COLUMBUS, Ind. — Columbus’ belly button soon will see a lot of exposure. And it could show that the small city with a lot of skin in the game of Modernist architecture knows very well how to unbutton and unwind.
Such is the partial view of accomplished architect Vishaan Chakrabarti of New York’s Practice for Architecture and Urbanism. He was among the top Miller Prize speakers at Saturday’s Exhibit Columbus Design Presentations at The Commons for the fall exhibition “Public By Design.” The exhibition will feature 13 temporary installations created near spots of significant local structures or landscapes — all with the idea of the new creations being inspired in some way by the existing landmarks.
The four Miller Prize winners are considered the centerpieces of the event slated from Aug. 25 through November.
PAU’s piece will stand at the corner of Fourth and Washington streets downtown — a spot he said local residents in personal meetings, Zoom gatherings and elsewhere repeatedly told him they know as the “belly button” of the city’s downtown.
In Chakrabarti’s presentation, he flashed an image of the circular area of Fourth and Washington hosting a drumming circle during a recent Ganesh festival as just one example of diverse gatherings there.
“We heard again and again from people that they wanted to see a place of repose there,” he said.
So he presented “Interoculos,” a canopy structure that he said is inspired by nearby Zaharakos’ ice cream sundaes and the wigwams of the Miami and Shawnee people who settled Indiana. The canopy, to be made of material still to be determined, will feature a ceiling for projected images and an oculus that seemed to harken to a similar opening in the roof of Eero Saarinen’s North Christian Church.
PAU’s work is just like nearly every other presentation Saturday — still being formed by the public’s questions and suggestions in keeping with the “Public By Design” curatorial theme.
An estimated crowd of about 350 people, matching the crowd size for the pre-pandemic gathering for the 2019 event, attended the day-long affair.
“That’s a great crowd — especially for competing with a sunny Saturday,” said Richard McCoy, executive director of the nonprofit Landmark Columbus Foundation, Exhibit Columbus’ umbrella agency.
Exhibit Columbus is an exploration of community, architecture, art, and design that activates the modern legacy of Columbus. In the past, it has attracted an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 people over a three-month period. Plus, for the first time in decades, it has sparked an architectural zeal among the city’s younger residents posting installation images all over social media.
And it also has generated renewed global publicity for Columbus’ Modernist impact.
For the complete story and more photos, see Monday’s Republic.