Panorama photo of Smith School, by Thomas Schiff
QUICK LINKS TO THE SITES, IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER
- Smith Elementary, John M. Johansen, 1969
- Southside Elementary, Eliot Noyes, 1969
- Mount Healthy Elementary, Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates, 1972
- Columbus East High School, Mitchell-Giurgola, 1972
- Columbus Signature Academy, Fodrea Campus, Paul Kennon, 1973
- Clifty Creek Elementary, Richard Meier, 1982
- Hope Elementary, Taft Architects, 1989
- Schmitt Elementary addition, Leers and Weinzapfel, 1991
- Northside Middle School addition, Leers-Weinzapfel, 1991
- Columbus Learning Center, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, 2005
- Central Middle School, Ralph Johnson, 2007
- Advanced Manufacturing Ctr., Cesar Pelli, 2011
Schmitt Elementary, Harry Weese, 1957
2675 California Street, Columbus
This was the first building constructed under the Cummins architecture program. The Baby Boom was in full swing, the need for new schools in Columbus was a growing concern. J. Irwin Miller, as the CEO of Cummins Engine Co. made an offer to the school board to pay the architect’s design fees for a new school with an architect chosen by the school board from a list provided by Cummins. The Lillian Schmitt Elementary School launched what would become the Cummins Foundation Architecture Program. The school was completed in 1957 and led the way for many more schools and public buildings to have their design fees paid by the Cummins Foundation.
This school (like most of our elementary schools) was named for a beloved community educator, Miss Lillian C. Schmitt who taught in the Columbus school system for 43 years. The original 1957 building consisted of a kindergarten area and 12 classrooms designed by Harry Weese in close collaboration with Brewster (Bruce) Adams. In the center of the structure was a hexagonal multi-purpose room. Weese kept the building low to the ground much like the houses in the surrounding neighborhood so as not to overwhelm the children in their introduction to school. The building is a natural blend of brick, glass and wood with a peaked roofline on each classroom designed to resemble a little house.
McDowell Adult Education, John Carl Warnecke, 1960
2700 McKinley Ave, Columbus
John Carl Warnecke designed McDowell in 1960 as an elementary school with four cluster buildings that had three classrooms each and connecting open-air walkways. The school became an adult education center in 1982. It was designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service in 1999.
Northside Middle School, Harry Weese, 1961
1400 27th St, Columbus
This three-story building is distinguished by the repetitive use of brick arches (on the interior as well as the exterior) over the windows. It is very reminiscent of the old Mooney Tannery which used to sit in the Mill Race Park area. The building is a compact rectangle of brick and masonry bearing wall construction. Harry Weese described the building as “a firm statement of the dignity and prominence in the community that a school should possess.” This three-story building is in contrast to the sprawling, mostly one-level, schools built during this time period. Unlike many architects, Harry Weese buildings never had a definitive signature look, which might become identified as “Weese.” Each of his buildings were an attempt to solve the unique design problem at hand.
Read more, and see more photos, here >
Parkside Elementary, Norman Fletcher, 1962
1400 Parkside Drive, Columbus
Norman Fletcher, of the Architects Collaborative, designed the school in 1962 with a series of barrel vaults using wood beams, wood planking, and steel columns, creating an umbrella effect. The same architectural device is repeated in the central section and the barrel vault roof of the gymnasium.
The addition in 1990, also by Fletcher, is seamless by using the same style of barrel vaults.
The school is raised on a two-foot podium of earth, with recessed courtyards and play areas, to provide a change from the surrounding flat terrain.
The brick classroom wings feature deep laminated wood beams that project beyond the exterior wall to provide shading to the large windows and clerestory windows below.
Behind the school, Freedom Field was specially designed to be entirely handicapped accessible, allowing the interaction of physically challenged and able-bodied children and parents.
Richards Elementary, Edward Larrabee Barnes, 1965
3311 FairlawnDrive, Columbus
Like most of our elementary schools, this was named for a beloved local educator. William Dalbert Richards (1884-1957) was a native of Bartholomew County and a teacher and principal in Columbus Elementary schools for 45 years. Design fees for the building were provided by the Cummins Foundation Architectural Program. Richards features a distinctive roofline of bold slopes forming a saw-toothed silhouette meant to be reminiscent of the factories of our industrial heritage.
