Highlights of Media Coverage of Columbus, Indiana
If buildings could talk
The Architect’s Newspaper
“…if buildings could talk, Columbus would be a good place to go for a group conversation. The sheer quantity of monuments designed by some of the greatest 20th-century architects is astonishing. More remarkable is that they’re almost all public and institutional buildings … 0ne local resident compared Columbus to Palm Springs, except in reverse: In Palm Springs the architectural sites are all private houses, while in Columbus it’s for everyone”
Saving Two Saarinen Churches
“The citizens of Columbus will be taking on an unusual proposition: A public, community-wide effort to save the buildings of two private churches.”
A True STarter Home
“In Indiana, a riff on a 20th-century ranch, designed to be affordable for a household earning the median U.S. income, brings a true starter home to the market rather than maximize the habitable square footage on its lot.”
An American Makeover
“These cities stand out, showcasing multiple examples of urban experimentation and reinvention. But every urban area in this overview proves that new sources of change and inspiration are everywhere if we look beyond our familiar bubbles.”
St. Louis magazine
“Miller’s former home, now named The Miller House, is considered to be one of the most important mid-century modern residences in the nation”
Modernist Fan's Heaven
Listen to the podcast
“Like Marfa, Texas is for artists, Columbus is a modernist architecture fan’s heaven with an astonishing lineup of buildings by celebrated architects.”
Weese Bank reimagined
See it in The Architect’s Newspaper
“…the reuse of the old Irwin Union and Trust building at Eastbrook Plaza is one of several notable recent preservation-related triumphs in Columbus.”
Read the full story in Forbes
“…remarkable defines Columbus, Indiana . . . Remarkable industry . . . Remarkable diversity . . . Remarkable humanity.”
Thinking Big, Going Small
Read the full story in Indianapolis Monthly
“Columbus is obviously a special place for architecture . . . After Chicago, I don’t think there’s a better place in the Midwest.”
Considering that it’s such a small town, it’s an amazing place to visit…It’s an incredible architectural town, and the whole place has that kind of vibe to it.
Conde Nast Traveler says…
(Columbus is) one of the world’s best cities for architecture lovers … a surprising trove of modernism: The town claims more than seventy buildings designed by star architects, including I.M. Pei, Eero Saarinen, and Richard Meier…
Peering around in Columbus, the puzzle acquires Easter Island proportions. Are we in Oz? How was all this possible?
Eric Saarinen says…
(Columbus is) probably the most jam-packed Modernist architectural small place in the country. (Eric Saarinen is a Los Angeles filmmaker and son of Eero Saarinen)
The 55 Most Beautiful Small Towns in America
- “With just over 50,000 residents, Columbus, Indiana, is one of the biggest small towns included here, but no list of this type would be complete without it. Best known for its impressive collection of modernist buildings, the city is an architectural gem in the midwest. Many of the most notable architects from middle of the century—think I.M. Pei, Eero and Eliel Saarinen, Harry Weese, Kevin Roche, and Robert Venturi, to name a few—helped shape the design of the town. Walking through the downtown area, strollers will also find plenty of public artwork from makers like Dale Chihuly, Henry Moore, and Jean Tinguely…
- Architectural Digest, Sep 2022
The Wall Street Journal
Where Is America Diversifying the Fastest?
- “The Journal calculated a diversity index for each of the nation’s more than 3,000 counties…Nationwide, the diversity index rose 22% during the past decade. Bartholomew County, which includes Columbus, recorded a 67% gain and was among the fastest in the nation to diversify.”
- “Efforts to create a diverse workforce at Cummins started more than a half-century ago when J. Irwin Miller, then the company’s chairman, began actively recruiting, hiring and promoting Black workers. (Mr. Miller was among the organizers of the 1963 March on Washington led by Martin Luther King Jr.) That thinking later became an effort that encouraged the hiring of immigrants, including engineers from India and elsewhere in Asia.”
- The Wall Street Journal, August 13, 2021
discover columbus, indiana’s architectural legacy and landmarks by eero saarinen, I.M. pei, and robert venturi
- “For a city of just over 47,000 people, Columbus, Indiana certainly packs an architectural punch. regularly described as an ‘architectural mecca,’ the american city welcomes thousands of visitors each year, who arrive to explore its streets and study its buildings. with a roster that includes eero saarinen, I.M. Pei, Robert Venturi, and SOM, the city claims a collection of landmarks designed by some of the biggest names in architecture.”
- Read the June 2021 article, see the photos in Design Boom
An Architecture-Lover’s Road Trip Guide Through Indiana
- “The Hoosier State is a surprising gold mine for great 20th-century architecture and design.”
- “There’s so much eye candy…the city offers tours of all this and more, including J. Irwin and Xenia Miller’s legendary home by architect Eero Saarinen.”
- By Rima Suqi, Oct 2020
Exhibit Columbus to explore middle America and beyond
- “This year’s prize winners include a selection of dynamic, US-based and international practices: Dream the Combine from Minneapolis, USA, ecosistema urbano from Miami and Madrid, Spain, Future Firm from Chicago, USA, Olalekan Jeyifous from Brooklyn, USA and Sam Jacob Studio from London, UK.
