2:30 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, beginning and ending at the visitors center.

Capacity: 12

Next available: Today, Sunday and through next week.

The Inn at Irwin Gardens Tour

A tour of the Irwin House, the Irwin family home, and childhood home of J. Irwin Miller, 608 Fifth St. The tour is offered May through October.

Cost: $15

Time: One hour

Capacity: 12

Tours available: Check website for availability, begins and ends at The Inn at Irwin Gardens.

Next available: Sunday and Tuesday.

Self-guided tours by bike or on foot 

Pick up the “Guide to Art and Architecture” map, available for $3 at the visitors center, Hotel Indigo and Viewpoint books. The visitors center can provide information to access a foot or bike tour by smartphone app.

For those who want to explore by bicycle, ColumBike bicycles are available next to the visitors center.

Lincoln Elementary 50th Anniversary Tour

Offered Sept. 16 and 17 only, celebrating the 50th anniversary of CSA Lincoln Elementary School and designer Gunnar Birkerts. All proceeds support The Linden Project.

Cost: $15

Time: One hour

Tours available: Noon and 2 p.m. Sept. 16; 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Sept. 17. Tours are at CSA Lincoln Elementary School, 750 Fifth St.



Want to learn about Columbus like a visitor?

Here are four recommended books to help you understand the significance of that building you’re driving by every day, and why the buildings had a starring role in the “Columbus” movie. Each is available at the Columbus Area Visitors Center and may also be found at Viewpoint Books or by renting it through the Bartholomew County Public Library.

Title: “Columbus, Indiana: A Look at Modern Architecture and Art, eighth edition (2013)

Author: Columbus Area Visitors Center

What it is: A catalog of Columbus’ modern architecture, public art and historic buildings, featuring 14 projects from 14 years. Includes information about 72 buildings, 37 works of public art and 16 historic building, along with architect and artist biographies.

Pages: 220

Price: $35


Title: “Columbus, Indiana: Midwestern Modernist Mecca” (2013)

Author: Thomas R. Schiff

What it is: Schiff combines his love of photography to provide panoramic views of 50 exterior and interiors of the celebrated architecture in Columbus.

Pages: 240

Price: $50


Title: “Columbus, Indiana — An American Landmark” (1999, third printing)

Author: Balthazar Korab

What it is: Features 110 color and black-and-white photographs and illustrations of Columbus’ architecture, church buildings, schools and public spaces. Includes map with corresponding sites listed and a bibliography.

Pages: 168

Price: $19.97


Title: “Miller House and Garden” (2011)

Author: Bradley Brooks

What it is: Examines the creation of the Miller House and Garden in Columbus in 1952, featuring the design talents of Eero Saarinen, Alexander Girard, Dan Kiley and Kevin Roche. This is part of the Assouline publishing company’s “memoir series,” talking about how the home represents not only the “aspirations of the Miller family, but also the spirit of an era.”

Author photo
Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at or (812) 379-5631.