Building on excitement: Exhibit Columbus prepped for launch beginning Friday

After months of architects’ planning and following their creative muse, the 2019 Exhibit Columbus architectural exhibition opens Friday and Saturday throughout the city.

The theme is “Good Design and the Community.”

Richard McCoy serves as executive director of its umbrella agency known as Landmark Columbus (and the two elements are part of The Heritage Fund — the Community Foundation of Bartholomew County). He said the free event that runs through Dec. 1 literally will build on the inaugural 2017 exhibition that attracted an estimated 40,000 people.

And that excludes thousands others worldwide who saw images or video online of the temporary installations.

[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]Click here to purchase photos from this gallery

McCoy is predicting a higher attendance for the latest incarnation, featuring everything from a 30-foot tower to a literal cornfield.

“I think we will have many more people from Columbus seeing their own town in a different way,” McCoy said amid a flurry of activity downtown Tuesday afternoon. “Since this is our second one, more people more readily know of us, so this one is on a lot more people’s radar. And we have worked really hard to grow an audience in regional cities such as Indianapolis, Bloomington, and to a lesser extent, nearby cities such as Chicago.”

The 18 temporary works, done by creators ranging from local high school students to some of the world’s top designers, are meant to somehow comment or offer a new perspective on classic Modernist structures where the installations are located.

For instance, Marshall Prado’s fiber composite creation “Filament Tower” next to Eero Saarinen’s 192-foot needle-shaped North Christian Church steeple, celebrates new building materials much as the church did in 1964.

Here is a quick, at-a-glance style overview the exhibition, which explores a blend of art, architecture and design.

Free guides

A Family Activity Guide and exhibition maps are available for free at a number of downtown locations, including the Columbus Area Visitors Center, Hotel Indigo, Viewpoint Books and Baker’s Fine Gifts & Accessories.

The iPhone app

The Hear/Here app is expected to be working by Friday, with audio descriptions of installations based on where the phone user is standing. Plus, users can once again add their own thoughts — and listen to the perspective of others.

The installations

They are divided into several categories:

The J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prize winners — five top, global entities, working with a budget of $70,000 for their efforts to echo the architectural zeal and support of the late local art and arts supporters.

The Washington Street Civic Projects — five mission-oriented designers aiming “to connect communities and catalyze efforts to make cities more equitable and sustainable,” according to organizers.

University Design Research Fellows — six works by university professors and their students from a range of institutions.

High School Design Team — one piece by eight teens, led by adult instructor Darin Johnson.

Image and Environmental Design — The Chicago-based communication design practice called Thirst and its creative wayfinding signage for the exhibition, counting as one collective installation.

Opening weekend

Four free, curated conversations will unfold in two locations:

4 and 5:30 p.m. Friday in North Christian Church at 850 Tipton Lane.

10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday in Eliel Saarinen’s First Christian Church, 531 Fifth St. These conversations will feature a mix of participants from the exhibition, including the J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prize recipients, Washington Street Civic Project Leaders, and University Design Research Fellows.

Ticket sales for the opening party with dinner, live music and more at 6 p.m. at Mill Race Park have ended, according to organizers.

One other free gathering is slated:

3 p.m. Saturday on the City Hall plaza — “We the People,” a nonpartisan, patriotic assembly organized by Bartholomew County Indivisible amid Bryony Roberts Studio’s installation titled “Soft Civic” in that location and on the lawn at Second and Washington streets. It will include singing and local actors’ portrayal of historical characters.

Future events

11 a.m. to noon Sept. 14 featuring Dance Kaleidoscope — The Indianapolis-based troupe, which performed at the 2017 exhibition to enthusiastic feedback, will perform what is labeled as site-responsive pieces at three downtown installations. The Columbus Area Arts Council is hosting the presentation with Exhibit Columbus and the Columbus Arts and Entertainment District.

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”About the exhibition” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

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 to begin Friday and Saturday and run through 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.

To learn more, visit:

[sc:pullout-text-end][sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”Washington Street installations” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

The Washington Street Civic Projects showcase innovative work created by five mission-driven organizations dedicated to using architecture, art, and design to connect communities and catalyze efforts to make cities more equitable and sustainable. As part of the 2019 exhibition, their projects consider the history and development of Washington Street, Columbus’ “Main Street,” as a place of civic and commercial exchange while activating sites around this downtown corridor. These installations show us new ways to consider civic action.

Love Letter to the Crump by Borderless Studio

Love Letter to The Crump consists of a collective love letter from the community showcased as a large-scale, exterior curtain along the eastern wall of the Art Deco theatre. Through a series of workshops, past memories and future aspirations for The Crump were translated into a graphic pattern inspired by Alexander Girard’s urban and textile design practices. Inviting both residents and visitors to reflect on the transformation process of places in Columbus, the installation about new forms and meanings for preservation, as well as shared values and processes that could guide decisions about heritage in our cities.