The playground area behind the school featured a sculpture entitled “Horses” by Constantino Nivola. The sculpture, which was donated by Mr and Mrs J. Irwin Miller, consisted of 12 stylized black, brown, and white miniature fiberglass horses surrounding an ash tree, like a merry-go-round. Unfortunately they did not hold up well and eventually had to be removed.
Lincoln Elementary, Gunnar Birkerts, 1967
750 5th Street, Columbus (located directly across the street from Birkerts’ St. Peter’s Church)
The AIA (American Institute of Architects) gave this building an Honor award in 1970, one of five recognized in Columbus by the AIA.
Architects seldom are working in a vacumn and indulging their own architectural visions: they have to tailor their concepts to meet the specific and unique needs of each client. Designing Lincoln gave Birkerts the challenge of building a school for elementary children that was very close to downtown along a busy traffic street. The school board wanted a building with a playground area protected from traffic along with green space all on a rather small single square block site. They also expressed the desire to keep the scale small out of respect to the mostly residential area that was there at the time. It was also important to be a good neighbor to the adjacent Irwin House and Gardens.
Birkerts solution was what he termed as a “introverted schoolhouse with a simple brick facade”. He designed it to fit into its surroundings without drawing undue attention to itself. The building is actually lowered half a level underground with a sunken court around the exterior. From the street it visually appears a a one story building with direct access to both levels. Birkerts always liked to design with concepts of opposites and of geometry. An aerial view of Lincoln shows it as a square within a circle within a square. The square building is surrounded by a circular concrete retaining wall and a circular ring of little leaf linden trees to give it a park-like quality. It is surrounded again by the square of the city block on which it sits. Some say a “birds eye” view of the building shows it as a “square peg in a round hole.”
The area between the school walls and the retaining ring were reserved as a protected area for the youngest students. Beyond the ring of trees are larger play spaces for the bigger kids. The playground area is enclosed within a 3-foot earth berm.
This was the first school building in the entire country to provide handicapped access to both levels via ramps and elevator. Years before ADA requirements, this building featured extra wide doors, an elevator and self-contained classrooms. This building won the Bartlett Award in 1970 which recognizes buildings designed for full-time use by the physically challenged.
Smith Elementary, John M. Johansen, 1969
4505 Waycross Drive, Columbus
John M. Johansen designed this innovative school in 1969, featuring brightly painted steel ramps or “gerbil tubes” connecting the multi-levels of the reinforced concrete and bronze-tone corrugated steel structure. His son, Christian Johansen, designed the expansion and renovation in 1997.
The John M. Johansen website says:
Mid-Century Modern Architectural Pioneer John M Johansen FAIA has been creating award-winning, controversial architecture for over 70 years. Last of the famed “Harvard Five” and widely recognized as one of America’s most innovative modern architects, Johansen has continually drawn upon his inquisitive mind, passionate drive, and integrative sense of design – always utilizing cutting edge materials and technologies – to produce extraordinary architecture. Now in his 95th year, Johansen is creating designs for the future when a “new species of architecture” – nanoarchitecture – will emerge.
Columbus tour guide Henry Kuehn writes, in his book Architectects’ Gravesites, about Johansen:
Johansen studied architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design under Walter Gropius and, in fact, married Gropius’ daughter. Johansen became associated with other modernists from the school, such as Marcel Breuer, Philip Johnson, and Eliot Noyes (see Southside school below).
Southside Elementary, Eliot Noyes, 1969
1320 West 200 South, Columbus, IN 47201
Southside School was created in the Brutalist style, a term derived from the French phrase “béton brut,” meaning raw concrete. It typically refers to large forms constructed of poured and unfinished concrete. In December 2017, Architectural Digest wrote, “For decades brutalist architecture was a symbol of the underclass. Soulless, gray, crumbling concrete structures were something to escape from. Today, however, brutalism is back in style. In an age where gentrification is a dirty word, these hulking masses represent an extraordinary period of incredible optimism and determination to use architecture to transform society.”
Eliot Noyes designed the school with energy conservation in mind. The exterior and interior walls are of pre-cast concrete and were allowed to remain in their natural state. minimizing maintenance of these surfaces. The monolithic exterior walls are pre-cast concrete that are weight bearing as well as providing sunshading of the windows. Building materials used were pre-cast concrete, reinforced concrete, and concrete block
The stark concrete interior spaces are warmed and enlivened by walnut-stained oak woodwork and furniture with carpeted hallways and classrooms and a slate floor in the commons area. Lighting (both natural and man made) were used in imaginative ways to make up for the lack of finish and ornamentation on the walls.
