Holding rank alongside much bigger metropolitan areas as one of the most architecturally significant cities in the United States, Columbus, Indiana is famous for its collection of modernist buildings and structures, serving as an open-air museum of sorts to explore and appreciate. The most impressive stretch of town is known as “The Avenue of the Architects.”
The Columbus Visitors Center hosts several by-reservation guided tour options to lead visitors through the town’s compact assortment of outstanding architecture and public art installations. However, grabbing or downloading a free map and strolling along 5thStreet — a.k.a. “The Avenue of the Architects” — presents an easily walkable path past a dozen or so of the most noteworthy highlights.
The eight-block stretch covers a lot of ground in a short distance, including buildings such as the spired St. Peters Lutheran Church designed by Gunnar Birkerts, the Cleo Rogers Library by I.M. Pei, the iconic Irwin Conference Center by Eero Saarinen, the Cummins, Inc. corporate headquarters by Kevin Roche and many other architectural masterpieces.
Central Middle School designed by Ralph Johnson anchors the eastern end of the “avenue,” while Mill Race Park created by landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh provides an expansive verdant space in which to rest and catch your breath at the western edge.
Don’t miss the opportunity to peek behind the gates to see the spectacular landscape of the Inn at Irwin Gardens; the bed-and-breakfast grounds are a coveted site for summer weddings. Consult your map for insightful detail about the origins and history of each stop along the tour.
While you’re in town, detour a block off the DIY tour path for an old-fashioned sundae, shake or float at the century-old Zaharako’s Ice Cream Parlor on Washington Street, required eating for families with kids in tow.
Can’t get enough of the local architecture? Search for “Columbus,” a 2017 indie-film and Sundance darling shot here on location, on your on-demand media for a home screening.
For more information about Columbus architecture and tours, visit columbus.in.us.