What if Columbus by Extrapolation Factory

What If Columbus encourages users to contemplate, articulate, and share their visions for Columbus through a collage of prompts and images that have been selected to explore infrastructures of cities of the future. The resulting submissions are then collected and digitally shared with community leaders with the intention that the visions can offer decision makers inspiration and insight into new concepts for the city’s future. Just as the Republic Building across the street was designed as a metaphor for transparency within the fourth estate, What If Columbus explores free speech and the public sphere in our digital age.

Thank U, Next by LA-Mas

Thank U, Next serves as a destination for people from all parts of the city and from all backgrounds to have shared experiences. This project thanks civic leaders and past architects for their highly formal contributions to Washington Street, but also looks to create the next precedent for an alternative that is welcoming to a full range of socio-economic diversity. An urban plaza that is flexible, reconfigurable, and playful—the installation is designed to provide a place for social and cultural togetherness through a calendar of community-based programming that brings Washington Street to life with a bold spirit of inclusivity.

Jungle Subtraction by People for Urban Progress

Jungle Subtraction invites us to consider how our ideal streetscape might be designed today through a series of reflective panels surrounding public infrastructure and trees along an entire city block. Inspired by Alexander Girard’s vision wherein he proposed the repainting and reworking of storefront elements, this project is an architecture of subtraction intended to visually erase or edit the urban landscape of Washington Street.

Las Abejas by PienZa Sostenible

Bees are integral to our food and environment, and yet they are facing an uncertain future due to habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change. Based in Mexico, one of the leading exporters and producers of apiculture products worldwide, PienZa Sostenible is dedicated to the protection of bees. In a model similar to their ReConstruir México initiative, Las Abejas brings together internationally-renowned Mexican architects and craftsmen to create bee houses that encourage a relationship with ecology and to bring awareness to the world’s declining bee population. Nestled among the honey locust trees in Dan Kiley’s landscape, four bee houses designed by Alberto Kalach, Tatiana Bilbao Studio, Rozana Montiel Arquitectos, and Manuel Cervantes Estudio ask us to consider the importance of bees everywhere.

[sc:pullout-text-end][sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”University installations” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

The University Design Research Fellowships highlight current research by leading professors of architecture and design working at public institutions in the Midwest. Exhibit Columbus awarded six fellowships to professors representing eight universities.

Understorey at North Christian Church by Viola Ago (Ohio State University) and Hans Tursack (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

Understorey is an ecological education center highlighting samples of Southern Indiana’s geological composition. The design plays with the recognizable elements of a greenhouse—prefabricated materials, plants, and artificial lighting—and recasts them as both a sculptural gesture and educational tool nested beneath the built canopy of Eero Saarinen’s North Christian Church, and the natural umbrella of Dan Kiley’s landscape.

Playscape at The Commons by Sean Ahlquist (University of Michigan)

Designed to engage neurodiverse individuals, such as those with autism spectrum disorder, Playscape is a series of sensory-responsive moments made of custom-knitted fabrics and interactive lighting. Through extensive cross-disciplinary research, this installation embraces the beneficial aspects of hyper-awareness to environmental stimuli helping to foster a balanced state of well-being. Playscape gives individuals the agency to craft their own sensory experiences within an environment that offers opportunities for social and collaborative play.

DE|stress at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church by Christopher A. Battaglia (Ball State University)

DE|stress is a 3D-printed concrete shell of 110 unique panels. Computationally optimized to its specific form and place, DE|stress adopts innovative technologies in pursuit of concrete construction that is more sustainable, formally responsive, and flexible. The vaulted space invites community collaboration, gathering, and activity under the shade, as well as providing an ideal place to admire the surroundings as framed by its arches.

The Long Now at First Christian Church by Sean Lally (University of Illinois at Chicago) and Matthew Wizinsky (University of Cincinnati)

The Long Now is a combination of two experiences: one physical and one digital. The space includes embedded heating and full spectrum lighting that creates an environment tuned for human wellbeing. Through augmented reality, 120 years of local climate data is reimagined as a digital form under the existing tree canopy. Shifting light particles above represent potential changes in solar radiation and the Earth’s atmosphere, while speculative plant life materializes in the grass. The Long Now is an exploration of a world always being designed and negotiated, where concepts of environment and body are moments within a larger arch of time.

Entry Portal at The Republic Building by Daniel Luis Martinez and Etien Santiago (Indiana University)

Entry Portal is an experiential passageway inviting guests to visit the J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program’s public gallery and to enjoy events held at the school. While the Republic Building is set back from the urban fabric of the city and has discreet entrances, this installation serves as a bold new gateway—an embodiment of the school’s desire to extend a welcoming hand to the local community and visitors alike. Of course, doors open both ways, and Entry Portal equally encourages students to engage with and learn from Columbus’ unparalleled architectural heritage, and the community that made it possible.

