A full house: Exhibit Columbus marks its fourth opening with a sold out party at The Commons

Mike Wolanin | The Republic People gather for the Exhibit Columbus opening celebration at The Commons in Columbus, Ind., Friday, Aug. 25, 2023.

Granted, it represented a decidedly different interpretation of a jazz standard. But it somehow connected when the Indianapolis-based band Etc. launched into the classic “Misty” halfway through the Exhibit Columbus architectural exhibition’s opening celebration Friday.

Because this is a city decades into a heartfelt, watery-eyed, rich romance with its Modernist style and legacy known worldwide.

Even Columbus native and Cincinnati TV news anchor Kyle Inskeep, who served as the energetic emcee of the sold-out, 450-seat event at The Commons, acknowledged before taking the stage that he feels an emotional link to the town’s dreamy designs.

Others proclaimed the gathering, one launching the fourth such architectural exhibition since 2017, as dreamy itself.

“This is a very special night in Columbus, Indiana,” said Richard McCoy to open the festivities.

He’s executive director of Landmark Columbus Foundation, the nonprofit umbrella agency over Exhibit Columbus. The free, outdoor exhibition, “Public By Design,” features national and international architects’ 13 temporary installations spinning off an idea or concept from an existing local structure or landscape. Some are decorative and hard to miss such as New York City’s Practice for Architecture and Urbanism’s oversized “InterOculus” spread above the intersection of Fourth and Washington streets just outside from the event opener.

Others are a mix of the whimsical and sublime, such as the nearby “Pipe Up!” next to Hotel Indigo from a team from The Ohio State University Austin E. Knowlton School of Architecture and Iowa State University School of Design. It is marked by screaming pink hues and serious PVC piping to highlight groundwater infrastructure.

“We’ve heard nothing but positive feedback about all of the installations and all of the exhibition,” McCoy said.

Same for the opening celebration, which in previous Exhibit Columbus years of 2017, 2019 and 2021 had been held under a 700-person tent at Mill Race Park downtown.

Jeff Baker, who organized the kickoff with John Pickett, said he was pleased with how the evening, styled slightly like an awards show, unfolded.

“You never know what to expect when you’re doing a new venue for an event,” Baker said. “But this has worked out so well.”

Mayor Jim Lienhoop presented each of the exhibition’s 13 designers or teams with the trademark Exhibit Columbus baton. McCoy mentioned that the evening’s multiple stages and more were designed to make a very familiar 12-year-old building new again.

“We tried to put on a different show for people because we know that people have been here dozens of times,” McCoy said. “And so we asked ourselves: How do you have an event that makes you see this place a little differently?”