Editorial: InterOculus proves to be design for all seasons

Festival of Lights parade-goers watch fireworks from beneath the InterOculus structure at Fourth and Washington streets in downtown Columbus on Dec. 2.

The latest installment of the biennial Exhibit Columbus design and architecture celebration wrapped up last month, but the event has left perhaps its most remarkable reminder to date.

“InterOculus, the popular, hard-to-miss, often colorfully illuminated crowning creation at Fourth and Washington streets in downtown Columbus, is staying put,” The Republic’s Brian Blair reported last week.

The towering, domelike structure seemed to capture the public’s imagination at the kickoff of this year’s Exhibit Columbus. It served as the backdrop to a block party that spilled from The Commons during its official debut this summer. Throughout this year’s Exhibit Columbus, InterOculus was a striking focal point for an event dedicated to advancing community involvement and thoughtful design.

“The Miller Prize installation, designed primarily by architect Vishaan Chakrabarti of New York City’s Practice for Architecture and Urbanism, immediately became a community gathering place when Exhibit Columbus hosted a street dance Aug. 26 underneath the work. The event attracted a pluralistic, partying throng representing a blending of the city’s rich, ethnic diversity,” Blair wrote.

Last week, the city agreed to accept the donation of InterOculus from the nonprofit Landmark Columbus Foundation, which oversees Exhibit Columbus. Separately, the city also accepted a three-year agreement with Ovation Technology Group to maintain InterOculus’ four colored lights and their operation at Ovation’s expense.

This was welcome news for people in our community who had been drawn to the structure since it seemingly rose up overnight in the heart of downtown. But showing itself to be a structure for all seasons, InterOculus also seemed to fit right in during last weekend’s Festival of Lights Parade. Attendees witnessed its custom lighting playing on the fabric dome of InterOculus, accentuating the parade’s illumination and adding yet another unique element to the festivities.

“We at PAU are thrilled that the Columbus community made the decision to keep InterOculus well beyond its original time frame,” Chakrabarti said from his New York office. “This popular embrace is proof that community-based, connective design is meaningful to people’s lives.

Meanwhile, Blair also reported that another Miller Prize Exhibit Columbus temporary installation, PORT’s The Plot Project, forming an arc of native vegetation around Mill Race Center at Mill Race Park, also will become permanent. Finally, the High School Design Team’s installation, Machi, near Sixth and Washington streets, will be moved to a permanent location in a Martinsville park, according to Landmark Columbus Director Richard McCoy. Machi contains movable chairs, tables, and more that allow every person to customize their own gathering space.

These are all excellent outcomes. Exhibit Columbus projects that were “Public by Design” will be making lasting impressions for years to come.