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.
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.
Another highlight of the day was a visit to the The National Art Center, by Kisho Kurokawa in the Art Triangle of the Roppongi area of Tokyo. On the site of an old army barracks, the building’s glass front meanders around the entry and forms one side of a small urban garden. The other side is enclosed by a modern renovation of a small remnant of the barracks. The curving glass curtain wall, with fritted glass sun shades, seems so simple but must have been a challenge to build. The catwalks on the inside are unfortunate but I assume are required for glass cleaning.
Restaurants, five altogether, include three on top of the concrete cones. The wall between the public lobby and galleries is comprised of back lit glass and fins of wood. The galleries are all lit by indirect lighting in coffers, and are especially bright by western standards. The partitions hang from tracks and sit on adjustable feet so they can be rearranged. I especially liked the exit lights in the floor.
You are all invited to attend the Committee on Design Conference in Japan this November. If Japan has been on your bucket list, this is a great way to see the best-of-the-best architecture in a short time. The conference has been planned by our colleagues in the Pacific Northwest along with their extensive contacts in Japan.
The conference registration is open and the information for the event can be accessed through www.aia.org/craftingthefuture.
Specific highlights of the conference you might be interested in include:
- 10.5 AIA CES (10.5HSW)NWPR Portion, 21.5 AIA CES (9.5HSW, 3SD) COD Portion
- A keynote talk by 2011 AIA Gold Medal recipient, Fumihiko Maki, Hon. FAIA
- An all-day tour of Omotesando, known as the ‘architectural fashion catwalk’ of Tokyo, featuring several fashion flagship stores.
- An all-day tour of Ginza, Tokyo’s exclusive shopping and dining district, and the Tokyo International Forum (Rafael Vinoli, 1996).
- An all-day tour of the Shinjuku district and its concentration of high density business districts.
- A visit to the 21st Century Museum by SANAA as well as the Umimirai Library by Coelacanth K&H Architects, (2011) in Kanazawa.
Speaking from experience these conferences are extremely well organized and full of constant inspiration. Your batteries will be recharged and you’ll come home with some extraordinary memories.
(One way to help limit the cost of travel is to make use of direct flights from cities on the West Coast to Tokyo. Check the Registration page for more travel tips.)