Entering the main entrance at the intermediate level, one encounters the centerpiece of the building: the sunny, central, enclosed courtyard – the commons. The commons is a two-story skylighted area in the center of the building. Noyes saw the building as a city with the commons area as its town square.
On the commons stairwell walls are brightly-colored abstract murals designed by Ivan Chermayeff and commissioned by Mr. and Mrs. J. Irwin Miller. Chermayeff was an artist who had worked previously with Noyes on some of his industrial design work.
In 1983, the school was converted to an elementary school to meet the changing needs in the area.
Mount Healthy Elementary, Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates, 1972
12150 State Road 58, Columbus
Mt. Healthy Elementary is one of our “country schools”. Although located along Indiana State Road 58 between Ogilville and Waymansville, it is a route seldom traveled by anyone but the residents of this southwestern area of Bartholomew County. espite its obscure location it’s a very interesting building designed by Hardy Holzman Pfieffer Associates (HHPA) and is one of the far flung outposts on our “official” architectural driving tour. Mt. Healthy School took its name from a former school in the area which in turn was named for an early settlement which no longer survives as a town.
HHPA designed the school which opened 1972 as a symbolic return to the idea of the old one-room schoolhouse where all the students of different levels would be learning in the same open space. It ushered in an era of open-concept school buildings in Columbus meant to be flexible and conducive to new ideas in learning. The lack of walls and traditional classrooms ultimately became too distracting and many schools reverted to more traditional methods of teaching. Our local school system, the Bartholomew Consolidated School System (BCSC), has never been afraid to tackle new innovations and techniques in teaching as well as building concepts. They have also been flexible enough to change directions when the new ideas didn’t quit fit with our community. That innovation continues with several local schools now configured as “Signature Academies” and “New Tech Schools.”
For its time period, the building was a very cutting-edge design with its open-concept plan enhanced by the exposed and brightly colored mechanical, structural and electrical elements. The support girders are orange, heating ducts are green, and the exposed plumbing pipes are yellow. Its offset pattern of roof and wall glazing (windows) assure that no two clusters have exactly the same enclosure. The intermediate cluster was the only area with large expanses of glass, two stories high with skylight-like projections and many small panes.
The building was officially dedicated on Nov 19th, 1972. At the dedication, architect Hugh Hardy said, “The building was planned to reflect the future, which is actually a combination of the present and the past, with the best parts of both.”
In 2002, a 12,400 square foot addition to the school, designed by local architect Nolan Bingham of the Paris Bingham Partnership, was completed along the State Road 58 side of the building.
Columbus East High School, Mitchell-Giurgola, 1972
230 S Marr Rd, Columbus
Columbus East High School was designed by Mitchell-Giurgola Architects in 1972. The sleek building is sandwiched in a white skin and rests on 52 acres. The large brick entries define the courtyard spaces and emphasize the role of the entry.
The AIA (American Institute of Architects) gave the building an Honor award in 1975, one of five recognized in Columbus by the AIA.
Columbus Signature Academy, Fodrea Campus, Paul Kennon, 1973
2775 Illinois Avenue, Columbus
Paul Kennon of Caudill Rowlett Scott designed the building in 1973 as a “people-centered” school. It was one of the first schools in the country to serve the dual purpose of education and as a gathering place for the community. It offers elementary education, recreation, and community-civic organization space.
As with other Columbus elementary schools, Fodrea was named for educators in the school system, Hazel, Bessie and Mabel Fodrea, three sisters who taught in the school system.
Clifty Creek Elementary, Richard Meier, 1982
4625 East 50 North, Columbus
“Clifty Creek Elementary sits high atop a sloping 22-acre site of very uneven terrain overlooking US 31 at the south edge of Columbus. The building is constructed using white-glazed tile blocks as a base, grey aggregate block above, and glass, unusual for a Meier design, as he usually prefers one color: white. People are often quite shocked to see this two-toned color scheme as well as an occassional splash of color inside. The interior is nearly all white as Meier felt that the children would provide the color thru their creations as well as their mere presence.
