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Exhibit Columbus Announces 2020-2021 Theme and J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prize Recipients

COLUMBUS, IN – Exhibit Columbus — which launched in 2016 to celebrate the design legacy of Columbus, Indiana, through its annual exploration of architecture, art, design and community — today announced its curatorial theme for the 2020-2021 cycle as well as the J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prize Recipients and other participants.

For the 2021 Exhibition, which will take place fall 2021, co-curators Iker Gil and Mimi Zeiger have invited the J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prize recipients (as well as the University Design Research Fellows and the High School Design Team) to create site specific, future-oriented installations, which will be developed over the coming year in response to the theme: New Middles: From Main Street To Megalopolis, What Is The Future of The Middle City?

This 2020-2021 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. 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 the world most needs 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 cities forward.

The J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prize is the centerpiece of Exhibit Columbus and honors the legacy of two great patrons of the 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.

This year’s J. Irwin and Xenia Miller Prize winners are:
  • Dream the Combine/ Minneapolis
  • ecosistema urbano/ Miami and Madrid, Spain
  • Future Firm/ Chicago
  • Olalekan Jeyifous/ Brooklyn
  • Sam Jacob Studio/ London

Columbus, Indiana, best known as a midcentury 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. In bringing together thinkers, designers, and architects, New Middles approaches present uncertainties with a sense of optimism and possibility.

“These five Miller Prize winners represent the future of architecture and design,” says Anne Surak, Director of Exhibit Columbus. “They bring to Columbus a deep understanding of the ways architecture and design, at a variety of scales, shape our cities and inform the ways we relate to each other. With this award they will have the opportunity to bring their unique perspectives to Columbus, while exploring the customs and values that have created this city’s international design legacy. The lenses through which participants view this thematic cycle, interact with our city’s design legacy, and create work in dialogue with our community will strengthen Exhibit Columbus’s ability to promote a critical design dialogue while creating meaningful impact through our locally responsive and globally engaged program.”

The five Miller Prize recipients will be featured participants in the 2020 Symposium — which will be entirely virtual due to the global pandemic; symposium conversations will take place online mid-September to mid-November. The hope is that they will be able to present their design concepts in person, Spring 2021, and then will build site-responsive installations that relate to the context of the many important landmarks around downtown Columbus as part of the 2021 exhibition, which will open to the public fall 2021.

About the 2021 Exhibition

The 2021 exhibition will expand on the curatorial theme in a tangible way by inviting architects and designers to create outdoor installations and experiences that use Columbus’ built heritage as inspiration and context, while exploring the future of Columbus’s civic space. In addition to the Miller Prize installations, the exhibition will include eleven other projects at varying scales.

Exhibit Columbus has also awarded seven University Design Research Fellowships 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 University Design Research Fellows for 2020-2021 are:
  • Ang Li Projects/ Northeastern University
  • Joyce Hwang/ University at Buffalo
  • Ersela Kripa and Stephen Mueller, AGENCY/ Texas Tech College of Architecture, El Paso
  • Lola Sheppard and Mason White, Lateral Office/ University of Waterloo & University of Toronto
  • Derek Hoeferlin/ Washington University in St. Louis
  • Natalie Yates/ Ball State University
  • Jei Jeeyea Kim/ Indiana University

New Middles also introduces two Photography Fellows, who over the course of 2020-2021 will document parts of Columbus, the heartland, and the Mississippi watershed from social, economic, and environmental perspectives and present this work in innovative ways as part of the exhibition.

The Photography Fellows for 2020-2021 are:
  • Virginia Hanusik/ New Orleans
  • David Schalliol/ Minneapolis

In addition, the Columbus High School Design Team will create an installation as part of its classwork in the Bartholomew County School Corporation’s C4 Program. The entire exhibition will be tied together with dynamic wayfinding and a graphic design system designed by Jeremiah Chiu of Some All None in Los Angeles.

These projects will activate downtown Columbus’ for more than three months in the fall of 2021. As a featured cycle of events, Exhibit Columbus is a program of Landmark Columbus Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to caring for, celebrating, and advancing the cultural heritage of Columbus, Indiana.

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