- Wallpaper, August 2020, by Ellie Stathaki
The Rust Belt Didn’t Have to Happen
- “Columbus, Indiana, thrived while other cities declined, because J. Irwin Miller, its wealthiest and most prominent industrialist, remained deeply rooted in and committed to his city. He used his clout, money, and a visionary progressive approach to build up Columbus for long-term success.”
- “The results speak for themselves. Cummins has remained a successful global enterprise. And Columbus has prospered, never experiencing a major period of decline. Today it’s still growing in population and adding jobs faster than the nation as a whole. It’s more educated than the country at large and boasts a GDP per capita higher than Portland, Minneapolis, and Houston.”
- “Still, thanks to Miller’s and Cummins’s decades-long commitments, Columbus is in a place most other Midwest manufacturing towns can only envy. America has a lot to relearn from them about what it actually takes to build long-term community prosperity.”
- By Aaron M. Renn, Dec. 30th, 2019
The New York Times
Skateboarding in Style
- “Columbus, Ind., is known as a mecca of postwar modern architecture, with churches, libraries, and post offices designed by Eliel and Eero Saarinen, I.M. Pei, Harry Weese and a host of other big names. The city’s latest destination is somewhat smaller: a skatepark, albeit one with an international design pedigree.”
- “The podcast ’99 Percent Invisible’ got Mr. Saario the job: Jonathan Nesci, a designer who lives in Columbus and is the father of a skater, cold-emailed the architect after listening to ‘The Pool and the Stream,’ a 2017 episode about the connection between curvaceous swimming pools and skatepark design featuring Mr. Saario.”
- Oct. 1, 2019, by Alexandra Lange
Exhibit Columbus Will Change Your Perspective
- “Columbus is one of the few places in Indiana where you can think about the identity of place. Where the everyday architecture is extraordinary. Where art critics and Instagrammers alike can see and explore and dream new ideas for their own hometown. But that’s a little long for a billboard.”
- Sep 20, 2019, by Dawn Olsen, Indianapolis Monthly
A small Indiana town boosts its big architectural legacy – Columbus is a surprising mecca of Modernist design
- “Some argue that America’s best city for architecture is Chicago. Others favour Miami’s Art Deco legacy, the dilapidated elegance of New Orleans or the jumbled cosiness of San Francisco. But to see the greatest collection of Modernist masterpieces in the smallest space, fly to Indianapolis and drive south-east for about an hour to Columbus…”
- “Columbus also showcases its legacy in the care paid to design in its elegant downtown.”
- Sep 12, 2019, The Economist
Main-Street Modern: How Columbus, Indiana, Became a Design Capital
- “As unlikely as it sounds, Columbus, Indiana, is a citadel of design … Columbus is a bastion of Midwest, main-street Modernism.”
- “Exhibit Columbus feels different from other design festivals … mostly missing is the high-strung academic bafflegab that attends events in New York or Paris or Dubai. The language of design is accessible here.”
- “In a way, this festival brings the Columbus story full circle. Before he seeded the city with Modernist wonders, Miller helped to shore up the Civil Rights Movement. The Cummins executive was a founder and president of the National Council of Churches, which supported Martin Luther King, Jr.’s campaigns. Miller participated in anti-segregation demonstrations, paid bail for activists in the Deep South, and personally led delegations that met with John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson to voice religious support for racial justice.”
- By Kriston Capps, Sep 3, 2019, CITYLAB
These 10 Iconic Buildings Will Be Conserved by the Getty Foundation
- “The hope for every architect is that their work is appreciated and preserved. Now, thanks to a generous $1.6 million grant from the Getty Foundation, 10 buildings will be conserved for, at the least, another generation to enjoy and be inspired by. As part of Keeping It Modern, an international grant initiative that helps to maintain major architectural achievements, the Getty Foundation will work with a panel of international experts to evaluate proposals and make funding recommendations for these 10 buildings.:
- In an unusual move, the Foundation selected two buildings in one city, Columbus – Eero Saarinen’s Miller House and North Christian Church
- By Nick Mafi, July 19, 2019, Architectural Digest
Postmodern and late modern architecture: The ultimate guide to
great architecture that’s often under-appreciated, misunderstood, and unprotected
- “This brick fire house was intended to be a functional and inexpensive space. Unlike many of their peers who competed for the commission from the Cummins Foundation in 1967, architects Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi delivered a design that actually met those criteria.”
- “The tower exemplifies Venturi’s “billboard architecture” concept, offering a flash of excitement on an otherwise bland roadway.”
- By Patrick Sisson Jun 4, 2019, read the article in Curbed
The Best-Designed Building in Every State – North Christian Church (Columbus, Indiana)
- “From an Olson Kundig–designed home in Idaho to Studio Gang’s Aqua Tower in Illinois, these structures stand out among all the rest in their respective state lines”
- “Designed by inimitable Eero Saarinen, North Christian Church was completed in 1964, three years after the architect’s death. The building, which takes on a hexagonal shape, culminates in the middle with a massive 192-foot spire. What’s perhaps lesser-known about this structure is that, unlike for most churches, many high-profile architects were interviewed by committee members in the congregation to select who could best complete the job. Ultimately, Eero Saarinen won the commission.”
