Exhibit Columbus: Next generation of designers rises to the task

Exhibit Columbus literally and figuratively passed the architectural baton to the next generation of designers in ceremonies celebrating the promise of future achievement in architecture.

While the 18 installations for Exhibit Columbus will officially open at 2 p.m. today in downtown Columbus, organizers honored installations designed, fabricated and constructed by students from Columbus high schools and six Midwest universities in the days leading up to the opening.

During installation ceremonies, each design team — made up of students and a school representative — received an award in the shape of a baton, signifying the legacy of Columbus’ architectural heritage being passed to the next generation.

The Ohio State University design and fabrication team made a video of themselves Friday morning tossing the baton inside their creation “Inscribed,” a series of 3-D printed panels in a structural framework that has varied seating areas for Central Middle School students to use as an outdoor classroom during the next three months.

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The team arrived with the structure at 11 p.m. Wednesday and had it installed by 11 p.m. Thursday, said Jackie Nehr-bass, one of the students who worked on the project.

The team was interacting with Central Middle School students who were visiting the five installations that line the side of the school across from St. Peter’s Lutheran Church near downtown Columbus. A sixth installation from Indiana University School of Art, Architecture + Design is at North Christian Church on Columbus’ north side.

“I hope this lives up to the hype — the legacy,” Nehrbass said. “These students are so lucky. To appreciate good design, you need to be around good design.”

The high school and university installations are critical to the idea behind Exhibit Columbus, described as a celebration of architecture, art, design and community, said Richard McCoy, director of Landmark Columbus, a program of the Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County.

“This is about the future of design — the future of making,” McCoy said prior to ceremonies that opened the university installations Friday morning. “This is about getting young people excited about living in Columbus.”

The high school installation, “Between the Threads,” opened Thursday night prior to a community art walk downtown that gave people a sneak preview of all the installations, which will be finished and open to the public today.

“Between the Threads” is a bright, colorful, winding exhibit at the Historic Post Office building at Seventh and Washington, where visitors are invited to wander through 10-foot-high steel frames wrapped in plastic lacing string, with the colors designed to play off the nearby AT&T Switching Center and its colorful tubes.

It was the work of five graduating high school seniors — Mila Lipinski and Tim Rix of Columbus East, and Jane Phillips, Tim Cox and Kyle Kingen of Columbus North — and Josie Royer, a senior this year at Columbus East.

The project turned out to be bigger than students initially thought, said Erin Hetrick, Exhibit Columbus education coordinator.

The installation represents 49 miles of colorful lacing that needed to be wrapped as part of the fabrication process. The students eventually turned to volunteers to help them finish it, she said.

“Notice the beautiful bright colors, the gentle dancing strings in the wind, the sound of them. This is all due to the talents and commitment of young people that Columbus produced,” Hetrick said.

While “Between the Threads” was one of the first installations completed, some of the university installations were still receiving finishing touches Friday before today’s grand reveal.

College installations

Team members from University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning were anchoring their whimsical seats, fabricated in metal into colorful pigs, and hanging clay-glazed fish in the cloud canopy over “Cloud/Bank” near Central Middle School.

The technical explanation of the piece is combining design and fabrication to bring together industry and agriculture representing the Great Lakes/Midwest region, and all its potential.

Instructor Mick Kennedy and professor and architecture program chair Sharon Haar explained the design behind the piece is to showcase the technology and knowledge used in the design and fabrication of the piece, hoping to encourage students to pursue a career in those fields.

The engineering system used in bending the rods to make the cloud cover from geometric patterns was something developed by Kennedy colleague Wes McGee, he said. The metallic corn stalks that jut out of the supports have a gothic look, but are actually functional. They bolt the sections of the cloud cover together.

The designers wanted seating for the middle school students, and came up with the pigs, which are metal, but carry soft pillows on top.

“We want the students to see different parts of this and wonder how it was made,” Kennedy said. “We want them to see the relationship between ideas and design, and think about how to make it.”

After Exhibit Columbus ends in late November, the piece will probably go back to Michigan to be displayed in an exhibition area where the process and fabrication of the design will be highlighted, Haar said.

