One Man Benefiting His Community
The story of architecture in Columbus, Indiana seems to always come back to industrialist and philanthropist J. Irwin Miller, whose Cummins Foundation is credited with helping promote architectural development in the city.
His home, which has recently been opened to the public, was designated a National Historic Landmark. The same can be said for the downtown branch of the bank he founded, formally Irwin Union Bank (now First Financial Bank). He was also influential in commissioning the first modernist building in the city, the First Christian Church.
It's fitting, then, that the final installment of Artworks tour of the Columbus architecture series ends at the church Miller attended, the same church that also hosted his funeral: the North Christian Church.
Beauty On The Outside
The church is the third example of collaboration amongst architect Eero Saarinen, textile artist Alexander Girard, and landscape designer Dan Kiley. (The others? The Miller Home and Gardens, and the downtown branch of the former Irwin Union Bank).
It also happens to be the final building designed by Saarinen before his death in 1961.
The most striking feature of the hexagonal building is its 192 foot tall spire. Cindy Frey, Associate Director of the Columbus Area Visitors Center, says if it were a mere eight feet taller, it would have had to include a blinking light on top to alert passing air crafts.
Beauty On The Inside
The shape of the building is reflected on the inside of the church. It also comes back in the sanctuary, which seats 650 people, arranged in the round, with the altar in the middle.
"It's a very womb-like space," says Frey.
As with the Miller Home, the cushions that line the seats in the front row have interchangeable covers. Depending on the liturgical calendar, they can be green or they can be purple.