At the dedication on Sunday, November 7th, 1982, it was called the finest elementary school in the state of Indiana by T. Randall Tucker, a member of the Indiana Commission on General Education
Architect Richard Meier attended the dedication and modestly remarked that he hoped his then very young children would be able to attend a school as fine as this one.
Richard Meier’s office operates out of New York and Los Angeles. His team of six partners has completed over 130 projects throughout America, Europe, and Asia. He is considered one of the last practicing twentieth-century modernists.
Hope Elementary, Taft Architects, 1989
9575 North State Road 9, Hope, Indiana
Hope Elementary was designed by Taft Architects and is located on the outskirts of Hope. The architects gathered ideas from teachers, students, board members and the community to develop a building with sufficient storage, large windows, a regulation-sized gym, functionality and the ability to operate it economically.
Schmitt Elementary addition, Leers-Weinzapfel, 1991
2675 California Street, Columbus
The 1991 addition was designed by Andrea Leers and Jane Weinzapfel at the same time they were designing the addition to the nearby Northside Middle School, also by Harry Weese. The red steel in both structures complements other community projects, such as Mill Race Park and the gateway bridges. Leers, Weinzapfel & Associates were The American Institute of Architects 2007 recipients of the Architecture Firm of the Year Award.
- See a video of Jane Weinzapfel in a panel discussion in Columbus
Northside Middle School addition, Leers-Weinzapfel, 1991
1400 27th St, Columbus
The 1991 addition was designed by Andrea Leers and Jane Weinzapfel at the same time they were designing the addition to the nearby Schmitt School, also by Harry Weese. The red steel in both structures complements other community projects, such as Mill Race Park and the gateway bridges. Leers, Weinzapfel & Associates were The American Institute of Architects 2007 recipients of the Architecture Firm of the Year Award.
- See a video of Jane Weinzapfel in a panel discussion in Columbus
Columbus Learning Center, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, 2005
4555 Central Ave, Columbus
Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, Design Architect, Kevin Kennon former design partner.
The Columbus Learning Center is a multi-tenant education facility and community resource center. The design of the two-story building is inspired by the surrounding landscape that contains the simple forms of industrial factories, farmhouses, and silos. The new facility sits between two existing buildings (Ivy Tech Community College and Indiana University Purdue University Columbus) and acts as a bridge, creating movement between the buildings and thereby reducing their physical and psychological distance.
The goal is to capture people who are outside the educational system, bring them into a welcoming environment, and help them develop a personal curriculum. To achieve this goal, the building is visually accessible. The entry is an outdoor room framed by brick walls in the form of arms opening toward the community. Once inside the building, the interior opens up to the landscape beyond via a clear glass-enclosed public street that links the lobby to all services within the building. Along this light-filled spine are reception “intake” areas for the various tenants and wired lounges to encourage spontaneous interactions.
Central Middle School, Ralph Johnson, 2007
725 7th St, Columbus
Architect Ralph Johnson of Perkins + Will of Chicago designed this school for an urban site with an existing school still in place. The new school was built on the football field. The school serves 7th and 8th graders. Specialized classroom are on the west side and team classrooms are grouped on the east side. There are two gyms, a state-of-the-art-gray-box theatre, a large commons and cafeteria area that looks outside through large glass windows. Band and vocal music rooms face south with special glass that reduces solar glare and heat gain. Two lamp posts, as well as limestone carvings of “The Hope of Our Country” and “Central School” were incorporated into the New School from the original Central School. Multiple brick colors, overall massing and window pattern break down the big box school and help it fit in with the neighborhood and the Lincoln school next door. The old Central Middle School was demolished and 83% recycled during the summer of 2007. The new school opened on time and in budget in 2007.
Advanced Manufacturing Ctr., Cesar Pelli, 2011
4444 Kelly St, Columbus
The Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence (AMCE) is a state-of-the art education and workforce training center. About the new building, architect Cesar Pelli said, “I am excited to be designing a building again for Columbus, Indiana; a city that I much admire and love.”
The facility is designed for a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) curriculum, and contains integrated technology labs, classrooms, faculty offices, conference rooms and student/faculty common areas.
With two central outdoor courtyards, the interior is filled with natural light with large perimeter and courtyard windows. The glass is fritted to control heat gain and glare.
The building’s simple steel structure is expressed with the perimeter columns and the roof framing exposed at the overhangs. The silver metal panel exterior and interior walls are non-load bearing to allow for flexibility for future needs or technology changes.