- May 2019, read the full article
- By Nick Mafi
Indiana’s Exhibit Columbus festival promises to celebrate women in architecture
- “This is the second outing for the festival, meant to bring attention to the town and particularly the way in which both those with money (and the ability to commission architecture) and those without (and the ability to enjoy it) have all, seemingly magically, united and coordinated in their care of design.”
- “This year’s theme is dedicated to uncovering that seeming magic behind how citizens and communities can come together to support a city.”
- Jan 2019, read the full article
- By Eva Hagberger Fisher
The history of brutalist architecture on film from ‘Columbus’ to ‘A Clockwork Orange’
- “The town and its architecture are the inspiration, and now the setting and key narrative device, of Columbus, the debut cinematic production of Korean film artist and video essayist Kogonada.”
- “…it is perhaps some of the town’s civic architecture built during the later years of the 1960s and early 70s that provides a more surprising narrative device. Eschewing the soft, elegant tones, colours and materials of the previous midcentury design palette, the sparse concrete of James Stewart Polshek’s Mental Health Center, built as a bridge across the local river, and Eliot Noyes’ fortress-like Southside Junior High both demonstrate Kogonada’s boldness in choosing monumental and austere architectural scenery that never overwhelms or dominates the subtleties of the slow-paced narrative taking place underneath.”
- Posted in connection to the Columbus movie screening at the London Film Festival
- October 2018, read the full article in Wallpaper
Five Towns That Are Hidden Architectural Gems
- “What’s so cool about it: Columbus architecture was brought under the spotlight when the 2017 movie Columbus featured a backdrop of the town’s modernist buildings, like the Cleo Rogers Memorial Library by I. M. Pei. Pritzker Architecture Prize winners Robert Venturi and Richard Meier have also developed projects here.”
- “Your cool house options: Though many of the city’s fabulous architecture is public facing, there are some private Modernist-inspired options, too.”
- By Keshia Badalge, Jul 29, 2018
Former newspaper building in Indiana, a modernist icon shaped in Chicago, will house architecture program
- “…seeing the world through the lens of the neo-Gothic Tribune Tower, it’s clear that the single-story Republic building is everything the 36-story Tribune Tower is not: clean-lined, not encrusted in ornament; sweepingly horizontal rather than strikingly vertical; invitingly transparent, not intimidatingly opaque.”
- “Modernism is often accused of being cool and incomprehensible to the man or woman on the street. Yet at The Republic, it spoke with resonant clarity and conviction, powerfully symbolizing the transparency of the free press. Goldsmith’s delicate brand of modernism, so different from the muscular structural expressionism associated with Chicago, was perfectly suited to its small-town setting.”
- “Next fall, Indiana University announced Monday, the building will house the university’s new master of architecture program, serving as an outpost of the flagship Bloomington campus 36 miles to the west. But this will be no ordinary outpost.”
- By Blair Kamin, May 2018
The 10 Coolest U.S. Cities to Visit in 2018
- “The unlikely city of Columbus has become a hot spot for architecture buffs,” says Biggs Bradley. The town’s design mastership is credited to an engine industry mogul who sponsored several notable projects in the 1950s with the aim of revitalizing the city. Today Columbus is home to some 80 modernist buildings designed by some of the 20th century’s best-known architects, including I.M. Pei and Richard Meier.
- By Ann Abel, Feb 2018
Reviving Columbus’s ‘Dancing C’s’
- A new branding scheme for the small Indiana city builds off of its reputation for sophisticated modern design.
- …after bringing on Thirst, a Chicago-based design firm led by Rick Valicenti and Bud Rodecker, they discovered that the best way to make something new and exciting was to use a design element the city had been holding onto for quite some time.
- In 1974, designer Paul Rand created Columbus Indiana: A Look at Architecture, a chronicle of the city’s architectural history. The book’s cover had a pattern of C’s scattered across the front, which Columbus quickly embraced. More than 40 years later, Columbus residents still consider the design to be a part of their city’s fabric.
- By Teresa Mathew, Feb 2018
Vigor in the Heartland – America’s “flyover country” is stronger than you think
- Some cities’ success stands out. Columbus, Indiana, is one. Home to the headquarters of Cummins Engine, a Fortune 500 company, Columbus has flourished, even as it remains manufacturing-dependent.
- Quality of life is excellent. Columbus has managed to attract highly educated immigrants despite being a small manufacturing city. And it continues to make national news for its civic initiatives. It was recently featured in a film, Columbus, and profiled in the New York Times for a new art program, Exhibit Columbus.
- By Aaron M. Renn, Autumn 2017
Seen ‘Columbus,’ the movie? Meet Columbus, the modernist mecca
- It’s a pity Hollywood has no Oscar for best supporting architecture, because “Columbus” would have been a contender. The quirky indie film was shot in the small Indiana city of 45,000 people, known to modernist design geeks the world over. The monumental (if mute) second cast was cherry-picked from more than 90 buildings, bridges, parks and sculptures from the mid 20th century to early in this century, plus an 1864 ancestral mansion turned fancy bed-and-breakfast with splendid formal gardens.
- For me, “Columbus” the movie and Columbus, the city, delivered an architourism trifecta: a cinematic valentine to great design, a bumper crop of iconic originals. and a preview of the next new things.
