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Exhibit Columbus 2021 will be on view between August 21 - November 28, 2021 in Columbus, Indiana

United States Architecture News - Apr 20, 2021 - 17:40   1707 views

Exhibit Columbus 2021 will be on view between August 21 - November 28, 2021 in Columbus, Indiana

On August 21, 2021, the third Exhibit Columbus exhibition will open to the public, featuring thirteen outdoor, site-responsive installations by a diversity of architects, artists, and designers, publicly displayed photography, and a fresh graphic identity and wayfinding system. 

The installations celebrate the relationships between the built environment and the people and other species that inhabit it, in dialogue with iconic buildings, streetscapes, and landscapes around Columbus. 

The Exhibition will enliven downtown Columbus and remain open through November 28, 2021.

The theme of this third Exhibit Columbus is New Middles: From Main Street to Megalopolis, What Is the Future of the Middle City? 

Curated by Iker Gil and Mimi Zeiger, New Middles explores the future of the center of the United States and the regions connected by the Mississippi Watershed—an area that stretches beyond political borders. 

At a moment when reflection, creativity, and innovation are most needed to envision new ways of being, the exhibition builds on Columbus’s legacy as a laboratory for design as a civic investment. New Middles situates the city within the watershed, up and downstream, connecting it to a network of places with shared affinities and similar concerns around economics, the environment, and equity. The exhibition looks outward from Columbus to explore regional and global themes and respond to them through design.

New Middles considers the role of design and architecture as civic catalysts and draws connections between Columbus’s local ecosystem and larger regional networks. 

In posing the question, “What is the future of the middle city?” Exhibit Columbus acts as a living laboratory, inviting people to envision many possibilities and multiple paths forward that build on Columbus’s robust legacy of design in service to the greater community. 

Among the topics this year’s installations seek to explore are:

How does Columbus fit within the Mississippi Watershed and the plains ecosystems, and what does this tell us about how middle cities might address a changing environment locally and regionally? How might technologies—both high-tech and Indigenous practices—change our understanding of our urban environment in the near future?

What kinds of narratives emerge when we consider the afterlife of Modernist architecture?

Whose stores are hiding in plain sight and need to be made visible through design?

How might middle cities evolve, shaped by pandemic-influenced ideas of education and play?

The free, public exhibition will feature thirteen site-responsive installations, including five large scale works by internationally acclaimed Miller Prizerecipients: Dream the Combine (Minneapolis), Ecosistema Urbano (Miami and Madrid, Spain), Future Firm (Chicago), Olalekan Jeyifous (Brooklyn), and Sam Jacob Studio (London, England). These projects explore themes relating to discursive historical narratives, nocturnal conditions, and communal structure.

In addition to the Miller Prize installations, there will be seven installations on display by the University Design Research Fellows. As leading professors of architecture and design, they will create installations as an extension of existing research and investigate issues such as watershed ecologies, non-human habitat, and material reuse. Fellows are Derek Hoeferlin (Washington University in St. Louis), Joyce Hwang (University at Buffalo), Jei Jeeyea Kim (Indiana University), Ersela Kripa and Stephen Mueller (Texas Tech College of Architecture, El Paso), Ang Li (Northeastern University), Lola Sheppard and Mason White (University of Toronto & University of Waterloo), Natalie Yates (Ball State University).

The Exhibition will also highlight two Photography Fellows: Virginia Hanusik (New Orleans) and David Schalliol (Minneapolis), and High School Design Team. New Middles graphic designer Jeremiah Chiu of Some All None (Los Angeles) will create the exhibition’s graphic identity and wayfinding.

2020–21 J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prize Installations

Dream the Combine (Minneapolis, MN), Columbus Columbia Columbo Colón

Site: Mill Race Park (Michael Van Valkenburgh and Stanley Saitowitz, 1993)

Sparked by recent reevaluations of the naming of places after Christopher Columbus (and his colonialist legacy), Dream the Combine’s Columbus Columbia Columbo Colón is an immersive representation of 58 places across the globe named for the explorer. Their installation uses texts and vertical poles to evoke the relationships between the dozens of civic Columbuses and how each is tied to systems of American identity, capital, and property. 

Ecosistema Urbano (Miami, FL and Madrid, Spain), CLOUDROOM

Site: Central Middle School (Perkins&Will, 2007)

Ecosistema Urbano’s balloon-like CLOUDROOM emerged from conversations with students and faculty at Central Middle School about the future of teaching and learning under pandemic conditions. A flexible, outdoor classroom, CLOUDROOM aims to rethink how new educational architectures support learning and raise awareness about today’s environmental challenges.

Future Firm (Chicago, IL), Midnight Palace

Site: Sears Building Plaza (Cesar Pelli of Gruen Associates, 1973)

Future Firm’s Midnight Palace grows out of the practice’s ongoing design research on cities at night. They identified that 39% of Columbus’s population works in manufacturing, compared to 9% nationwide, and their installation, which features different types of lightbulbs, is meant as a gathering place for night owls and the second and third shift workers who begin their “days” in the evening and finish work in the morning.

Olalekan Jeyifous (Brooklyn, NY), ARCHIVAL/REVIVAL

Site: Cleo Rogers Memorial Library (I.M. Pei and Partners, 1971)

Olalekan Jeyifous’ research into Columbus’s history unearthed two major exhibitions on African and Black art that took place at the library in 1969 but largely forgotten today. With the hope of reshaping our understanding of the present and speculating on future realities, ARCHIVAL/REVIVAL revisits the library’s inaugural and transformative exhibitions through a series of four sculptural and interactive installations representing four key Black artists. To bring the archive into public space, artworks and documents will be accessible via augmented reality (AR) can be viewed via a mobile phone or tablet.