“This is incredibly complex,” she said of the design and fabrication work. “It involves techniques developed by our own faculty.”

Central Middle School students were flocking to “Alchemy,” an installation from the University of Cincinnati School of Architecture and Interior Design, as they knew their classmates’ work was a part of it.

Local seventh and eighth graders were given the opportunity to design an engraving used as part of the design, fabricated from a variety of leftover and stumbled-upon materials the college students found in their research, said John Arnaud, University of Cincinnati graduate student.

The installation has its inspiration from the materials used by tapestry designer Alexander Girard and architect Eero Saarinen, the designers said, but it also capitalizes on using leftover materials to give a new appreciation for their re-use, the designers said.

The piece contains donations from Kroot Corp. in Columbus, tile patterns from a Cincinnati company called Rookwood Tiles and representations of a unicorn, peace sign and other artwork from the students.

“They are the next generation of designers,” said Ben Romero, also a University of Cincinnati grad student, of the local students who contributed their artwork.

Broader expectations

Exhibit Columbus organizers said they hoped the high school and university installations will inspire students to consider pursuing architecture or other related fields as a career. They also hope the installations will help expand a regional education network committed to the future of critical design practice and to strengthen the identity of the Midwest as a unique center for design and fabrication.

Central Middle School Principal Randy Gratz said he could not think of a better setting for the university installations than along the corridor next to the school.

“What a gift from the community,” he said

A group of Central students watched as each of the university teams received their batons and were perhaps dreaming of a day when they too could design and build a work of art that was crafted on scientific research and state-of-the-art technology.

McCoy reminded the students that they needed to take a look at a photograph from 1967 that is in the Bartholomew County Public Library that shows a famous group of architects who worked on projects in Columbus standing in same spot they were on Friday with First Lady Bird Johnson.

“It might be you one day in that picture,” he said.

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Exhibit Columbus is a photographer’s dream — all those stunning lines, colors and shapes juxtaposed against other architectural treasures. Visitors from near and far will be roaming around Columbus through November to see our design past, present and future.

Show us your design style and take photographs of you and your friends at the exhibits. Then share them with us.

Send the photos to: [email protected].

We may use your photos online, in social media and in print. Include your name, where and when you took the photo, and where you are from.

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  • The Architect’s Newspaper Opening Conversations, 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Red Room of the Bartholomew County Public Library.
  • Opening Celebration from 2 to 4:30 p.m., beginning on Fifth Street at First Christian Church and the Bartholomew County Public Library Plaza to Mill Race Park. Free. This is a chance to meet the architects and designers participating in Exhibit Columbus at their installations.
  • Miller House and Garden ticketed Champagne Tours departing from the Columbus Area Visitors Center, from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Cost: $65. Information: exhibitcolumbus.org.
  • Free Mill Race Park 25th Anniversary Party, 4:30 to 7 p.m., including a folk-pop concert with duo Lily and Madeleine at 5 p.m. A community party open to all.

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Navigate the Exhibit Columbus installations with our locater map at therepublic.com.

Also catch up with past stories on the installations, designers and planning that went into the three-month exhibition in Columbus, running through Nov. 26 at therepublic.com

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What: #drinking about design

Where: Upland Columbus Pump House, 148 Lindsey St.

When: 4 to 6 p.m. each Thursday until Exhibit Columbus concludes in late November

What it is: A weekly meet-up created to engage the community and connect fans of good design with people associated with the three-month Exhibit Columbus exhibition.

How much: Free

To RSVP: Click “going” on the event meetup page on Facebook — search under “#drinkingaboutdesign”

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Every visitor to Exhibit Columbus has a chance to leave a comment about what they are observing as they tour the installations.

To listen to a guided tour of Exhibit Columbus and the comments of others who have traveled before you, download the Exhibit Columbus APP Hear/Here from the iTunes store.

As you get close to an installation or a historic Columbus location, you will hear audio about the location and new content from others who have already visited. Visitors may answer one of the questions on the app or talk of memories you have of a particular location.

The app is best experienced using stereo headphones. Hear/Here was created by Halsey Burgundy, a sound artist based in Boston, Massachusetts.