Columbus, Indiana, A Modernist Mecca, Updates Historic Preservation Efforts

Thursday, February 4, 2016, by Patrick Sisson

Eero Saarinen’;s North Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana, built in 1964. This classic design is a National Landmark, but much of Columbus’;s modern heritage lacks protection. Creative Commons image by Hans Kundnani

For those who aren’;t familiar, Columbus, Indiana, may seem an unlikely mecca for Modernist architecture. But the southern Indiana town bests many of the biggest cities in the country when it comes to 20th century architecture, thanks to a bevy of buildings by the likes of Eero Saarinen, I.M. Pei, Richard Meier, and Harry Weese, among many others. J. Irwin Miller, head of Cummins Engine Company, which commissioned many of the city’;s exemplary structures, famously said that “mediocrity is expensive.” Once visitors tour the city’;s incredible architecture, from the Miller House to Eero Saarinen’;s North Christian Church, they usually in awe of the city’;s unique heritage. And they’;d also be surprised to find out a city filled with incredible design currently lacks any historic preservation plan.

It seems shocking that a city that’;s known worldwide for its commitment to design hasn’;t safeguarded its particular legacy. While many of the most well-known structures at National Historic Landmarks, others lack any sort of official protection. According to an article in Belt Magazine, part of that is due to Miller himself, who did such a good job supporting and safeguarding buildings that other forms of stewardship may have seemed superfluous.

But that’;s set to change. Landmark Columbus, a new non-profit founded by local art and design consultant Richard McCoy, is raising awareness and helping businesses and homeowners care for their historically significant properties. This organization, and a renewed effort towards preservation, will build towards a planned 2017 design biennial, hosted by Landmark Columbus, that will invite designers to create site-specific installations that riff on the city’;s built heritage. In addition to keeping structures around, this new event will continue to keep them relevant.

Read the rest of the article at Belt Magazine.

∙ Vintage Shots of Eero Saarinen’;s Masterful Miller House [Curbed]
10 (More) Neighborhoods That Influenced U.S. Architecture [Curbed]

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