Columbus, Indiana, posed the question: How do we highlight our city’s rich design legacy and also draw new energy to a future of innovative art and architecture? “Columbus is a cultural destination of mid-20th-century architecture,” stated Michael Baumberger, lecturer at the Knowlton School, acknowledging Eliel Saarinen’s First Christian Church completed in 1942 through career-defining commissions by Kevin Roche and Michael Van Valkenburgh. Although boasting dozens of exceptional buildings completed over the last 75 years, seven of which are National Historic Landmarks, Columbus has witnessed a decline in new cutting-edge projects.
Baumberger’s architecture design studio was invited along with five Midwestern universities to showcase work that incorporates design, fabrication and education in Exhibit Columbus, which explores the past, present and future of design with 18 outdoor, site-responsive installations that energize spaces in and around Columbus’ masterpieces of modern architecture.
With a history of studios committed to full-scale installations built on site with durable materials, Baumberger focused his studio on this single design-build project. “Students generally work individually or in small groups when developing studio projects. This project required the students to design, fabricate and construct the installation as a cohesive unit,” he stated. Caroline Proffit, a junior architecture student in the studio, concurred: “The construction of the project was heavily focused around teamwork and a balanced work ethic and flow. The scale of the project required all members of the studio to know what was happening, what needed to be done, and the level of precision at which jobs needed to be completed.”
The studio installation, INSCRIBED, grew out of an exploration of scripted drawings that referenced procedural work from artists such as Sol Lewitt, Bridget Riley and Casey Reas. The resulting line work was then developed into a series of 3D printed carbon fiber reinforced ABS plastic panels that informed a structural framework. In developing their approaches to the line drawings, students used a software popular in the school – Grasshopper – which is a visual scripting tool. In order to produce the installation’s 50 3D printed panels, the studio enlisted the help of Cincinnati Incorporated, which fabricates large-scale work with a Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) machine.
Located on the grounds between Central Middle School and Lincoln Elementary School, INSCRIBED was designed to be a place where people could gather. “In creating a space we wanted to encourage participation with the installation. Our plan was to create an outside classroom. The seating ensemble is meant to facilitate this experience,” stated Baumberger. After installing the piece on site, senior architecture student Jacquelyn Nehrbass commented, “It was incredibly rewarding for me to physically occupy a space that I had designed. It gave me a small glimpse of what it will be like to be an architect someday and to be able to see my ideas come to fruition.”
Exhibit Columbus is open until November 26.