- By Annie Groer, Nov 22, 2017
How Columbus, Indiana, Became a Mecca for Modernist Architecture
- An unlikely mecca of modernist architecture, it’s a place where banks, churches, office buildings, and schools (in short, the core of the city’s civic life) are also frequent stops along an architectural tour route trodden by thousands of design scholars and enthusiasts each year.
- Miller believed that if the town held itself to high standards of architecture and design, the benefits to society would be manifest. “Whatever you do in this world, you’ve got a responsibility and a privilege of doing it the very best way you can,” he said. “And whether it is architecture or cooking or drama or music, the best is none too good for any of us.”
- By Aileen Kwun, September 2017
Columbus chosen as a talent hub
- Lumina Foundation has recognized 17 communities across the country for extraordinary efforts to promote education beyond high school—efforts that a foundation official says will ultimately help families and the communities themselves.
- The Talent Hub cities, ranging from major metro areas such as New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Denver and Boston, to smaller communities such as Columbus, Ind., and Racine, Wis., were recognized for working to attract and retain talent, including nontraditional college students and people of color while seeking to boost post-high-school learning.
- By Lucia Anderson Weathers, Oct 02, 2017
with Seth Meyers
Actor John Cho, speaking about the movie “Columbus”
- “It’s just one after the other, from churches, to the fire stations, to the elementary schools, to the libraries, it’s just one masterpiece after another, and these two people bond over their love of architecture.”
- Oct 24, 2017
Columbus, Ind., Renews Its Big Design Legacy
- “It’s a company town with a twist: It has an unusual depth of remarkable modern, postmodern and contemporary architecture, making it one of America’s most design-sophisticated communities.”
- “But the most iconic structures were constructed decades ago, and so the town, with a “let’s put on a show” spirit, has decided to breathe new life into the local legacy. “Exhibit Columbus,” running through Nov. 26, features 18 different projects by designers from as far as Copenhagen. All are within walking distance of the others, and all sit adjacent to notable buildings of the past.”
- By Ted Loos, Aug 18 2017
Century of Progress Homes Tour, plus lots to discover in Columbus
- “Imagine if Design Within Reach decided to open a small city — and this is pretty much what you’d get.”
- By Chris LaMorte, Aug 4, 2017
Why Every Design Fan Should Visit Columbus, Indiana
- “For this mecca of mid-century modernism, great design remains the talk of the town. The city of Columbus, Indiana, boasts a staggering number of architectural masterpieces—more than 50 projects by renowned modernists in a town of just 46,000 people.”
- By Tim McKeough, April 12, 2017
The Little-Known Indiana Town That Modernism Built
The best place for modern architecture is a Midwest town you’ve probably never heard of.
- “In a roll call of the greatest American cities for architecture, places like Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles immediately come to mind. Then there’s Columbus, Indiana, population 46,000.”
- “Though it’s lesser known, Columbus has a remarkable number of buildings by noted 20th- and 21st-century architects, including Eero Saarinen, Dan Kiley, I.M. Pei, Richard Meier, and Robert A.M. Stern. It’s flown mostly under the radar over the decades, while maintaining a cult following among design nerds.”
- “It’s known as the design fantasy land of the state,” said Richard McCoy, director of Landmark Columbus
- By Diana Budds, 10.26.16
Columbus leads Indiana for number of start-ups
- Columbus is ranked 15th in the nation, and the only Indiana city ranked, among metro areas with fastest-growing rate of new startups.
By Ben Casselman, September 2016
Columbus, Indiana’s modern architecture inspired a new feature film
- Columbus’ modern architecture was the inspiration for the film’s story. Kogonada told Variety that “After visiting the town, I felt an immediate sense for a film that would take place there, which would implicitly explore the promise of modernism (an ongoing quest for me). The story revolves around a man and young woman from opposite sides of the world, each mourning the potential loss of a parent.”
By Wil Barlow, August 24, 2016
Building Columbus, and some of the country’s best architecture
- What is so special about Columbus, aside from it being a Venus flytrap for architecture geeks?
- It’s at this point that I realize I’ve seen Columbus before, illustrated, perhaps in that imaginary place: Busytown, USA. This is the setting for Richard Scarry’s best-selling picture book, written in 1968, entitled What Do People Do All Day? It’s a picture of American life very appealing to a five-year-old, with productive little animals driving apple and banana cars past small shops full of busy beavers. Some part of that storybook idealism seems to be alive and well in Columbus.
- If you’re still on the fence after reading this, about checking out Columbus, you just might want to hear Sarah Urist Green (wife of author John Green) make the case. “There’s no small town in America like Columbus,” says Green. “I’m not an aficionado of small-town America. I’ve seen slices of it. But, whenever I have anyone visit here and come to town, I take them to Columbus and they’re never disappointed.”
By Dan Grossman – July 27, 2016
Factory Towns Rebounding from Recession
- Columbus is ranked #3 on the Top Ten list, the article says, “As the nation nears full employment — a sort of finish line for the jobs recovery — many of the factory towns hit hardest in the Great Recession are already there. Seven of the 10 metro areas with the nation’s highest concentrations of manufacturing jobs had unemployment rates below the 4.7% national rate in May, the latest local data available.”
