Blossoming inspiration: Installation honoring females still coming together at AT&T Switching Center downtown

People sit amid the flowering plants recently installed By Agency Landscape + Planning at the AT&T Switching Center in downtown Columbus.

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of five stories about the Miller Prize winners for the Exhibit Columbus exhibition of 18 temporary architectural installations Aug. 23 to Dec. 1 throughout the city.

The stories of women strong and impactful in the footsteps of late philanthropist, art and architecture aficionado Xenia Miller will blossom beautifully in downtown Columbus during the upcoming Exhibit Columbus exhibition.

They will be part of the Miller-inspired installation titled XX at the AT&T Switching Center at Seventh and Franklin streets. The space, which Agency Landscape + Planning designers recently adorned with a variety of colorful, flowering plants and comfortable benches, will soon get oversized plant identifiers which also will include brief summaries of women — teachers, relatives, you name it — who inspired area residents through the years.

Local people submitted those summaries over the past few months.

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The exhibition, held every other year, focuses on art, architecture and design, and uses new, pop-up installations from the world’s leading designers to highlight existing structures and landscapes in a city known globally for its Modernist legacy.

The Xs in the AT&T effort’s title refer to Miller’s name; imitate the trusses on the site of the structure; is a link to the lettering in genetics to symbolize females; and also harken to the physical columns within the architecture at the Miller House where Xenia Miller lived, according to Brie Hensold, a cofounder and principal designer at Agency based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“A lot of this (installation) was inspired by and to celebrate Xenia,” Hensold said, speaking by phone from the firm’s office. “But she is really code for a whole host of women. And so this theme feels more and more timely every day.”

Hensold referred to women making their powerful and positive presence felt nationally in areas ranging from Hollywood to sports such as soccer to the halls of Congress. When Hensold and Gina Ford first outlined the installation of female celebration in January, they understandably evoked the memory of decades of women working as telephone operators who once worked inside the building literally connecting an entire community.

Now, the space will host two days of public, casual gatherings, from 8 to 10 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to noon Saturday. The events are designed for people of all ages, genders and backgrounds to come and have a portrait taken that will be later used in some way — possibly in a slide presentation or film — in a collection of headshots for the pop-up exhibit. Plus, Agency representatives will be on hand by about 7:30 p.m. Thursday following the Exhibit Columbus film presentations done at the Columbus Area Visitors Center.

Also, at the Saturday gathering, in a makeshift outdoor classroom of sorts, a temporary “blackboard” of black craft paper affixed to a mirrored wall of the building will be used for people to briefly write down their thoughts about teachers who have substantially and positively affected them. The designers said that many people submitting stories about women’s significant roles through the years have especially included salutes to teachers.

Plus, people will be answering a question that Agency designer Rhiannon Sinclair will pose that day.

“We just want to capture ideas for how to say thank you to all the women that they’ve honored through the process,” Sinclair said.

People can drop briefly in and depart as their schedule allows during the designated times.

Moreover, Agency representatives will be at the site on Thursday to interact with people after the screening of the five short films about the Miller Prize exhibits. Hensold and Sinclair mentioned that part of the idea with the site events, including a storytelling segment held there recently, is to allow people to make the space their own.

For this exhibition, architects active on a global scale have gone to great lengths while introducing their designs to solicit and implement suggestions and ideas from the public. Mother Nature helped herself to becoming a part of it all in the days following the installation of plants and flowers with heavy rains. Since then, local horticulturist Becky Church has been in charge of watering and other supervision.

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  • Approximately 7:30 p.m. Thursday after the finish of the Miller Prize Film Screening and Director’s Q&A, Columbus Area Visitors Center.
  • 8 to 10 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. Friday, AT&T Switching Center, corner of Seventh and Franklin streets.
  • 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, AT&T Switching Center, corner of Seventh and Franklin streets

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The Exhibit Columbus exhibition is a once-every-two-years display of a wide variety temporary architectural installations meant to highlight or somehow connect to nearby, permanent structures and buildings in Columbus.

The exhibition is set for Aug. 24 to Dec. 1 and is an exploration of art, architecture, and design.

Exhibit Columbus seeks to celebrate Columbus’ heritage while making it relevant in new and modern ways, according to organizers. It is the signature project of Landmark Columbus, which was created in 2015 to care for the design heritage of Columbus, and is under the umbrella of The Heritage Fund — the Community Foundation of Bartholomew County.

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