Miller Prizes on Display

John Hill
12. September 2019
SO-IL: 'Into the Hedge' (Photo: Hadley Fruits)

Exhibit Columbus, the "annual exploration of architecture, art, design, and community" opened in Columbus, Indiana, late last month. A highlight of this year's exhibition are the five J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prize installations.

Named for the late head of Cummins and his wife — two patrons of modern architecture who made the small Midwestern town an archi-tourist destination — the Miller Prize recipients are "international leaders that were selected for their commitment to the transformative power that architecture, art, and design has to improve people’s lives and make cities better places to live," as described at the Exhibit Columbus website. The five installations exhibit a strong penchant for landscapes on the part of their designers as well as creative ways of interacting with the modern buildings that define Columbus. The five Miller Prize installations are presented below in alphabetical order by studio. 

Exhibit Columbus, which also includes Washington Street Civic Projects and University Design Research Fellowships, takes place until December 1, 2019.

Agency Landscape + Planning: 'XX'

Agency Landscape + Planning: 'XX' (Photo: Hadley Fruits)

Agency Landscape + Planning, the Cambridge, Massachusetts, firm led by landscape architect Gina Ford and urban planner Brie Hensold, added planters and seating at the intersection of Franklin and Seventh Streets in front of the AT&T Switching Center, a reflective glass building designed by Paul Kennon in 1978. While XX softens the hard edges of the modern building at this intersection, the installation's motives are deeper: The planters feature plant tags with "personal memories and recollections of strong female leaders throughout history and the city of Columbus" based on a 2019 postcard campaign administered by Agency.

Agency Landscape + Planning: 'XX' (Photo: Hadley Fruits)
Agency Landscape + Planning: 'XX' (Photo: Hadley Fruits)
Agency Landscape + Planning: 'XX' (Photo: Hadley Fruits)

Bryony Roberts: 'Soft Civic'

Bryony Roberts: 'Soft Civic' (Photo: Hadley Fruits)

Edward Bassett of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill designed one of Columbus's most distinctive buildings, the Columbus City Hall (1981), which is fronted by a brick wall with cantilevered arms at the curved-glass entrance. Here, New York's Bryony Roberts added Soft Civic, made up of curved structures draped with colorful woven surfaces. Situated at the entrance and on the lawn, the structures invite children to play on them, while also serving to host functions throughout the duration of Exhibit Columbus. 

Bryony Roberts: 'Soft Civic' (Photo: Hadley Fruits)
Bryony Roberts: 'Soft Civic' (Photo: Hadley Fruits)
Bryony Roberts: 'Soft Civic' (Photo: Hadley Fruits)

Frida Escobedo: 'Untitled'

Frida Escobedo: 'Untitled' (Photo: Hadley Fruits)

Mexican architect Frida Escobedo, designer of the 2018 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, added an elevated garden terrace in the plaza next to the Cleo Rogers Memorial Library, designed by I.M. Pei in 1969. On one side the outline of the untitled piece follows the geometry of the circular base of the Henry Moore sculpture that punctuates the plaza, while on the other sides it uses curves to form bench seating and invite library patrons to descend a few steps and get up close with the plants. Some pieces of the installation, including the curved bench, will be moved inside the library after Exhibit Columbus.

Frida Escobedo: 'Untitled' (Photo: Hadley Fruits)
Frida Escobedo: 'Untitled' (Photo: Hadley Fruits)
Frida Escobedo: 'Untitled' (Photo: Tony Vasquez)

MASS Design Group: 'Corn / Meal'

MASS Design Group: 'Corn / Meal' (Photo: Hadley Fruits)

MASS Design Group's contribution takes over some of the lawn of the Central Middle School, designed by Ralph Johnson from Perkins + Will and completed twelve years ago. Accordingly, the firm from Boston and Rwanda designed an edible installation that responds to the disconnection between what we eat and where it's grown. Corn / Meal consists of five types of edible corns (no feed for cattle here) surrounding picnic tables that were playfully arranged like a maze or elevated circuit. 

MASS Design Group: 'Corn / Meal'
MASS Design Group: 'Corn / Meal'
MASS Design Group: 'Corn / Meal'

SO-IL: 'Into The Hedge'

SO-IL: 'Into The Hedge' (Photo: Hadley Fruits)

Although Into the Hedge is located on the lawn of the 19th century Bartholomew County Courthouse, Florian Idenburg and Jing Liu of New York's SO-IL were inspired by a modern landmark in Columbus: Dan Kiley's landscape at Eero Saarinen’s Miller House and Garden from 1957. The installation is made up of 130 Arbor Vitae trees planted among a large-scale hammock structure that invites people to traverse the latter's undulating surfaces. The trees, selected in partnership with the Miller House and Garden, will be replanted after Exhibit Columbus in the hedgerows that define that property's perimeter.

SO-IL: 'Into The Hedge' (Photo: Hadley Fruits)
SO-IL: 'Into The Hedge' (Photo: Hadley Fruits)
SO-IL: 'Into The Hedge' (Photo: Hadley Fruits)

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