From left, buildings designed by Koetter-Kim, Kevin Roche, Kevin Roche, Kevin Roche, Eero Saarinen
Panorama photo of Fifth and Jackson Street intersection, by Thomas Schiff
THE COLUMBUS INDIANA ARCHITECTURE STORY
The Chicago Tribune
Columbus is a small-town architectural mecca.
Conde Nast Traveler
One of the world’s best cities for architecture lovers.
Are we in Oz?
How was all this possible?
Find out why Columbus is “one of a kind” (1:30)
Watch the official Visitors Center video (7:40)
Learn about the art and architecture of Fifth Street, known as “The Avenue of the Architects” (4:56)
An unlikely collection of masterworks
Columbus is an improbable town. Every year thousands of visitors arrive to explore its streets and study its buildings, for it is one of the rare places on earth where the idea that architecture can improve the human condition has been put to the test. It’s a small, southern Indiana community with no apparent call to destiny that remarkably became an architectural “mecca.”
Columbus, Indiana, claims a collection that features some of the biggest names in modern art and architecture – which explains why the words “unexpected” and “unforgettable” are regularly overheard on the community’s streets.
The story begins with the leadership of a family with a vision and a program rooted in the words of Winston Churchill: “We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.”
The improbable numbers
Columbus is a city of only 46,000, yet The American Institute of Architects ranked it 6th in the nation for architectural innovation and design – right behind Chicago, New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. The visitor’s guide lists over 90 buildings and pieces of public art by internationally-noted architects and artists.
The Columbus story is regularly featured in national and international publications. Even if you are not an architecture buff, learning how this small town strives for excellence is both unique and inspiring. For those looking for bucket-list experiences, head straight to the Miller House and Garden Tour to experience the acclaimed masterpiece from the dream team of Eero Sarrinen, Dan Kiley, and Alexander Girard. The Visitors Center guided tours have been awarded a Certificate of Excellence by Tripadvisor.
Small town, big names
Since the early 1940s some of the world’s finest architects have made Columbus a virtual museum of modern architecture, with works by some of the most enduring names in architecture, like I.M. Pei, Richard Meier, Robert Venturi, Eliel and Eero Saarinen, Harry Weese, and Deborah Berke, just to name a few. And the public art sprinkled throughout the community includes works by artists such as Henry Moore, Dale Chihuly, Jean Tinguely, and Robert Indiana.
Pictured, Cesar Pelli in Columbus for dedication with Volunteer and former Tour Program Manager Joyce Orwin / Deborah Berke (Dean of Yale School of Architecture) enjoys showing Columbus to her Yale students
See a Pinterest board of artists and architects who have worked in Columbus.
Bloggers who write about, and love, architecture wrote about their visits to Columbus…
Best Architecture Tour Ever. Ever! Modernism architecture tour to end all tours.
Dazed and amazed at Columbus. I thought I knew this town already. It’s blowing me away up close like.
A thriving small town with strong community leadership – and some of the most drop-dead gorgeous public buildings you will ever see.
Home again after amazing tour of Columbus. Sad to leave such an amazing place.
- Learn about J. Irwin and Xenia Miller, community leaders and benefactors
- One small city – seven national historic landmarks!
- Learn about Exhibit Columbus
- View the guide to the Columbus art and architecture
- When Charles Osgood and CBS came to town
- A list of all the artists and architects with work in Columbus
- The Landscape architects of Columbus – Dan Kiley, Michael Van Valkenburg, Jack Curtis
- The Harry Weese legacy in Columbus
- Find out about the Paul Rand connection to Columbus, Indiana
- Read about The Cummins Foundation Architecture Program
- View hundreds of photos of Columbus
- About Charles Sparrell, creator of many Columbus historic buildings
- View the 2007 version of the Columbus Visitors Center video (15:15)