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 19, 2013
Member Slideshows are created each year for the Spring Conference to illustrate the recent work of the attendee’s firms. All COD members are welcome to participate. Attendees have 6 slides and 60 seconds to present their projects, or whatever is on their mind. Many of the 2012 Member Slideshow slides are posted on the COD Pinterest page.
Nancy Rogo Trainer, FAIA, AICP, LEED AP BD+C, and Daniel McCoubrey, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, presented their slides.
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.
September 11, 2012
By Aaron Trahan, Committee On Design Spring 2012 Conference Knowledge Scholar
“Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context – a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan.”
As the Fall Conference approaches, it is important to remember where we left off this Spring in Columbus. One of the consensus’ that we was that context matters in design excellence. I found this quote from Eliel Saarinen particularly relevant to this topic because it seems so obvious, and yet there are buildings in all of our cities, towns and neighborhoods that somehow miss this fundamental principal.
The modernist additions to downtown Columbus truly embodied a consistent sense of scale, and a natural progression from the residential neighborhoods, to the community buildings, and to the retail center. Living in Boston, with such beautiful historic buildings, I always imagined what our neighborhoods would look like if the only structures breaking above the canopy lines of the trees were public buildings, such as churches, town halls, and courthouses. I imagine there would be a higher quality of civic discourse prevalent when you could find your way to a public meetingplace by just looking up, and knowing where to go by distinguishing the design of each tower.
Architecture, in this sense, has the ability to prioritize and foster community. Columbus has a unique character in its urban planning, which is applicable today in neighborhoods of a similar scale. Hopefully, as young architects focus on community design, buildings that serve a public function will be given greater architectural presence.
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.
November 16, 2011
We began the first day of the COD Japan conference with two lectures, held on the 45th floor of the Mori Building at Roppongi Hills, designed by KPF. It was a great vantage point to look down on buildings visited in the last few days. The first lecture was by Masami Kobayashi of Meiji University. The title of his talk was Japan & the Tohoku Rebuilding Efforts.
Professor Kobayashi described how Tokyo had grown through centuries of what can only be called calamities– wars, fires, and earthquakes. Parts of the city were damaged or destroyed and then rebuilt. The city, therefore, has the texture of many eras of development layered on top of one another, creating a weaving of old and new, dense development and open space. He described it as a ‘salami pizza city’.
He went on to describe the enormous damage caused in eastern Japan by the recent (March, 2011) earthquake and tsunami. In helping with the reconstruction of the coastal towns destroyed by the tsunami he was finding a unique role for architects. The key, long-term issues are where and how to restore the communities that were destroyed. One key issue he and others are struggling with is that if you build a sea wall high enough to protect a community, you separate them from their key asset, the sea. The other key issue is a tsunami often destroys part of a community (the part lowest and closest to the ocean), leaving developments further back or on hillsides unharmed. The challenge arises in how to integrate sections of rebuilt areas with the older surviving ones.
Through charettes, his team of students and faculty are working to find alternate solutions. One idea is to raise the land; sounds simpler than it probably is. Another idea is to redevelop the low land but provide clear and easy paths out for people, i.e., lose buildings in future tsunamis but not lives. Yet another solution explored how to break a sea wall into sections that would break up waves yet provide views. I was impresses that his group was working toward real solutions to complex, community-oriented issues. The quality of life obtained in the end for the inhabitants, the fabric of the community, was equally as important as the civil engineering solution to the problem.
The second lecture follows….
Jim Childress FAIA