“What Is The Future of The Middle City?” is the theme of virtual design event Exhibit Columbus

Exhibit Columbus launched in 2016 to celebrate the design legacy of Columbus, Indiana, through its annual exploration of architecture, art, design and community.

Exhibit Columbus third national symposium online beginning this Tuesday, September 15: “New Middles: From Main Street To Megalopolis, What Is The Future of The Middle City?”.

The 2020 Exhibit Columbus Symposium New Middles gathers thinkers, designers, architects, artists, and landscape architects to discuss the question: “What Is The Future of The Middle City?” The Symposium, which will take place virtually over six weeks beginning September 15 and running through October 29, will pose this important question from Columbus, Indiana—in the middle of the U.S. heartland and rooted in the Mississippi River watershed.

The 2020 Symposium consists of a series of conversations and online events including Thematic Conversations, presented in partnership with Dezeen, and Columbus Conversations with ongoing Public Engagement throughout the fall. The symposium considers the theme New Middles through the lens of four topic areas: Futures and Technologies, Resiliency and Climate Adaptation, Arts and Community, and Indigenous Futures and Radical Thinking.

Each bi-weekly topic is structured as a call-and-response between Tuesday “Thematic Conversations” hosted by Dezeen featuring national and international thought leaders, and Thursday “Columbus Conversations” that localize the topics, bringing Miller Prize recipients into discussion with community experts and stakeholders around future forward initiatives being undertaken in Columbus during its bicentennial year.

“Eco-boulevard”, Madrid, Spain, 2007-10. Ecosistema Urbano, Belinda Tato and Jose Luis Vallejo – Photo courtesy of Ecosistema Urbano

The Thematic Conversations will feature such design leaders as: Marcus Fairs, Co-Founder and Editor in Chief of Dezeen; Iker Gil and Mimi Zeiger, 2021-21 Curators of Exhibit Columbus; and more than 15 leaders—both professionals and academics—in the the fields of architecture and design, ecology and urbanism.

The Columbus Conversations will build upon and localize these discussions, and will highlight this year’s J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prize recipients and members of the local community including Heather Pope, Director of Redevelopment for the City of Columbus, Cindy Frey, President of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce; and more.

“Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies”, Alexandria, VA Waterfront Park, 2020. Olalekan Jeyifous – Photo courtesy of Laura Hatcher

“As a program, Exhibit Columbus continues to be both locally responsive and globally engaged. We are excited to launch the 2020 Symposium online and believe it will allow us to connect this theme and the story of Columbus to a much larger and international audience,” said Anne Surak, Director of Exhibit Columbus.

“We’ve created each conversation to be smartly accessible to a wide variety of audiences, including, designers, artists, civic leaders, enthusiasts, and students at the university and high school levels.”

This series of conversations builds on Columbus’s role as a historic host and speculative think tank on design, asking the city and sister mid-sized cities to consider the role of design and architecture as civic catalysts, especially when faced with the most pressing issues of our time: from community health to climate change impact, from equity and social justice to emergent technology.

“Protest!”, Cleveland, OH, 2018. Olalekan Jeyifous – Photo courtesy of Bob Perkoski

These dialogues serve as foundational research for all New Middles participants—a kind of Exhibition Design Brief and “Community Design Brief” that identifies topics, themes, and writings for community partners while growing exhibition participants’ understanding of Columbus’ culture and context as they conceptualize their commissioned installations for the fall 2021 exhibition.

These resources will grow through the 2020-21 cycle of Exhibit Columbus, and be publicly accessible and archived through our website to allow audiences to continue learning more from this thematic cycle of programming.

For licensed architects, attending the symposium conversations will count as AIA Continuing Education Units.

“Hide And Seek”, Museum of Modern Art, MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program, 2018. Jennifer Newsom and Tom Carruthers, Dream the Combine – Photo courtesy of Pablo Enriquez


Tuesday, September 15, 2:00-3:00 pm EST

Thematic Conversation: Futures and Technologies

New Middles: Futures and Technologies brings together futurists Dan Hill and Radha Mistry to discuss how strategic foresight and storytelling influences design. This conversation is premised on an idea attributed to science fiction writer William Gibson: the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed. What new normal realities from education and equity, to mobility and manufacturing will shape what’s next? Whose voices are represented? How might we extrapolate emergent technologies and contemporary conditions facing the Midwest into a speculative future of the middle?