By Paul Davidson – July 24, 2016
Leading Locations for 2015, Columbus ranked number one in Indiana
- Columbus is ranked number one in Indiana and number eight in the nation among U.S. cities that are creating jobs and nurturing sustainable economic development, citing its strengths as a strong manufacturing base with exposure to global markets, stable housing market with low foreclosure activity, and high affordability for residents and businesses.
Q3, 2015 – by Mark Crawford
25 Best Small Town Honeymoon Destinations in the U.S.
- “Columbus is well known for its rich architectural history and is home to an exceptional collection of works by renowned architects, as well as seven historic national landmarks.”
“Columbus, Indiana is a living architectural museum where you can see one of the largest collections of high- and late-modernist buildings in the country. There are 7 National Historic Landmarks and counting in a town of roughly 45,000 people. So this context — a town landscaped by Dan Kiley and home to over 100 buildings and sites, by architects and designers including both Saarinens, Robert Venturi, Kevin Roche, and John Johansen among others — is ripe for reinterpretation.”
Oct 2014 – story by Matt Shaw
“Appropriately enough, our journey begins in architecture-rich Columbus. In that tiny outpost and in others, we wondered, ‘Why are our small towns bold enough to try these things when Indianapolis doesn’t have a single building by Wright or Saarinen?’ The answer, in hamlet after hamlet, was that no committee stood in the way. One brave person made the difference.”
“I love that you can stand with your back to an I.M. Pei library in Columbus and not know it because you’re looking at something even better.”
August 2014 – by Daniel S. Comiskey with Vess Ruhtenberg
Columbus is ranked 20th in nation for business careers, and 11th for job growth.
“Built by industrialist and major architectural patron J. Irwin Miller, this midcentury landmark, designed by a dream team including architect Eero Saarinen, is the epitome of an open-plan home—conversation pit and all—surrounded by meticulously maintained gardens.”
Story by Dan Rubinstein, June 2014
“Residents of Columbus enjoy one of the best combinations of higher incomes and lower costs of living in the nation, according to data released Thursday by the Commerce Department.”
“Of the nation’s 381 metro areas, Columbus had the 25th highest per capita personal income in 2012 after adjusting for consumer costs in the area, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.”
Story by Maureen Groppe Star, Washington bureau, April 24
“One of America’s best displays of modern architecture awaits in Columbus, Indiana, which knows how to blend small-city hospitality with modern style.”
“The anchor of any weekend in Columbus should be a tour of the most notable buildings…but like the girders supporting monuments, Columbus’ many restaurants and shops bolster the headlining buildings and round out a getaway.”
Story by Danny Lee, March 2014
“Justin Davidson, in a characteristically deft introduction to the book, notes that peering around in Columbus, ‘the puzzle acquires Easter Island proportions.’ Are we in Oz? How was all this possible?”
“The book is a welcome arrival both for those familiar with the town as well as those who are not. Surely, Columbus is hardly new to many of you, but the Schiff volume offers the unique advantage of panoramic photos with arresting looks at buildings, both intriguing angles and a vast scale.”
“Another great benefit of the volume is to showcase a variety of buildings that don’t make other, shorter accounts of Columbus.
“If a small-town engine tycoon could accomplish this in a place as implausible as Columbus, Indiana, where couldn’t it happen?”
By Anthony Paletta, posted Feb. 27, 2014
“Columbus is where you can . . . experience more mid-century modern design than would fit on a set of ‘Mad Men.’”
“Columbus is a place where context matters . . . once people hear that I.M. Pei built the pyramid at the Louvre . . . the astonishment over his construction of the Bartholomew County Public Library sets in.”
“Eliel Saarinen’s 1942 First Christian Church revolutionized not only Columbus but modern American architecture itself. Inside, there are noteworthy details in every nook – no inch of the building has been overlooked, untouched. The pews were conceived by a 20-something designer looking to make a name for himself (that name being Charles Eames).”
Columbus (Ohio) Monthly, Best Driving Vacations supplement, January 2014
“The Milken Institute Best-Performing Cities Index ranks U.S. metropolitan areas by how well they are creating and sustaining jobs and economic growth. The components include job, wage and salary, and technology growth. In most years, these give a good indication of the underlying structural performance of regional economics.”
“This is a story that reaches across generations, illuminating the ways in which the history of modern architecture in America is intertwined with the histories of industrial development, private enterprise, and public service. It’s a story firmly rooted in Midwestern culture, but it’s as much a story about Indiana as it is about the country as a whole − getting right to the heart of one fundamental question: what is the value of investing in public architecture?”
“In 1953, Miller bought a 13.5-acre plot of land on the northwestern edge of Columbus and asked Eero Saarinen to design his family’s home there. Over the next four years Saarinen, along with interior designer Alexander Girard and landscape architect Daniel Kiley, worked to create what would become one of a handful of iconic glass houses signaling the advent of modernism in America, alongside Philip Johnson’s Glass House (1949), Charles and Ray Eames’ Pacific Palisades House (1949), Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House (1951), and Eliot Noyes’ house in New Canaan (1954).
“The buildings may serve a secondary function as archi-tourist attractions, but unlike much pilgrimage-worthy architecture, they serve primarily as inhabited, functional public spaces. Miller’s greatest achievement was not to persuade the giants of modernism to descend on a sleepy midwestern town. It was to make well-designed architecture ubiquitous and accessible enough to seem entirely warranted in a normal place. It was, overall, to make great architecture seem entirely….ordinary.”
