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August 10, 2015

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M ore than 40,000 people visit the 20th largest city in the state of Indiana each year.  What could draw that many people—nearly the amount that live in the humble city?  The surprising answer is not rock stars, film festivals, nor fairs, but something more lasting—the architecture of Columbus, IN.

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Thanks to the philanthropy and social vision of J. Irwin Miller [1909-2004], former CEO [1934-1977] of the city’s largest employer, Cummins Engine Company, the area attracted the best of modern American architecture.  Beginning with Eliel and son Eero Saarinen in the 40s and including a roster that reads like a who’s who of a-list firms and architects including: Robert M. Stewart Bridge, I.M Pei, Robert Venturi, Ralph Johnson of Perkins and Will, Edward Charles Bassett of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, Roche Dinkeloo, Robert A. M. Stern, James Stewart Polshek, Gunnar Birkerts, Harry Weese, Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates, Susana Torre, Norman Fletcher of the Architect’s Collaborative, Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects, Edward Larrabee Barnes, Richard Meier and artist Henry Moore to name a few.

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Miller’s social vision transformed many of the city’s public buildings and schools.  One standout school was designed by then forty-four year old modern architect Richard Meier.  Over the next four years, the 72,000 square foot Clifty Creek Elementary School would challenge pedagogical norms creating flexible classrooms which employed the use of movable walls.  The school’s people circulatory system celebrated the recent ADA guidelines that were put in place a few years earlier requiring accessible ramps.  Rather than view the rule as a hindrance, Meier expanded the ramps and built the school around the winding spine.  Located on a sloping twenty-two acre site, the school gently steps down the slope, spilling out at the bottom expanse creating release.

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Unfortunately, with evolving teaching ideologies, later years found the school’s flexible space problematic for learning.  However, this does not tarnish what is an incredible building, rationally and emotionally laid out and planned to reflect the modern educational ideas of its original clients.

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PIN THIS!

Article and Bonus Images for Pinterest.

Richard Meier's Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier’s Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier's Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier’s Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier's Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier’s Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier's Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier’s Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier's Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier’s Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier's Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier’s Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier's Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier’s Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier's Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier’s Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier's Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier’s Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier's Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier’s Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier's Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier’s Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier's Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier’s Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier's Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier’s Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier's Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier’s Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier's Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier’s Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier's Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier’s Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier's Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier’s Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier's Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier’s Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier's Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier’s Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier's Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier’s Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier's Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier’s Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier's Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier’s Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier's Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier’s Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier's Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN

Richard Meier’s Clifty Creek Elementary School, Columbus, IN


About the author: Bill Indursky
Bill Indursky is an architect, trend expert, and digital entrepreneur. He is the former founder of V&M (Vintage & Modern (2006-2013)) and the current founder of Design Life Network (DLN). DLN is a MAGAZINE + DESIGN AGENCY + MARKETPLACE + TV CHANNEL promoting inspiring design of all eras online and on TV.


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