Radha Mistry, Autodesk, San Francisco, CA
Dan Hill, Vinnova, Stockholm, Sweden
Moderated by Marcus Fairs, Co-Founder and Editor in Chief, Dezeen

Thursday, September 17, 12:00-1:00 pm EST

Columbus Conversation: Futures and Technologies

Columbus has long been a place of invention, but how are shifts in technology and manufacturing changing our city’s future? Miller Prize recipients Jennifer Newsom and Tom Carruthers of Dream the Combine join local experts and community leaders in a dialogue about how innovation drives designs of the future.

Jennifer Newsom and Tom Carruthers, Dream The Combine, Minneapolis, MN
Dr. Wayne Eckerle, Cummins, Inc., Columbus, IN
Moderated by Donna Sink, Rowland Design, Indianapolis, IN

“Where the Borough Ends”, Storefront for Art & Architecture, 2016. Ann Lui and Craig Reschke, Future Firm – Photo courtesy of Future Firm

Tuesday, September 29, 2:00-3:00 pm EST

Thematic Conversation: Resiliency and Climate Adaptation

New Middles: Resiliency and Climate Adaptation asks designer Iñaki Alday and landscape architect Kate Orff to reflect on how their practices are responding through landscape architecture and research to local and planetary climate crises. This conversation stems from the question: How is the Mississippi Watershed and the plains ecosystems and habitat impacted by a changing climate? The COVID-19 pandemic raises issues of how might middle cities and landscapes address global health challenges. What future-oriented ecological strategies will serve middle city landscapes and communities moving forward?

Kate Orff, SCAPE, New York, NY
Iñaki Alday, Tulane University/aldayjover architecture and landscape, New Orleans, LA
Moderated by Iker Gil, 2020-21 Curator, Exhibit Columbus

Thursday, October 1, 12:00-1:00 pm EST

Columbus Conversation: Resiliency and Climate Adaptation

What is Columbus’ past and future relationship with its own ecology and resiliency? Miller Prize recipients Belinda Tato and Jose Luis Vallejo of Ecosistema Urbano join Heather Pope, City of Columbus Director of Redevelopment, and landscape architect Rachel Kavathe in a dialogue that looks at Columbus’ historic relationship to its waterways and future ecological initiatives through the Riverfront Redevelopment Plan, and the introduction of pollinator parks to our community.

Rachel Kavathe, Loci Creative, Columbus, IN
Heather Pope, City of Columbus, IN
Belinda Tato and Jose Luis Vallejo, Ecosistema Urbano, Madrid/Miami, FL
Moderated by Janice Shimizu, Associate Curator, Exhibit Columbus / Ball State University

“Rebel Garages”, Chicago, IL, in progress. Ann Lui and Craig Reschke, Future Firm – Photo courtesy of Future Firm

Tuesday, October 13, 2:00-3:00 pm EST

Thematic Conversation: Arts and Community

New Middles: Arts and Community is a roundtable conversation between artist and design strategist De Nichols, architect and urban designer Paola Aguirre, and artist-writer-researcher Matthew Fluharty. These three will draw on their expertise to look at how arts spaces and cultural organizations are shaping the future of the middle—rural, urban, and points in-between. As communities across the middle reckon with legacies and presents marked by white supremacy and structural racism, including Jim Crow–era monuments, how can speculation through art and design help people envision equitable civic spaces? How have in the past and how will in the future diverse groups of neighborhoods, communities, and individuals come together through art, design, and creativity?

Paola Aguirre, Borderless Studio, Chicago, IL
Matthew Fluharty, Art of the Rural and M12 Studio, Winona, MN
De Nichols, Civic Creatives, St. Louis, MO
Moderated by Anne Surak, Director, Exhibit Columbus

Thursday, October 15, 12:00-1:00 pm EST

Columbus Conversation: Arts and Community

How might community-led cultural initiatives bring people together today and meaningfully improve tomorrow’s civic life? Featuring Miller Prize recipients Ann Lui and Craig Reshke of Future Firm and Sam Jacob of Sam Jacob Studio in discussion with community members Jessica Schnepp and others in this conversation that highlights the ways that grassroots creative networks, Friends of the Crump Theater and NOMAD, are at the front lines of preserving cultural arts spaces, and creating platforms that amplify voices and foster creativity as community asset.

