An exploration of the future of the center of the United States and the regions connected by the Mississippi Watershed
The 2020–2021 Exhibit Columbus presents New Middles: From Main Street to Megalopolis, What is the Future of the Middle City? Curated by Iker Gil and Mimi Zeiger, this symposium and exhibition cycle explores the future of the center of the United States and the regions connected by the Mississippi Watershed. New Middles speculates on the heartland, an ecology stretching beyond political borders—from North to South—from the Canadian Border to the Gulf, and from East to West—from Appalachia to the plains.
Columbus, Indiana, best known as a mid century modernist destination, is an archetypal middle city—a middle amongst middles with an impressive history of socially-minded architecture designed to foster civic life. Midwest, mid-sized, or middle American, the notion of “middle” goes beyond geography and does not mean average or neutral. Middle is its own condition, especially in relation to changing demographics, technology, mobility, climate change, health crises, and ways that cities are trying to address past and present injustices. The middle is a network of relationships, multiple centers, and potentials.
Embracing a long timeline of cities past, present, and future, New Middles builds upon Columbus’ legacy as a laboratory for design as civic investment. In a moment when we most need reflection, creativity, and innovation to envision new ways of being, New Middles considers Columbus a place to destabilize assumptions, and imagine new architectures and landscapes as a way to positively move our cities forward.
As the first public program of the 2020–2021 Exhibit Columbus cycle, the 2020 Symposium approaches the New Middles curatorial theme from a variety of perspectives and presents a series of online conversations centered on four topic areas: Futures and Technologies, Resiliency and Climate Adaptation, Arts and Community, and Indigenous Futures and Radical Thinking.
These dialogues serve as foundational research for all New Middles participants—as a kind of Exhibition Design Brief. Additionally, the symposium will highlight Columbus as a historic host and speculative think tank on design—convening conversations that invite audiences to consider innovative ideas around design’s role in shaping the future of our cities. By involving community leaders and public programming, the symposium will also serve as a “Community Design Brief” that identifies topics, themes, and writings for community partners and exhibition participants to consider throughout the multi-year exploration.
For the 2021 Exhibition, the curators invite the J. Irwin and Xenia Miller Prize recipients, University Design Research Fellows, and High School Design Team, to create site specific, future-oriented installations, which will be developed over the coming year. Miller Prize recipients will work in relationship to particular sites around Columbus indicative of archetypal civic forms: Main Street, bank, post office, park, library, church, or school. University Design Research Fellows were selected for their ability to tackle specific sets of issues germane to the future of the city and the Mississippi Watershed region, such as sustainability and material reuse, non-human habitat, watershed ecologies, emergent technologies, and migration.
The J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prize is the centerpiece of Exhibit Columbus and honors the legacy of two great patrons of our community. The 2020–21 J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prize recipients represent practices that celebrate design and have a deep interest in research and making. They have been selected for their commitment to the transformative power that architecture, art, and design have to improve people’s lives and make cities better places to live.
Seven University Design Research Fellowships have been awarded to leading professors of architecture, landscape architecture, and design from American universities who will create installations highlighting their research. University Design Research Fellows were selected for their ability to tackle specific sets of issues germane to the future of the city and the Mississippi Watershed region, such as sustainability and material reuse, non-human habitat, watershed ecologies, emergent technologies, and migration.
The exhibition also includes an installation by the High School Design Team, Photography Fellows David Schalliol and Virginia Hanusik, and Environmental Design and Wayfinding by Jeremiah Chiu.
J. Irwin and Xenia Miller Prize
Dream the Combine
Sam Jacob Studio
University Design Research Fellows
Jei Jeeyea Kim
Ersela Kripa and Stephen Mueller
Lola Sheppard and Mason White
High School Design Team
Environmental Design and Wayfinding