The Story Behind a Small Indiana Town's Architectural Treasures

Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo, Columbus, Indiana? Susan Stamberg investigates what makes one small Midwestern town a global center for architectural innovation.
August 7, 2012, 8am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Summer is the time for the all-American road trip. And for architectural enthusiasts, there may be no better destination than Columbus, Indiana (pop. 44,000), a town where more than 60 public buildings "have been built by a veritable who's who of modern masters - I.M. Pei, Eero and Eliel Saarinen, Cesar Pelli, Richard Meier, Harry Weese, Robert Venturi and James Polshek, to name a few."

In a piece for NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday, Stamberg describes the town's museum quality collection of Modernist architecture, and the primary reason that it came to be - "the Columbus-based Cummins Engine Co., or, more specifically, J. Irwin Miller, the company's longtime head."

"Whatever you do in this world, you've got a responsibility and a privilege of doing it the very best way you can," Miller says in a company film clip. "And whether it is architecture or cooking or drama or music, the best is none too good for any of us."

Along with his altruistic aim, Miller had a more practical reason for investing in quality architecture (one that resonates with our growing knowledge-based economy) - the need to attract highly skilled workers.  

Thanks to Daniel Lippman

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Published on Saturday, August 4, 2012 in NPR
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