Columbus, Ohio

Columbus, the capital city of Ohio, is located in the central part of the relatively Ohio flatland. The city is an amalgamation of history, nature and modernity and the reflection of this can be seen in the art and architecture of this city. It has multiple parks, recreational community centres, athletic complexes and nature preserves. The German influence can also be seen left by the Germans who settled in the 1800s at the German village in downtown Columbus. Art is blended into the Columbus culture which can be visualised through their museums and institutions. Columbus is also known as America’s ‘design Mecca’ and here are 15 buildings every architect must visit when in Columbus.

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Skyline of Columbus_© G. Pawel

First Christian Church

Designed by the father-son duo in 1942, Eliel and Eero Saarinen, the First Christian Church was one of the earliest modern buildings built in the country. The church is also one of the first contemporary churches in the United States. The form of the building is streamlined into a rectangular box which holds the sanctuary and a 166 feet high bell tower with a large metal clock, which has become an iconic symbol of modern architecture in the city. This rectangular building is primarily made of brick with limestone and concrete details with a flat roof. The cross is set in limestone relief and the west and east sides with semi-transparent plastic panels cladding. Entitled a National Historic Landmark in 2001, the church is believed to possess a monumentality and dignity becoming a religious significance yet also fitting the character of the present day. 

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First Christian Church_©H. Carol

The Miller House by Eero Saarinen

Completed in 1957, by architect Eero Saarinen is a collaboration of furnishing by Alexander Girard and landscape designed by Dan Kiley. The 635-square metre is a classic representation of mid-century modernism. Following the principles of pioneer architect Ludwig Mies van der Roh, the house was designed with aspects of modern architecture, an open floor plan layout with a flat roof and stone and glass walls. The house is a one-storey building, a beautiful composition of steel and glass, with glass and slate panels, supported by steel columns. An enormous amount of natural light is brought into the building through the skylight. The landscape follows symmetry and geometric patterns complimenting the built form. The space is made vibrant and lively through interior planning, thus contrasting and breaking the rectilinear monochromatic form. Declared a National Historic Landmark in 2000, the house is now open to the public and there are dedicated guided tours of the house.

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The Miller House and Garden_©Darren Bradley

North Christian Church / Eero Saarinen

In the city of Columbus, celebrated for its modern architecture, the North Christian church holds a special space. Designed by the prominent architect, Eero Saarinen in 1959, the church elegantly stands out amidst the other modern landmarks in the city. Hexagonal in shape, the plan is slightly elongated along the east-west axis. The 192 feet high roof with a golden cross atop is supported by piers located at each junction of the hexagon. The concrete ceiling mirrors the angular plan and casts a strong presence over the worshipping space below. The church is naturally lit by the oculus over the central altar. The colour palette of grey slate and mahogany benches creates an ambience of a cave.

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Christian Church_© B Hassan_North

First Baptist Church

One of the six National Historic Landmarks of Columbus, the First Baptist Church was designed by Harry Weese in 1965. It was one of the first churches to combine modern architecture and non-traditional church plans. Located on the top of the gently sloping mould, the elevation in the combination with the bell tower, emphasizes the building’s function as a place of worship. A profile of the two-story building is created by the two steeply pitched A-frame roofs. At the end of, both roofs a brick wall is extended above the roof, with a round opening for a bell signifying it as a place of worship. The sanctuary is without any window, the only source of light being the vertical skylights at the front.

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First Baptist Church_©Traverse 360 Architecture

Cleo Rogers Memorial Library

Located at the heart of the city on fifth street, Cleo Rogers Memorial Library was designed to create the first civic space in downtown Columbus. Designed by I.M. Pei, the construction was completed in 1969 and was open to the public in 1971. Local brick was used for the construction. The library was lower in height in proportion to the Irwin house and increased on the other edge in response to the proportion of the church. The interior was planned to provide space for reading, windows were positioned according to the exterior views, thus bringing nature inside the library. The architect created a public plaza to create an engagement between the library and its context by enclosing a street and connecting the First Christian church in the south, the Irwin house in the east and the library in the north. This created a major public pace which became the centre of community life.

