Study Modernism & Postmodernism in Indiana

Study Architecture in a Small-Town Modernist Building Mecca

Study architecture in the small southern Indiana town of Columbus, which has an amazing collection of modernist buildings designed by the best architects of the mid-20th century. Consider an impact project by volunteering your time at a local hospital during your stay to help the needy.

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Sojourn – Gain a better understanding of the community you’re visiting. Learn about different religions or spiritual practices. How do these impact the communities? How does religion or spirituality influence local traditions?

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Savor – Will you choose sweet or savory? Take the time to visit local markets and discover unique local ingredients. Learn how to prepare traditional meals & local favorites.

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Tip of the Tongue – Each morning, take the time to learn a few basic greetings and phrases in the local language. Learn how to write greetings & your name in the local script.

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A Wrinkle in Time – History influences our present. Discover the history of the country you visit. Hear the stories of your guides & their family history. Where do they come from?

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Journal Journeys – Take some time to reflect on the day’s events and document your journey. Spend a moment journaling about the day had & day ahead. These are memories for a lifetime!

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Culture – From local dances, festivals, or simple gestures to communicate – all of these make up a country’s culture. Learn and practice cultural norms & how to show respect in the culture you visit.

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Fly into Indianapolis, Indiana’s capital and largest city. Get situated at your hotel, then take a walk downtown to see the state capitol building and the ornate Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument.  The 284-foot tall limestone monument is Indiana’s official memorial to the Hoosiers who served in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Frontier Wars and the Spanish-American War. There are a number of artworks either built into the monument or placed throughout the grounds. 

Then have a stroll along the Central Canal. The Canal Walk is a three-mile loop that flows by several popular attractions. On your walk, you’ll enjoy a spectacular view of the Indianapolis skyline. Watch for colorful murals on the canal underpasses, too.

Have dinner downtown prior to returning to your hotel.

Start your day with some art and design in Indianapolis. Spread out across 152 acres, the Indianapolis Museum of Art is among the ten largest art museums in the U.S. It also boasts one of the largest contemporary art parks in the U.S., featuring a 35-acre lake and art installations set amidst woodlands and wetlands. 

You’ll also tour Lilly House, a National Historic Landmark. The mansion home has been restored to its 1930s glory and sits on the magnificent 26-acre Oldfields estate surrounded by lovely gardens. 

Then drive less than an hour south to begin your architectural explorations in Columbus.

Drop your things at your hotel, then stop by the Columbus Visitors Center for tour tickets for this week, and to get an overview of what you’ll be seeing.  

The small town of Columbus Indiana has an outsized reputation when it comes to modernist architecture. Thanks to an ingenious plan by J. Irwin Miller, Cummins Engine Company helped fund the construction of civic buildings all over town. It did so by paying the fees of some of the most famous architects, including I.M. Pei, Eero Saarinen and Robert Venturi, who came to Columbus to build with regularity starting in the 1950s. 

Have dinner and turn in for the night.

Today you’ll take a bus tour to see the remarkable architectural highlights in Columbus. Provided by the Columbus Visitors Center, the tour starts with an introductory video followed by a short stroll into the Cleo Rogers Memorial Library plaza, built by I.M. Pei and anchored by Henry Moore’s distinctive Large Arch sculpture. 

Across the street stands the bell tower of the contemporary landmark First Christian Church, a collaboration between Eliel Saarinen and his son, Eero (designer of the Gateway Arch). Other highlights of the tour include the  Irwin Conference Center, built in 1954 by Eero Saarinen as well as his space-age North Christian Church, and the mansard-roofed 19th-century Bartholomew County Courthouse. 

The architecture bus tour drives by over 30 significant structures and works of art and includes two interior stops. Discover how a small midwestern city became a modern architecture “mecca.”

Lunch, dinner and overnight in Columbus.

Today’s Iconic Columbus walking tour will get you out and about more of the town’s architectural heritage. This tour provides you with an up-close look at a variety of architectural styles, from historic Victorian and modernism to contemporary, designed by some of the most enduring names in architecture. The 90-minute tour features two interior stops. Lunch in downtown Columbus.  

This afternoon, volunteer your time at the local hospital to give back to the local Columbus community and help those who are most in need.  

Dinner and overnight in Columbus.

This morning you’ll visit J. Irwin Miller’s own spectacular mid-century modern home, which was completed in 1957 by Eero Saarinen with interiors by Alexander Girard and expansive gardens by landscape designer Dan Kiley. The residence is another of the city’s nationally recognized historic landmarks, and the home of the first conversation pit, an architectural feature in which recessed seating is embedded into the floor of a larger room.  The tour starts at the Visitor Center and takes approximately ninety minutes, including an introductory video shown before the walk begins. Have lunch back in town following the tour. 

There is time to explore on your own this afternoon to go into buildings open to the public that especially intrigued you, to see the interiors.

Dinner and overnight in Columbus.

The Modernist buildings in Columbus are woven into the fabric of town life, interspersed with old, 19th-century, gingerbread-like structures.  In 1991, the American Institute of Architects rated Columbus sixth on its list of the top ten American cities for architectural quality and innovation, right up there with Chicago, New York, Washington D.C. and San Francisco. Seven of the town’s buildings have been designated national historic landmarks, and several of these are located along the city’s Fifth Street, known as the Avenue of the Architects.

This morning you will meet with the local Chamber of Commerce and architectural  experts, coordinated through the Visitors Center, to learn more about what you have seen this week and have an opportunity to ask questions.  

Have lunch before your return drive to Indianapolis in the afternoon. Have dinner and overnight downtown.

Have breakfast, then return to the Indianapolis airport for your flight home, having learned so much about the giants of modernist architecture during your visit to the small town of Columbus.

Columbus, Indiana may be a small town, but it packs a big punch when it comes to mid-20th century architecture. For anyone who wants to study architecture, this incredible off-the-beaten-path trip will have you marveling as you learn how legendary architect I.M. Pei among others was enticed to come to town and create some of his most impressive works. This hidden gem will be the highlight of any budding architect’s travel plans!


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