Issue 14, “Small Towns, Big Architecture”
“This newly minted Indiana cultural district builds on its reputation for cool design”
“Known as Columbus’s ‘living room,’ The Commons now houses a wickedly cool (and free) indoor playground.”
“Owner Anthony Moravec considered every detail when restoring Zaharakos, an ice-cream parlor opened in 1900 and still known for its striking Green River sodas The museum section has one of the world’s largest collections of marble soda fountains.”
“The Columbus Area Visitors Center gift shop – recently doubled in size – carries certified Indiana Artisan handicrafts and a wide selection of books on (what else?) architecture. Arrive good and early to shop first.”
August 2013 (view a PDF of this article)
“Joseph Irwin Miller fascinates me. Here is an individual who single-handedly shaped the architectural landscape of his entire hometown of Columbus, Indiana…
“Although the house has been photographed many times over the years (including by two of the greatest modernist photographers, Ezra Stoller and Balthazar Korab), I was excited to capture it through my own lens.”
“…I also had the opportunity to take a journey into the other places where Mr. Miller spent his days: his office (which hasn’t been photographed since a 1962 article in Progressive Architecture), the bank where he was chairman (it was the first glass-walled, open plan bank in the country) and his church (the last building built by architect Eero Saarinen).”
“… I left with a greater appreciation of just how important good design is in our daily lives and how one person can have a dynamic influence on the built environment.”
For a scanned PDF of this article, click HERE
By David Lauer, Summer 2013
“I. M. Pei’s low, red-brick library on Fifth Street is just down the street and around the corner from the 139-year-old Bartholomew County Courthouse. A short walk from the courthouse is Paul Kennon’s AT&T Switching Station, with red, blue and yellow curved tubular sections resembling giant, colorful crayons. A few blocks away is Kevin Roche’s low, glass-walled Cummins Corporate Headquarters building with vine-covered trellises. A half-moon of glass is the three-story Columbus City Hall designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, also in the center of town.”
by Nancy Kriplen, May 10, 2013
“Explore more in Columbus, Indiana, a small city with a reputation for big design! For half a century, Columbus has been the canvas for world-class architects, boasting 70+ masterpieces of modern architecture and public art. For family fun, visit the community’s three-story children’s museum, a mind-blowing indoor playground and a turn-of-the-century ice cream parlor, all located within one block.”
The U.S. Department of the Interior named The Republic newspaper as the seventh Columbus structure to be named an historic landmark, saying: “The Republic is an exceptional work of modern architecture and one of the best examples of the work of Myron Goldsmith, a general partner in the firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and a highly respected architect, architectural theorist, writer, and educator.”
In the introduction to this issue, the editors write, “the pity is that thousands of pictures and words are unlikely to communicate the wonder of this place.”
“Columbus has six registered National Historic Landmarks of only 2,500 in the country. It is as though Columbus had a fabled ball team who happened to be designers, a Field of Dreams for the drafting-board set.”
by William L. Hamilton, October 2012
“…this town, in the middle of soybean country, is a mecca of architecture. The greatest designers, I.M. Pei, Eero and Eliel Saarinen, Cesar Pelli, Richard Meijer, Harry Weese, James Polshek, a veritable who’s who of modern masters, have done more than sixty public buildings here. (The American Institute of Architects ranks Columbus) right up there with Chicago, New York, San Francisco, the big guys. Amazing, for a town with just 44,000 residents.
…(The Miller House and Garden is) a stunning, light-filled, 1957 house by Eero Saarinen, the white marble and glass house which could be a set for Mad Men,’ but with better ethics.
…At a Cummins plant just outside of town, doing better is a theme posted on workstation wall signs. One in the lady’s room says, “Treating people with dignity and respect is a core value at Cummins.”
by Susan Stamberg, aired on on August 4, 2012 (hear the NPR audio HERE)
“Area Development ranked 365 MSAs across 23 economic and workforce growth indicators. In the results we see that even amid the recessionary gloom, there were blooms of prosperity, and there are some places that have gotten back on their feet faster than others.”
“Ranking 1st among the 100 Leading Locations overall, the small Indiana city of Columbus also led Area Development’s Top 20 Midwest Cities and Top 25 Small Cities rankings. Among small cities, Columbus placed 3rd in “Economic Strength” factors, 4th in
“Prime Workforce Growth,” and 5th for its “Recession-Busting” indicators.
Summer 2012, read the article here
Columbus is listed alongside fourteen cities in the world, such as Oxford, England and Florence, Italy.
“These 14 cities—some iconic, others surprising—embody certain eras of architecture so much that they provide travelers with living, breathing (and free) design exhibits . . . Columbus, Indiana has a population of only 44,000, but it’s a surprising trove of Modernism: The town claims more than 70 buildings designed by star architects, including I.M. Pei, Eero Saarinen, and Richard Meier…”
“Walking in this bucolic place conjured up the reasons that we—who live in big bombastic cities—were drawn here. Whether we were crossing the traditional main street, with its old-fashioned ice cream parlor, or ambling through tree-lined neighborhoods, we encountered buildings by Gunnar Birkerts, I. M. Pei, and Robert Venturi, the stars that now populate our modernist and postmodernist firmament.”
by Susan S. Szenasy, Editor in Chief, posted June 8, 2012
Jack Shultz, the author of Boomtown, USA and an authority on economic development for rural America, put Columbus, Indiana on his list of the top ten small towns for business in America.
