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Girard fabric design in The Miller House

Alexander Girard and Columbus

Selections from publications that discuss Girard’s work in Columbus.

Girard and Columbus

The Irwin-Sweeney-Miller family was pursuing its own vision. After retaining architect Alexander Girard to renovate the drab Victorian storefronts on Columbus’s main drag—Girard used “daring” paint schemes to liven up the building facades—the family engaged Los Angeles-based architect Cesar Pelli and a Chicago shopping-mall developer to draw up plans for a new “superblock” in the heart of the downtown. As it turned out, this effort would take several years, extending into the early 1970s. But through these and related initiatives, mostly concentrated in the downtown area, the Cummins Engine Foundation, the company, and its founding family played a central role in defending Columbus against the dis-investment and decay that increasingly were afflicting American cities in the 1960s. Indeed, the small southern Indiana city emerged as a showcase for contemporary American architecture.

  • The Engine that Could By Jeffrey L. Cruikshank, David B. Sicilia, Cummins, p. 237

(At North Christian Church), Alexander Girard designed a tapestry, candelabra, and plant stands.

  • Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future, By Eero Saarinen, Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen, Donald Albrecht, p. 216

Miller House exhibit at The Vitra Museum, among the world’s leading museums of design.
Photo by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra.

Girard and The Miller House

Girard can lay claim to inventing the conversation pit — as evidenced by his 1955 interior design for J. Irwin Miller’s Columbus, Indiana, home designed by Eero Saarinen.

  • Dwell magazine, Feb. 2008, p. 98

Saarinen turned over the interior design details to Alexander Girard, who enlivened the rigorous architecture with brightly colored rugs, pillows, and wall hangings. “He made the house a home,” says Roche. “His sense of color was remarkable.” Behind the cylindrical fireplace in the living room, Girard designed storage cabinets for the Millers’ collection of antiques and art from all over the world. For seating, he sunk a fifteen-foot-square conversation pit into the floor “The kids had overnight pajama parties in there,” recalls Irwin Miller.

  • Classic Modern: Midcentury Modern at Home By Deborah Dietsch

Alexander Girard’s work imbued modern interiors with strong colors and playful patterns that brought warmth and comfort to rooms that might otherwise have seemed severe and uninviting. For the Miller House, Girard designed a wide range of interior architectural details, including a 50-foot long main storage wall and the conversation pit, as well as a seasonally changing program of textiles that enlivened the interiors. Working with Xenia Miller, he selected ornaments and antiques to personalize the house. He also designed several rugs for the house, including one composed of emblems that represent family history and associations. There are ‘Y’s for Yale (Mr. Miller’s alma-mater), representations for each child, and additional symbols of meaning to the family. Some of the chair cushions designed by Girard also feature the initials of family members. His passion for folk art is also visible in the objects chosen for the interior of the house.

  • from Indianapolis Museum of Art website

Through the late nineties…Mr. Miller would have his mail sent home and work out of the former gardener’s shed that Alexander Girard had redesigned.

  • from The Cathedral Builder By Charles E. Mitchell Rentschler, p. 152

Elizabeth G. Miller recalls…”Sandro would take (my mother) up and down Second Avenue in New York and say, ‘Get out of the car and go into that antique store. Come out in fifteen minutes and tell me the three items that are the best in there.’ It scared her if she didn’t get the three best. It was a fabulous education. She did have a good eye in the end, and her eye was trained by Sandro…”

  • from Alexander Girard, A Designer’s Universe, p. 296, by Alexandra Lange

Girard pulled a lot of weight in turning Columbus into a modern architecture mecca, designing homes, offices, and a Main Street for its chief architectural patron J. Irwin Miller. Girard also worked alongside George Nelson and Charles Eames at Herman Miller (no relation to the Indiana Millers).

More about Girard

For many of the 21 years Alexander Girard worked for furnishings giant Herman Miller, the absurdly prolific designer spent his days alone in his studio, crafting what were to become icons of mid-century textile designs…Until 1973 Girard was the company’s head textile guru, producing patterns to befit the furniture designs of his buddies like Charles and Ray Eames and Eero Saarinen, though his prowess extended far beyond silk screens and Jujube-like geometries. He had three architecture degrees, spoke eight languages, collected folk art, and crafted holistic and huge-scale design campaigns.
Experience the Vivid ‘Daydream’ of a Midcentury Textile Icon

  • from Curbed.com

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link to Girard Pinterest board

View a Pinterest board of Girard’s work in Columbus.