Sam Jacob Studio (London, England), Alternative Instruments: High readers, heraldry and other figures of speech for Washington Street

Site: Washington Street

Using Thomas More’s 1516 novel Utopia as a starting point, Alternative Instruments conjures a fictional Columbus that merges ideals of Modernism with utopian and expansionist impulses of early European settlements in America, critiquing both in the process. Sam Jacob Studio’s design for Washington Street blends elements of roadside Americana with British weathervanes. It draws symbolism from a wide range of references, including sailing ships, Learning from Las Vegas, quilting, and the cryptic Utopian alphabet published in More’s text. 


2020–21 University Design Research Fellowship Installations

Derek Hoeferlin, Tracing Our Mississippi

Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO

Site: Columbus Pump House (Harrison Albright, 1903)

Derek Hoeferlin has been researching water infrastructures for more than a decade. Tracing Our Mississippi continues his ongoing investigations of the Mississippi, the fourth largest watershed in the world. His installation, a large-scale, abstracted model of the watershed, is composed as a set of moveable pieces and complimented by a series of large-format drawings, emphasizing the relentless infrastructures controlling the Mississippi’s landscapes, communities, and resources, suggesting that Columbus is part of a much larger ecological network.

Joyce Hwang, University at Buffalo (Buffalo, NY), To Middle Species, with Love

Site: Mill Race Park (Michael Van Valkenburgh and Stanley Saitowitz, 1993)

Joyce Hwang’s design research looks at architecture for non-human occupants. Her installation, To Middle Species, with Love, is a suite of structures designed to amplify habitat conditions for urban wildlife in Columbus and bring increased visibility to bats, birds, and reptiles—co-inhabitants of the built environment. These animals—dubbed “Middle Species” in contrast to “flagship” species—are common but often invisible in our urban ecosystems, yet contribute significantly to the health of cities.

Jei Jeeyea Kim, LaWaSo Ground

Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

Site: First Christian Church (Eliel Saarinen, 1942)

Informed by research into Indiana limestone and advanced manufacturing, Jei Jeeya Kim’s LaWaSo Ground brings together elements of land, water, and soil to create an installation that is both a gathering space and a memorial to silenced and suppressed voices. The design includes multiple references: limestone quarries, Indigenous earthworks, and the stonework patterns on Saarienen’s First Christian Church. Additional motifs were designed in collaboration with Indigenous artist Katrina Mitten, a citizen of the Myaamia Nation of Oklahoma.

Ersela Kripa and Stephen Mueller, Spectral

Texas Tech College of Architecture, El Paso, TX

Site: Crump Theatre (Charles Sparrell, 1889)

Ersela Kripa and Stephen Mueller’s design research focuses on how military training and technology influence the design of cities. Spectral, inspired by civilian and National Guard flight paths over and around Columbus, continues their interest in aerial imaging technology that can see beyond the visible spectrum. In considering the city a “multispectral environment” that is understood in heat signatures, radio waves, and radiation, their installation creates a gathering space that shields visitors from pervasive and invasive thermal imaging technologies.

Ang Li, Window Dressing

Northeastern University, Boston, MA

Site: The Commons (Koetter Kim, 2011)

The afterlife of architecture and repurposing building materials is central to Ang Li’s design research. With Window Dressing, a façade installation along the Washington Street face of The Commons, she invites the public to reflect on the cultural and architectural legacy of The Commons Mall, which was demolished in 2008. Through a lightweight and ornamental cladding system of overlapping mylar shingles, the installation recalls the mirror-glass façade—a hallmark of seventies Late Modernism and a product of the aerospace industry—of the original 1973 building designed by César Pelli and Norma Merrick Sklarek of Gruen Associates.

Lola Shepherd and Mason White, THIS APPEARANCE IS ______

University of Toronto (Toronto, CA) & Waterloo University (Waterloo, CA)

Site: Washington Street

Lola Shepherd and Mason White’s ongoing research explores new ways for children and adults to play. Exploring ideas of how we are seen in public space, their installation, THIS APPEARANCE IS ______, is a maze of curved, lenticular plastic walls. The material creates an optical illusion that blurs the visitors from view so they seem to disappear as they weave in and out of the structures. The designers are collaborating with students at Columbus’s Lincoln Elementary School to co-develop new games for the piece. 

Natalie Yates, Calibrate

Ball State University, Muncie, IN

Site: Franklin Square (ca. 1835; additions 1870, 1920)

How landscapes are viewed and sensed is a key part of Natalie Yates’ design research. Her installation, Calibrate, uses a robotic apparatus—a kind of drawing machine—to display environment data gathered from across Columbus and its environs. By making visible the accumulated ecological layers of Columbus, the workplaces the city within a long timeline, from the movements of glaciers to real-time sensing data from air and water monitors.

High School Design Team, Tunnel Vision

Columbus North High School, Columbus East High School, and Hauser High School

Site: Central Middle School (Perkins&Will, 2007)

Inspired by Miller’s vision that innovative education facilities lead to a forward-thinking educational system, the High School Design Team was also commissioned to create an installation. Tunnel Vision considers how rivers, foundational waterways to middle cities like Columbus, shape how cities are formed and how they develop into the future.

As the design process continues in the coming months, participants will work with local and regional fabricators, contractors, and organizations to refine their designs in preparation for building the installations later this summer. The Exhibition will be on display through November 28, and will include programming for youth and families, a University Design Research Colloquium in collaboration with Ball State University and Indiana University, and other community-related events unique to the different installations.

Top image courtesy of Exhibit Columbus

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