Sam Jacob, Sam Jacob Studio, London, England
Ann Lui and Craig Reschke, Future Firm, Chicago, IL
Jessica Schnepp, Friends of Crump Theatre, Columbus, IN
Jadon Darnell, Austin Lewis and Kate Thomas, NOMAD, Columbus, IN
Moderated by Bryony Roberts, Bryony Roberts Studio, New York, NY

“Malaga Campus”, Universidad de Málaga, Málaga, Spain, Ongoing. Belinda Tato and Jose Luis Vallejo, Ecosistema Urbano – Rendering courtesy of Ecosistema Urbano

Tuesday, October 27, 2:00-3:00 pm EST

Thematic Conversation: Indigenous Futures and Radical Thinking

New Middles: Indigenous Futures and Radical Thinking is a roundtable between designer Chris Cornelius, The Land Institute Founder Wes Jackson, artist/architect Joar Nango, and speculative artist and designer Ash Eliza Smith. A long timeline is central to this conversation, which asks what are lessons, past and future, of this land and indigenous design? How might alternative voices and perspectives in relations to land, agriculture, and ways of making reimagine North American narratives?

Chris Cornelius (Oneida), studio: indigenous, Milwaukee, WI
Wes Jackson, The Land Institute, Topeka KS
Joar Nango (Sámi), FFB, Alta, Finland
Ash Eliza Smith, Carson Center of Emerging Media Arts, Lincoln NE
Moderated by Mimi Zeiger, 2020-21 Curator, Exhibit Columbus

Thursday, October 29, 12:00-1:00 pm EST

Columbus Conversation: Indigenous Futures and Radical Thinking

Whose voices shape an equitable future for Columbus? Miller Prize recipient Olalekan Jeyifous joins community leaders in a discussion that addresses how collaboration, alternative histories, and multiple narratives might play a role in the design of an inclusive future.

Olalekan Jeyifous, Brooklyn, NY
Whitney Amuchastegui, Su Casa Columbus, Columbus IN
Carolina Castoreno-Santana (Lipan Apache), American Indian Center of Indiana, Indianapolis, IN
Moderated by Scott Shoemaker (Miami Tribe of Oklahoma), Eiteljorg Museum, Indianapolis, IN

Exhibit Columbus - project
“Clearing”, Franconia Sculpture Park, Shafer, MN, 2017. Jennifer Newsom and Tom Carruthers, Dream the Combine – Photo courtesy of Caylon Hackwith


Please visit to get more information about these free online conversations and to register for each talk.

Thematic Conversations will be live streamed and recorded Tuesdays on, and Columbus Conversations will be live streamed and recorded Thursdays through Exhibit Columbus on Zoom and Facebook Live.

“Lure”, MadArt Studio, Seattle, WA, 2019. Jennifer Newsom and Tom Carruthers, Dream the Combine – Photo courtesy of Caylon Hackwith

About Exhibit Columbus

Exhibit Columbus is an exploration of architecture, art, design, and community that activates the design legacy of Columbus, Indiana.

It creates a cycle of programming that uses this context to convene conversations around innovative ideas and commissions site-responsive installations in a free, public exhibition.

Night Gallery, Bridgeport Chicago. Ann Lui and Craig Reschke, Future Firm – Photo courtesy of Future Firm

About Landmark Columbus Foundation

Landmark Columbus Foundation cares for, celebrates, and advances the cultural heritage of Columbus, Indiana. To fulfill its mission Landmark Columbus Foundation directs three locally-engaged and globally-connected programs that are interwoven in their impact and networks: Landmark Columbus, Exhibit Columbus, and Columbus Design Institute.

“Fragmented Follies”, Pump House Gallery, Battersea Park, London, 2019. Sam Jacob Studio – Photo courtesy of Sam Jacob Studio

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