Columbus was cited as one of Indiana’s seven bike-friendly communities by The League of American Bicyclists. The Bicycle Friendly America program recognizes communities that actively support bicycling.
“Described as the ‘Athens of the Prairie,’ Columbus, Indiana, is an unexpected municipal gem. The Midwestern town is home to a dizzying selection of public buildings and sculptures wrought by icons such as I.M. Pei, Eero Saarinen and Richard Meier…”
“Considering that it’s such a small town, it’s an amazing place to visit,” says Don Wildman, host of Off Limits and Mysteries at the Museum on the Travel Channel. “It’s an incredible architectural town, and the whole place has that kind of vibe to it.”
March 29, 2012
“Unlike the obvious architectural hubs in the United States, such as Chicago, New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., Columbus has a ‘have-to-see-it-to-believe-it’ quality.”
“Artists came, too (and continue to come). Dale Chihuly designed not one, but two amazing pieces. Most recently, he created the Sun Garden Panels in Suspended Circle for the Columbus Learning Center.”
by Judi Ketteler, posted December 14, 2011
“Never heard of Columbus? That’s fine – residents love this little city’s under-the-radar charm. Less than an hour south of Indianapolis and east of Bloomington, Columbus has it all: design cognoscenti say the city’s innovative architecture ranks right up there with Chicago’s and San Francisco’s.”
Sept./Oct. 2011 – by Judi Ketteler, posted December 14, 2011
Each summer, CBS Sunday Morning devotes an entire program to the subject of design. In May of 2011, they shot on location in Columbus, and featured The Miller House and Garden as well as the story of Columbus’ renowned architecture. Read more and see photos from the CBS visit.
“The sleekly minimalist garden by Dan Kiley at the Miller House in Columbus, Indiana is…the landscape equivalent of the architecture world’s Farnsworth House in Illinois, the celebrated glass-walled building by Mies van der Rohe.”
“The result of his first flush of enthusiasm is perhaps the purest expression of landscape modernism in existence.”
“The simplicity of these spaces and the basic palette of different greens – in the grass, the trees, and the boundary hedge of clipped arbor vitae – create an intense, Arcadian atmosphere of rationality and calm.”
by Tim Richardson, November 2010
“Though we saw numerous public and private buildings, all of superior design, the highlight of the tour for me was seeing several incredible examples of the partnership between Eero Saarinen and modern landscape architect Dan Kiley. This powerful design team should ring a bell with St. Louisans — Saarinen and Kiley worked together to design the Gateway Arch and surrounding grounds of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. They also worked together on the Irwin Union Bank in downtown Columbus, completed in 1954. With original furniture by George Nelson, another father of modernist design, the building remains a functional piece of art.
by Amy Burger, August 8, 2010
“In the heart of the so-called Rust Belt lies an extraordinary example of what vision and open-mindedness did for a central Indiana industrial town set amid farm fields . . . Columbus, however, is a town that lifts your spirits. It is a community enhanced by modern architecture that dates from the 1950s to present, designed by notable names such as Eliel Saarinen and his son Eero, Harry Weese, I.M. Pei, Cesar Pelli, Richard Meier and Robert Venturi. Some 60 architectural gems — schools, a library, churches, banks, a post office, fire stations, a newspaper and offices — make you ooh and aah.”
by Alfred Borcover, March 22, 2010
“It’s all so quaint and, well…typically Midwestern. But Columbus is also, in fact, wonderfully atypical. It’s a design mecca, with more than 60 important Modernist buildings – seven of them designated National Historic Landmarks – by a who’s-who of architectural heavies…” She goes on to describe some of the people she met here:
“What made Columbus so appealing to me – important architecture notwithstanding – were the people. Like the bartender at the 4th Street Bar, who recalled my name and my drink after serving me just once. Or the owner of Zaharakos, who proudly demonstrated the restaurant’s restored orchestrions (automated organs). Or the incredibly knowledgeable tour guides who volunteered their time showing off the town’s architectural gems. And even the Hotel Indigo’s resident dog, Miles, who greeted me with a furiously wagging tail. They were hardworking, friendly…and well, Midwestern.”
by Jennifer Ceaser, December 2009
“There’s something different about Columbus, Indiana, and it’s immediately apparent as you approach the town from the I-65 interchange. Rising out of the rolling fields of soybeans, a triangular red suspension bridge slung across the White River announces the departure from the norm. Somewhat improbably, this small city of 39,000—hometown to basketball great Chuck Taylor—happens to house 60-odd gems of 20th-century architecture. As such, the town that Lady Bird Johnson dubbed “the Athens of the prairie” makes an ideal day trip or weekend getaway for A-and-D buffs.” (Footnote: Columbus’ population is currently 45,000)
by Sarah P. Hanson, 2009, Vol. 11, Issue 3
“In this small southern Indiana town famous for modern architecture, the newest attraction is actually quite old.”
