Our blog page Sights Listed by State needs updated when we get home to add new information and correct some errors. But we found it useful on our fall 2018 trip. It took us to Yellow Springs, Ohio which I am not sure is worth noting although the Antioch College campus is pretty. But then it took us to Columbus, Indiana which was well worth the visit.
Columbus, with a population just short of 47,000, was called by the American Institute of Architects, the sixth leading city for innovative architectural design. The top five are Chicago, New York, Boston, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. I am not sure it is living up to that billing, but it is certainly an internationally-renowned center for mid-20th century architecture.
It all started in 1942 when the members of the First Christian Church wanted to hire Eliel Saarinen to build an innovative church. He was reluctant, but J. Irwin Miller, CEO of Cummins Engine, talked him into it. They produced one of the most modern churches in the country.
During the post-World War II baby boom, Miller proposed that the Cummins Foundation would pay the architects fees if the school board would choose one from a list the Foundation prepared. The program was then expanded to any tax-payer supported building. Soon private citizens began to use top name architects to build or renovate their homes. Other corporations did the same with their factories and offices. Civic associations sought out world-class architects. The city began to incorporate parks and other public spaces using landscape architects like Dan Kiley, Michael Van Valkenburgh and Jack Curtis.
Publicity about the program meant that by the 1960s, important architects began to seek to be part of the program. There are designs by Eero Saarinen, son of Eliel, I.M. Pei, Robert Venturi, Cesar Pelli and Richard Meier. Sculpture by internationally known artists including Henry Moore, Dale Chihuly, and Jean Tinguely are on display.
Columbus is now home to over 70 buildings and landscapes designed by these architects. Seven are national historic landmarks.
I believe familiarity doesn’t breed contempt, it breeds indifference. Miller has died. The last buildings listed on the visitors’ center guide to be built were in 2011 and appear to still be mid-20th century. I was distressed to read that except for the seven on the National Register, the buildings lack any protection. One was actually torn down. So I guess it is up to visitors to keep the spirit going.
Click on photos to enlarge.
The 1840 85-foot New Brownsville covered bridge is the only long-truss bridge in Indiana. It was moved to Columbus and incorporated in Mill Race Park, designed by Valkenburgh.
P.S. Miller was a wealthy CEO, but ordinary people can change towns. See my post on Helen, Georgia and watch for an upcoming one on Casey, Illinois. Alie feels I should start a new category for occasions when one person or a small group made a significant difference.