In Columbus, Indiana, an exhibition enlivens the city with site-specific installations, community, engagement and architecture. Pictured: Window Dressing by Ang Li.Picture © Hadley Fruits / Courtesy of Exhibit Columbus
In the last few months a small town in the Midwest “in the middle” of the country has taken the architectural world by storm. Since the opening of Exhibit Columbus last March, the exhibition team, designers, and curatorial duo Mimi Zeiger and Iker Gil have created a rich, personal experience filled with work that embodies the past, present and future of Midwestern architecture and research, and Discourse.
As a media partner, Archinect has conducted several interviews in which we immerse ourselves in the heads of the talented designers of the exhibition. We learned how they pushed the boundaries of site-specific architecture exhibitions and how they evoke moments of reflection and pride for cities in the Midwest.
In preparation for the upcoming Exhibit Columbus event, Mapping the Middle: Design Research Conversations, we were allowed to immerse ourselves in the projects of this year’s seven University Design Research Fellows. The team at Exhibit Columbus announced that this new colloquium invites each fellow to discuss how their work “uses mapping as a tool / process to examine, reveal and represent the world around us” while clicking on the The overall theme of the exhibition.
This year’s program of talented architects, designers and academic provocateurs is a reminder that exciting architecture and discourses do not only take place in vibrant cities and metropolises. In our previous conversation with the curators Iker Gil and Mimi Zeiger, they express how important it is to focus on “the middle”. Zeiger had previously told Archinect that this year’s theme was also for “the people who are outside of Columbus and looking in. Trying to figure out what the flesh of architecture is in the face of everything that’s happening.”
Below are project images and brief descriptions of each research project, as well as links to full-length video presentations from each fellow. In each video, they discuss their work and design process.
Window dressing by Ang Li from Northeastern University
“Window Dressing is a facade installation along Washington Street by The Commons that invites the public to ponder the cultural and architectural heritage of late modernism Here.)
In the footsteps of our Mississippi by Derek Hoeferlin of Washington University in St. Louis
“Tracing Our Mississippi will be an interactive installation and public program series at the Columbus Pump House location on a terrace next to the Flatrock River […] Hoeferlin’s Columbus project and ongoing research pose the question: is the Mississippi watershed really still a watershed?
With love for the middle species by Joyce Hwang of the University of Buffalo
“To Middle Species, with Love was developed to improve the habitat conditions for urban wildlife in Columbus and to make their presence among us as roommates of the built environment more visible. These animals – which we call as opposed to ‘Middle Species'” ” Flagship “species – are widespread and embedded in our communities: bats, birds, reptiles.” (Hear Hwang here fully discuss her project.)
LaWaSo floor by Jei Jeeyea Kim of Indiana University
“LaWaSo Ground is a contemporary monument and community area of (La) nd, (Wa) ter and (So) il that aims to help bridge some of the cultural dichotomies of our time through the lens of the material culture that First Christian Church draws the installation from recognizing the silenced and repressed voices of the past and advocating for more diverse inclusion in the future. “(Listen as Kim fully discusses her project here.)
Spectral by Ersela Kripa and Stephen Meuller from Texas Tech University
“Spectral addresses the legacy of aerial activity over the city and speculates about a future in which urban spaces are aware of their involvement with aerial technology.” […] Spectral is designed both as a public meeting place and as a meditation on how and what is seen has changed from projected light (the cinema) to increasingly pervasive air-infrared imaging. “
This look is _____ by Lola Sheppard and Mason White from the University of Waterloo & University of Toronto
“This Appearance Is ____ invites citizens into the space of appearing and disappearing. […] The installation is a study of the ability to withdraw from the larger world and then reconnect – a test that is even more poignant after more than a year of pandemic restrictions. “(Here, listen to Sheppard and White as they did you Discuss the project in full.)
Calibrate by Natalie Yates of Ball State University
“Calibrate is a device for registering and capturing multiple scales of complex, accumulated environmental data collected from all over Columbus and its surroundings. The installation records the cultivated ecological layers of a city rich in design, creativity and innovation over several different time scales from geological time to real-time acquisition data. “(Listen to Yates her project in full here.)
Reflect in the middle
After following the exhibition over the past few months, I have two thoughts. First, the iteration of Exhibit Columbus 2021 allowed me to develop a new perspective on the Midwest. While it’s easy to criticize exhibitions from a distance, my only critical comment is that I wish the exhibition would last longer so that I could see the installations in person. It is clear that each participating Columbus City designer presented a tangible gift that enriches the city’s architectural landscape. The exhibition offers a “call to action” for individuals to pay more attention to the architectural discourse that is taking place in the Midwestern region. Each installation and subsequent panel discussion acts as a “call to be” with architecture. Sit together with architecture and experience how this discipline affects large and small cities.
“New middle” has given the design community a new reason to experience space, listen to the discourse and develop improved perspectives.
My second takeaway focuses on the power of site-specific exhibitions. While they are viewed by the general public as “exciting events” to visit on the weekend or as an opportunity to take up photogenic projects, programs like Exhibit Columbus act as an invitation to the public. This sense of inclusion was achieved thanks to the exhibition’s planning team and the skillful intent of curators Gil and Zeiger. They managed to give the community a number of works to get lost in, think about and applaud. “New middle” has given the design community a new reason to experience space, listen to the discourse and develop improved perspectives. At the same time, the general public is invited to see representations of the architectural discourse, which is often conducted within the confines of academic and elite architectural circles.
Exhibition Columbus, his team of curators, designers and employees had created an exhibition that not only survived a challenging year, but also set an example of what can be done when the nature of the architectural discourse changes and is challenged. If you are in the Columbus area, be sure to check out the Columbus exhibit and Mapping the Middle: Design Research Conversations Saturday event in the courtyard of First Christian Church on October 2 from 1:30 pm to 5:00 pm.
The 2021 exhibition can be seen from now until November 28, 2021. To find out more about “Neue Mitte” and its programming, click here.