UTK Filament Tower at North Christian Church by Marshall Prado (University of Tennessee)

The UTK Filament Tower advances the fields of computational design and robotic fabrication of lightweight fiber composites into one of the tallest structures of its kind. Standing at over 30 feet high, the tower reimagines the hexagonal spire form pronounced in North Christian Church and natural fibrous structures found in nature. By advancing architectural uses of carbon fiber that require less material for equal or greater strength than traditional building materials, the installation opens future possibilities for sustainable and innovative construction and design.

[sc:pullout-text-end][sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”Miller Prize installations” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

The J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prize is the centerpiece of Exhibit Columbus’ exhibition and symposium and honors two great  Columbus community patrons. Recipients are international leaders that were selected for their commitment to the transformative power that architecture, art, and design has to improve people’s lives and make cities better places to live. Each studio has been paired with a significant downtown site to create new forms that allow us to rediscover their purpose, while further connecting people to place and community.

XX at AT&T Facility by Agency Landscape + Planning

Inspired by the facility’s historical transitions, both physical and symbolic, and by Xenia S. Miller’s – influence on Columbus, XX connects and uncovers hidden stories, particularly those of women. A temporary landscape planted in partnership with the community reintroduces life, memorializing the flora that was once a prominent feature of the streetscape. Modular benches made from trusses, designed to evoke the truss structures that once framed the AT&T Facility building, adapt to community-driven events and activities. Through this resurgence, XX brings us together in celebration of the women who have changed our lives and shaped our cities.

Soft Civic at Columbus City Hall by Bryony Roberts Studio

Soft Civic responds to both the architectural geometry of City Hall and its symbolic role as the center of civic leadership in the community. Custom-fabricated structures with colorful woven surfaces activate the public spaces around the building’s main entrance as destinations for play, performance, and participation. Soft Civic invites a range of impromptu activities and also hosts a series of events created in partnership with community organizations, including youth leadership meetings, public discussions on democracy, and music performances. The use of woven rope explores how a nontraditional building material can perform at an architectural scale. The soft, tactile qualities of the woven surfaces encourage playfulness and interaction at a site of governance.

Untitled at Cleo Rogers Memorial Library Plaza by Frida Escobedo Studio

Public plazas are the community’s place to gather for dialogue, performance, and exchange. Untitled transforms Cleo Rogers Memorial Library Plaza with an elevated garden terrace designed for exploration, improvisation, and play. Using the rigid geometries of Pei’s design as a formal point of departure, interlocking metal curves form an organic puzzle-piece-like landscape that encourages conversation and relaxation. As native grasses and wildflowers change over time, the public too will adapt and discover new ways to experience this installation.

Corn/Meal at Central Middle School by MASS Design Group

Fifty percent of the habitable surface of our planet is dedicated to food production. It is the world’s largest industry, yet our cultural, spiritual, and historical relationship to how we cook and what we eat is largely disconnected. Corn / Meal asks us to reflect on how we can strengthen our relationship with our food, taking familiar elements of the American Heartland — a field of corn and the classic picnic table — and shaping them into an interactive landscape of living architecture where students and the public alike are invited to reconnect to what we eat and how we cook.

Into the Hedge at Bartholomew County Courthouse Lawn by SO-IL

Inspired by the Dan Kiley landscape at Saarinen’s iconic Miller House and Garden, in particular the dense hedgerow of Arbor Vitae that make up the perimeter, this installation playfully re-interprets elements of the modernist landscape as an interactive environment. A grid of 130 living Arbor Vitae trees planted in a large-scale hammock structure on the Bartholomew County Courthouse Lawn, create an inviting space for gathering, and a welcoming landmark at the gateway to downtown. Rather than using the hedge as a divider, the installation invites people in, and creates a responsive and playful environment out of the Miller House hedge.

[sc:pullout-text-end][sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”And more…” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

High School Design Team / Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.

A High School Design Team presents DENCITY, reflecting the connection between diversity and density in Columbus. The pillars represent the growth of both aspects within the community and the design takes inspiration from the Bartholomew County Veteran’s Memorial, as well as the campanile of First Christian Church and the facade of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, both of which are visible from this site. Rooted around a single tree, the columns vary in height, shape, and space depicting the disbursement of the community away from the city center. The central pillars represent the voices of youth in Columbus today, and features a collage of artwork created by high school students throughout the county.

Environmental Design and Exhibition Wayfinding

The Environmental Design and Wayfinding unifies the many facets of the exhibition through a system of color-coded installation kiosks and an exhibition guide design by Chicago-based Thirst, with complimentary guides in the form of a Family Activity Guide designed by Rosten Woo, and the Hear/Here app created by Halsey Burgund. Exhibit Columbus considers Environmental Design and Wayfinding as the 18th installation as it forms a continuous language that serves to inspire, educate, and connect to Exhibit Columbus’ purpose and the exhibition theme.