Defining Architectural Design Excellence: an AIA Committee on Design Conference, Columbus, Indiana, April, 2012 By John Morris Dixon, FAIA
March 2, 2013
The Committee on Design visited Columbus, Indiana in April, 2012. Click here to read the conference report written by John Morris Dixon, FAIA. Photos courtesy of Jim Childress, FAIA, Ann Thompson and Aaron Trahan.
February 3, 2013
In April, 2012, about 120 members of the Committee on Design went to Columbus, Indiana for our spring conference. Together we explored the architecture of the community, talked with many of the architects who designed the projects, and met with citizens who have been active in championing modern architecture. We also discussed and considered how to measure design excellence. The following film was created by Boaz Ashkenazy and his crew at Studio216 as an overview of what we saw and experienced.
For a guide of the projects we saw, and the people we met, please see the Committee on Design to Columbus, Indiana here.
May 1, 2012
By Aaron Trahan, COD Spring Conference Knowledge Scholar
In our opening symposium of the Spring Conference, Ed Feiner, FAIA made a bold statement that “[excellence] is probably the most overused word after professional” in today’s society. He wasn’t just talking about architecture either, everything is “excellent” these days, he said.
This may speak to younger generations not using proper adjectives to describe something, or our inability to be as critical as we could/should be. As a product of Gen-Y, I would have to agree with his statement. This poses the question, architecturally speaking, is the term “excellence” overused?
The most memorable conversations from the Spring Conference were those where disagreements occurred in what is and is not excellent. Is excellence too subjective to truly be used properly? Or are these debates that we had over Venturi and Rauch’s Fire Station No. 4, and the Hotel Indigo, what is missing in architectural discourse?
This isn’t to say that architectural criticism is absent from our culture, however I believe that we must remain critical in order for architects to be innovative and progressive. Remember what it was like when you were in school, and a “bad” review could leave you or your classmate in tears? Remember how much that criticism motivated you to refine or completely rethink your design?
Those critics that you loved to hate, were the people who gave you a reality check as an architect, not everything is excellent! So I ask you again, and please leave comments, is “excellence” overused in architectural discourse?
April 5, 2012
If you are going to visit Columbus, Indiana with the Committee On Design’s Conference (April 12 – 15, 2012) and people raise their eyebrows and query, “Why Columbus, of all places?” You can say, “Because there is a unique collection of over 80 modern buildings, designed by nationally and internationally noted architects, including Eliel Saarinen, Eero Saarinen, I.M Pei, Harry Weese, Robert Venturi, Richard Meier, SOM and many more, making it one of the highest ranked cities in the U.S. for innovation and architectural design – according to AIA members.” Not only that, it was ranked 11th by National Geographic Traveler’s on a list of 109 historic locations to visit worldwide.
Visit the COD website for more information and follow the conference on our Facebook page and Twitter feed. We’ll be using the hashtag #CODColumbus during the Conference. The Committee On Design also has a Pinterest account with a board awaiting images from the Columbus Conference.
Thanks to John Winniger at WTIU – Indiana University, you can watch a short video entitled, Our Town Columbus, that offers a few more reasons why Columbus is a great place to visit.
April 5, 2012
The Committee On Design is holding its Spring Conference in Columbus, Indiana April 12 – 15, 2012. COD Chair Mike Mense selected Columbus as part of his year’s theme: Defining Architectural Design Excellence.
Why, after so many years of excellent public and commercial architecture in Columbus, Indiana, are there almost no modern houses?
Why, when you drive north from Florida’s South Beach passing miles and miles of waterfront houses, less than one percent are anything we would call architecture?
Why do Americans drive designer cars and drink designer coffee but live, most all of them, in a house or apartment that is pretending to be the home of some wealthy ancestors long deceased?
Are we determined as a profession to continue to define ourselves in ways that isolate us from the greater part of the society in which we practice?
Can we find some definitions of architectural excellence upon which we can agree and that we can explain successfully to the silent majority? Is it even something we want to do?
The exclusive opportunities for attendees to the Columbus Conference Include:
- The opportunity to meet and converse with many of the national and local architects who have worked in Columbus, Indiana, including Gunnar Birkerts, Ben and Cynthia Weese (representing Harry Weese), Daniel McCoubrey and Nancy Rogo Trainer (representing Robert Venturi), Ralph Johnson of Perkins+Will, Jane Weinzapfel, Kevin Kennon, Carlos Jimenez, Fred Koetter and Susie Kim.
- An open house tour, with personal photography allowed, of the Miller House and Gardens, “America’s most significant modernist house” per Travel+Leisure. The house showcases the collaborative design of leading 20th-century architects and designer: Eero Saarinen, Alexander Girard and Dan Kiley. You will be allowed to wander the house and gardens on your own, with docents available for information, instead of the limited guided tours. Personal photography is permitted, not allowed on public tours.
- Meet Will Miller, patron of modern architecture, son of J. Irwin Miller who commissioned the Miller House and started the renowned Cummins Foundation architectural program.
- The Cummins’ Friday evening reception and dinner at the Cummins Corporate Headquarters, designed by Kevin Roche, including tours of the workplace. Dinner provided by Cummins’ executive chef. You will also have the opportunity to meet and dine with Cummins executives and community leaders. Cummins Corporate Headquarters is a secured building and typically not open to the public except for the lobby.
- Tour Cummins midrange engine plant in Walesboro, an innovative sustainable design by Kevin Roche completed in 1973. Cummins facilities are not typically open to the public without special arrangements.
- If you have never been to Columbus, Indiana before, we will visit many of it’s unique collection of over 80 modern buildings, designed by nationally and internationally noted architects, including Eliel Saarinen, Eero Saarinen, I.M Pei, Harry Weese, Robert Venturi, Richard Meier, SOM and many more. Columbus was ranked 6th in the nation for innovation and architectural design by AIA members. It was ranked 11th by National Geographic Traveler’s on a list of 109 historic locations to visit worldwide.
- If you have previously visited Columbus, but not been back in the last 5-10 years, we will visit many new buildings and experience the ongoing redevelopment of the downtown, designed by noted architects Carlos Jimenez, Ralph Johnson, Deborah Berke, William Rawn, Cesar Pelli, Fred Koetter and Susie Kim.