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Cleo Rogers Memorial Library_©M Carol Highsmith

Republic Newspaper Building

The Republic Newspaper building designed by Myroh Oldsmith, SOM in 1971 is reminiscent of early modern buildings in Columbus. It was the first project of the master plan for the urban redevelopment and regeneration of Columbus devised by SOM. The building is composed of an aluminium frame enclosed by glass walls. The transparency and visibility provided to passers-by via the glazing of the building were symbolic of a free press acknowledging the production of newspapers. The operation of the printing press was discontinued in 1997. The building now is occupied by the M.Arch Department of the Indiana University School of Art, Architecture+Design. 

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Republic Newspaper Building_©S Ezro

Columbus city hall

Yet another exemplary example of modern architecture building in Columbus, the city hall of Columbus was designed by SOM and completed in 1981. This three-storey brick and limestone building provides office spaces to the Columbus municipal and police department. The entrance is a semi-circular double curtain wall, with two staircases connecting the corners of the site to the main entrance. The semi-circular double curtain wall entrance was deliberately designed, reflecting the Bartholomew County Courthouse across, thus connecting the building with its context. The ground level is occupied by the police department, making it accessible to the public. The upper two floors house other city departments, public meeting hall and City Council chambers. These floors open out to the double-height gallery of the entrance wall. The city hall has created a prominent presence of itself through its right triangle geometry, simple finishes and contemporary form.

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Columbus City Hall_©M Carol Highsmith

Greater Columbus Convention Centre

Designed by internationally recognized architect Peter Eisenman and assisted by renowned local architect Richard Trott, the Greater Columbus Convention Centre built in 1990-93 offers more than 370,000 contiguous square feet of exhibition space and attracts millions of visitors each year. The sections of the building clash and erupt like geological formations. The strips of the building are aligned with the freeway. The exterior façade of these buildings reflects the character of the street fronts in a post-modernism manner. A central axis runs throughout the entire length of the building, branching out at different spaces.

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Greater Columbus Convention Centre_© Eisenman Architects

Mill Race Park 

Mill Race Park planned in 1993 by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Inc. and Stanley Saitowitz Architect is located on an active floodplain at the confluence of two rivers in Columbus, Indiana. To avoid the annual flooding, the park was smartly planned to create an experience of the site. The clever choice of materials permitted the park to be constructed and maintained effectively. The asphalt for road construction was replaced by concrete, the restrooms were built on raised platforms to avoid flooding, the playground was built on an elevated platform and so on. The viewing platform represents a map of Columbus, a view of architecture and the city. The park is simple, with the basic elements, narrowed down concerning the site conditions but accomplishes the function.

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Greater Columbus Convention Centre_© MVVA

Austin E. Knowlton School of Architecture 

Austin E. Knowlton School of Architecture designed by Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects was built in 2004. The purpose of the design and planning was to set an example of how the placement and form of the building can enable interaction between the people and their surroundings. The site boundary is determined by the façade of the surrounding buildings and the building form is determined by enclosing, defining, and confronting the spaces and existing buildings of this larger site. The vertical circulation beginning at the entrance goes all the way up, passing through studios and review spaces. The school accommodates studios, classrooms, offices, an auditorium, a library, a wood shop, a café, digital imaging facilities, laboratories, an archive and an exhibition gallery.

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Austin E Knowlton School of Architecture_© M Carol Highsmith

Irwin Union bank

This 4000 square feet bank, completed in 2006 by Deborah Perke partners, is an iconic building in the town known for its architectural legacy. The building was designed as a drive-through branch for a regional bank amidst a shopping mall and stores. Hence the idea of the design was to create a structure that would highlight this small building in the vast area, keeping the design simplistic, yet bold. The building is a translucent box built on a masonry building, making the building look floating. Built of structural panel glass, the building is lightened by natural light during the daytime and glows during the night.  It has been successful in creating an identity for the bank to create a safe and welcoming atmosphere for its customers.

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Irwin Union Bank_© Deborah Berke Partners

Thompson Memorial Library 

The William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library, constructed in 1913 was the main library at the Ohio State University. The library was renovated in 2006-2009 by Gund Partnership and Acock Associates Architects. The primary objective was to modernize the library and transform it as per the technological and research centre. The new atriums of the tower created views of the library collections.  The design intent of the renovation was to make the building more transparent. The design ambition was to modify the dark and old library into an iconic image expressing a fresh and lively environment for change and growth.

