Exhibit Columbus design event proved great showcase of city

To paraphrase from the movie “Field of Dreams,” if you build them, they will come.

With the works of world-renowned architects serving as the backdrop for Exhibit Columbus, the city’s inaugural art, architecture and design symposium made a great first impression by drawing a larger-than-expected crowd — including some from a distance.

Unveiling of the Miller Prize Competition finalists Sept. 29 at the IU Center for Art + Design kicked off events. The two-day symposium, Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 at The Commons and First Christian Church, offered a variety of presentations and panel discussions that highlighted and examined the works of the architects that have made Columbus world-renowned for its architecture. Interest among the public was considerable, with 839 people purchasing tickets — with full-price admission $35 for a single day or $60 for the two-day symposium. A free panel discussion Sept. 30 drew an capacity audience of 500 at The Commons.

The second part of the event is next year, with unveiling of the winners of the J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prizes — who get to install a work of temporary architecture or art that connects or relates to one of five Modern design buildings or sites along Fifth Street or downtown.

The high initial interest and strong turnout reflect the city’s long passion with fine architecture. Since 1942, Cummins Inc. has recruited top architects to design public buildings in the city — an initiative that started with J. Irwin Miller, the late Cummins executive, philanthropist and architectural champion.

The American Institute of Architects has ranked Columbus as the sixth most architecturally significant city in the nation.

The symposium was an educational experience for those somewhat familiar with the city’s architectural history, but also a great way to introduce others and tell the community’s story. Those who attended have become ambassadors for the city, which will help draw even more people.

They’re also likely to wonder what the city’s next architectural wonder will be.

Columbus should stick to its path of using renowned architects to design structures equally beautiful, inspiring and functional, and continue to tell its unique story with future symposiums.

Richard McCoy, director of Landmark Columbus, the nonprofit organization which cares for and maintains the city’s artistic and architecturally significant sites, deserves a round of applause for founding the symposium, and in the process explaining the need for preserving local historic landmarks. It’s important that the community rally around this idea and support the preservation of cherished buildings and grounds.

The event built on the city’s strong architectural heritage, and likely created a new calling card event to draw new visitors.