“There’s nothing like this in the country today,” Moravec said about Zaharakos, where the original maple floors from the 1890s are the stage for a slew of antiques. The shop’s 1908 Welte orchestrion, a self-playing organ that sounds like an orchestra, is all tuned up and ready to roll. The 50-foot-long double backbar of mahogany, marble and mirrors looks good as new, even though it’s nearly a century old.
“Back in the ‘40s, Zaharakos is where (J. Irwin) Miller used to talk about modern design with the likes of Eero Saarinen and Charles Eames over ice cream. This also happens to be where a pretty little soda jerk caught Miller’s eye. “He met his wife here in Zaharakos,” Moravec said. “She served him his first banana split.”
By Lori Rackl, June 3, 2009
Columbus is ranked 11th out of 109 historic destinations worldwide by National Geographic Society’s Center for Sustainable Destinations, higher than any other U.S. destination. The magazine says Columbus has “a world-class collection of modern architecture by master architects…it is authentic, unique, and unspoiled…this town is truly part of America’s architectural heritage.”
June 12, 2007
Otter Creek Golf Course made Golfweek magazine’s top ten list for Indiana’s public access courses. The course, which features 18 holes designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and nine holes designed by Rees Jones, ranked 5th among Indiana courses. (In June 2006, Otter Creek Golf Course was voted the number one public course in the state by the Indiana Golf Association. Otter Creek was “head and shoulders above the rest,” said the director of the IGA-PGA.)
“ (the new branch of Irwin Union bank designed by architect Deborah Berke is) a study in precise minimalism…” as well as “one of the simplest and most sublime structures to have been built in the U.S. in recent memory.”
“Decades before Richard Florida began touting the gospel of the creative class, (J. Irwin) Miller understood the wisdom of nurturing a well-rounded community where intelligent people wouldn’t mind settling down.”
“In fact, Columbus is one of the last remaining footholds of an architecture that, while often fabulous, just doesn’t quite fit in anywhere else.”
“It’s this domino effect, with quality buildings attracting more quality buildings, which Deborah Berke argues, sets Columbus’s experience apart from the flash-in-the-pan ‘Bilbao Effect’ that so many other towns find when they turn to sensational architecture in search of economic salvation.”
“Columbus has become a town that invites architectural tourism without fetishising architecture, that warrants closer attention without requiring excessing analysis.”
by John King, July/Aug 2006
“…the people of Columbus live, breathe and use their architecture, constantly aware of what it does for them without stepping into self-conscious territory.”
“…Columbus, nestled amid corn and soybean fields halfway between Indianapolis and Louisville, is a veritable museum of modern architecture.
by Eva Hagberg, Aug. 2006
“J. Irwin Miller thought that architecture could save the world—or at least his small corner of it: Columbus, Indiana. His is one of the great creative patronage stories in all of Modern architecture.”
“The place only lacks a Paul Rudolph and a Philip Johnson to make it a truly encyclopedic collection from the period in which architects were shedding the formal dogmas of Modern architecture.”
By Philip Nobel, July 2006
“Columbus, says Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin, is a ‘small-town architectural mecca.’”
“In downtown Columbus, the telephone switching station looks playful with its heating and air conditioning units encased in giant crayon-colored pipes. It is the work of Paul Kennon, whose son Kevin recently designed a local community college building. ‘I grew up imbued with the mythology of Columbus,’ says Kevin Kennon.”
by Clay Risen, Dec. 2005
“…the people of Columbus fell in love with modern architecture, and modern architecture in turn fell in love with Columbus.”“What’s remarkable about Columbus is not so much the astonishing fact that this small town has 65 buildings by world-class modern architects as that it wears them so well.”
“I feel a great big ‘aha!’ coming on as I drive around town. This is what modernism is supposed to feel like.”“Columbus is the nation’s finest example of how enlightened corporate titans and local citizens have discovered that the place of art is at the root of, not just the expression of, economic vitality.”
Hillary Johnson, July/August 2005
Columbus was named to the 2005 list of U.S. Dozen Distinctive Destinations by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Columbus was the only Indiana city featured in the June 3, 2005 issue of USA Today in the article “Ten Great Places to Discover Midwest Charm.”
Columbus was cited in the “62 Reasons to Love Your Country” in the July 2005 issue of GQ Magazine.
Columbus was selected in 2004 as one of the Ten Most Playful Towns in America by Nick Jr. Family magazine.
Columbus is featured in the book 1,000 Places To See in the USA and Canada Before You Die, published by Workman Publishing Compan.
Columbus was ranked as one of the country’s safest metropolitan areas (6th out of 339) by America’s Safest (and Most Dangerous) Cities for 2005.
Columbus was ranked 56th in The 100 Best Small Art Towns in America by John Villani, published in 1996.
Demographics Daily, an on-line newsletter published by American City Business Journals, used 20 sets of statistics to rate the quality of life in 632 small cities. Columbus scored 98.8 out of a hundred and ranked 4th in the US in cities of 10,000-50,000. Published September, 2000.
The New Rating Guide to Life in America’s Small Cities (Prometheus Books, 1997) ranked small cities that they labeled “micropolitans,” with populations of 15,000-50,000, on 10 qualities.
In the May 5, 1994 Chicago Tribune, Blair Kamin called Columbus a “small-town architectural mecca” that “features an extraordinary ensemble of modern architecture.”