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About 30 design and architecture aficionados from as far as India will visit Columbus this week to tour the city’s architectural treasures.

Tourism officials hope members of the Association of Architecture Organizations will spread the word about Columbus and prompt additional visitors to spend money in local hotels, shops and restaurants.

During their stay from Thursday through Saturday, the AAO members will take a motor coach tour, walking tour, visit the Miller House, Cummins Inc.’s Plant 1, and J. Irwin Miller’s old office at 301 Washington St.

They also will attend a reception at the Eero Saarinen-designed Cummins’ Irwin Office Building, formerly known as the Irwin Union Bank.

 

The architecture and design enthusiasts also will attend a presentation by Will Miller, son of Xenia and J. Irwin Miller and president of The Wallace Foundation, about the importance of investing in design and about the city’s architectural legacy.

The visit will give the AAO members an opportunity for dialogue in small groups about the city’s architectural highlights, said Lynn Lucas, director of the Columbus Area Visitors Center.

Michael Wood, executive director of the AAO, said the organization, based in Chicago, represents nonprofits that conduct tours, create architecture exhibits and hold lectures and educational events for the public, including children.

In a sense, a lot of the AAO members who visit Columbus will be on reconnaissance missions and report back to their organizations what they found in Columbus.

They reach about 3 million people a year, Wood said, and while the visit certainly will give Columbus some exposure, the Columbus Visitors Center staff also will benefit by learning about how other organizations give tours and are diversifying their offerings.

Visitors to Columbus will represent organizations including the University of Wisconsin, the Dallas Center for Architecture and the National Building Museum. Visitors are expected to include Chase Rynd, board member of the National Building Museum; Lynn Osmond, president of the Chicago Architecture Foundation; and John Comazzi, associate professor of architecture at University of Minnesota and author of a recent book about Balthazar Korab, a photographer of modernism who worked with Saarinen and died in January.

Lucas, an AAO member, has tried for years to get the group to visit Columbus.

“This network is ... very important,” she said.

The AAO members will go back into their communities and share their experiences in Columbus, which will entice more visitors to come here, Lucas said.

“It reinforces Columbus, Indiana’s position in modern architecture,” she said.

Wood said that while many of the visitors will look forward especially to visiting the Miller House to see the interplay of architectural and landscape design, they also will take a close look at public buildings, such as City Hall and Hamilton Center Ice Arena.

Beyond a high concentration of architecturally significant buildings in close proximity, Columbus represents what can happen when a city places a high importance on design and believes that everyday buildings can be designed well.

AAO’s members want to share that message, because the more the public understands that design is important, the more the public will demand that its buildings be designed well.

“It would be hard to find a better expression of that than Columbus,” Wood said.

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