Symposium’s success sets up Exhibit Columbus for greater impact

Landmark Columbus wanted more people to learn about Columbus’ design heritage, or others to rediscover it, when it launched Exhibit Columbus in 2016. The format for the two-year program began with a symposium the first year followed by an exhibit the next.

That goal is right on track, as this year’s symposium demonstrated.

The National Symposium: Design, Community and Progressive Preservation, conducted Sept. 26-29 mostly in Columbus, attracted about 1,200 people, organizers said, an increase from the 1,000 attendees in 2016. It had a record 650 registrants.

That’s a great head start going into next year’s second Exhibit Columbus exhibition of temporary art pieces around the city. Last year’s three-month exhibition drew about 40,000 people. With the buzz it created, and greater interest in the symposium, it’s conceivable that next year’s exhibition could draw even more people.

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This year’s symposium had some new touches, starting with an expansion to four days of sessions.

One of the treats was a screening of a documentary, "Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw The Future," by Eric Saarinen, son of Eero Saarinen and grandson of Eliel Saarinen — both famed Finnish architects who designed some of the most notable buildings in Columbus. Eliel Saarinen designed First Christian Church, and Eero Saarinen designed North Christian Church, The Miller House and Irwin Conference Center. In addition to the film, Eric Saarinen shared remarks and remembrances about his father.

Another was Susan Saarinen, Eero Saarinen’s daughter and a landscape architect, as a panel speaker at North Christian Church for a discussion about building on earlier designs.

A variety of sessions delved into topics dealing with sustainability, technology, the role of arts and the next generation of designers, among others.

One of the eagerly anticipated sessions was the in-person introduction of four of the five J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prize winners who will have their works temporarily displayed around downtown Columbus. The fifth one was unable to attend. 

They will be big attractions next year, and Exhibit Columbus’ highlighting of the city’s art, architecture and design heritage will continue to help the city build on its exceptional broad architectural shoulders.