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Thompson Memorial Library_© F. Brad

Grange Insurance Audubon Center 

Situated along the south edge of the property above an estuary in the Scioto River, Grange Insurance Audubon Center is a nature centre and park, an urban ecology centre designed by DesignGroup, and completed in 2009. The centre is oriented in an east-west direction to maximise the visual connection between downtown and the natural environment. The north edge is a complete glass façade to capture the views of downtown Columbus and the metro park. The goal was to create a facility that would assert the architecture itself as a platform to influence the design process and educational programming. The centre consists of classrooms, a multi-purpose room, bird viewing areas, and store and administrative spaces. The materials used, wood along with steel and glass, were wisely chosen to reflect the co-existence of natural and urban.

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Grange Insurance Audubon Center _© Sixflash Photo

Main Street Bridge

The world’s first bridge inclined at 10 degrees, the Main street bridge built by DLZ was constructed over the Scioto river in Downtown Columbus and open to public in 2010. The need for a peculiar bridge led to the design of the bridge featuring a single rib arch tied with cables and struts. The bridge was also expected to provide an unobstructed view of the water and skyline. Clean and classical lines were taken into consideration while designing the bridge. The bridge comprises three vehicular lanes, sidewalks for pedestrians, a steel box girder road and piers complimenting the superstructure design. The design of the bridge thus incorporated the unique design and architectural character unique to Columbus.

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Main Street Bridge_© Sixflash Photo

Columbus Museum of Art

The Columbus Museum of Art, designed by architect Bongiorno of DesignGroup, was the latest and the final addition to the three-part master plan. Completed in 2015, this included the addition of 50,000 square feet to the original 1931 landmark, renovation of the wing built in 1947, and an increase in exhibition spaces, retail stores, restaurants, garden and outdoor spaces. This visitor centre is designed with the idea of not just displaying art but also creating an experience for the visitors. The building contemplates the aim of the museum, to connect the community to art and the people to the city by being more transparent and discernible.

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Columbus Museum of Art_© F. Brad

References

https://www.columbusmuseum.org/

https://www.tripadvisor.in/Attraction_Review-g50226-d519178-Reviews-Columbus_Museum_of_Art-Columbus_Ohio.html

https://columbus.in.us/other/

https://www.archdaily.com/116596/ad-classics-miller-house-and-garden-eero-saarinen

https://www.architecturalrecord.com/articles/8508-miller-house-and-garden-by-eero-saarinen

https://columbus.in.us/first-christian-church/

https://architizer.com/projects/columbus-museum-of-art/

https://www.archdaily.com/773935/columbus-museum-of-art-expansion-and-renovation-designgroup

https://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/01-005-0080

https://columbus.in.us/first-christian-church/

https://www.architectureindiana.com/?p=46219

https://architizer.com/projects/first-financial-bank/

https://www.dberke.com/project/irwin-union-bank/#read-more

https://www.architectmagazine.com/project-gallery/columbus-city-hall

https://www.som.com/news/aia-indiana-recognizes-columbus-city-hall-for-its-legacy-of-design-excellence/

https://www.architectmagazine.com/practice/designed-to-celebrate-the-press-a-1970s-som-building-will-now-house-an-architecture-program_o

https://en.wikiarquitectura.com/building/cleo-rogers-memorial-library/

https://impeifoundation.org/works/cleo-rogers-memorial-county-library/

https://www.archdaily.com/129400/austin-e-knowlton-school-of-architecture-mack-scogin-merrill-elam-architects?ad_medium=gallery

https://acock.com/thompson-library

https://www.archdaily.com/148800/grange-insurance-audubon-center-designgroup

https://www.archdaily.com/544843/ad-classics-north-christian-church-eero-saarinen

https://www.saitowitz.com/mill-race-park-structures

https://columbus.in.us/churches/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Baptist_Church_(Columbus,_Indiana)#:~:text=The%20First%20Baptist%20Church%20is,building%20has%20retained%20its%20integrity.

Author

Prachi is an architect by profession,an avid reader and a potential ‘keen observer’. She juggles with words in order to make the best out of them to recite her simplest stories with minute details. She now intends to expand her scope of knowledge and understanding of architecture through her adventures and experiences.

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