Indiana University ceremonially dotted the last “i” and crossed the last “t” on the launch of its new master’s program in architecture with the formal dedication of the renowned Columbus building that serves as its home.
About 140 people, including IU President Michael McRobbie, the university’s trustees, city officials, local education leaders and architecture master’s students gathered Thursday evening in The Republic Building, the former newspaper office at 333 Second St., that now is home to IU’s J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program.
The iconic all-glass building designed by renowned architect Myron Goldmsith opened in 1971 and was named a National Historic Landmark in 2012. It was home to The Republic newspaper until December 2016.
McRobbie received a symbolic gold key to the building from Michael J. Mirro, chairman of the IU Board of Trustees, during Thursday’s ceremony.
“May this beautiful, historic structure open up a world of possibilities for talented and visionary students who will join the great next generation of innovative and accomplished architects,” Mirro said.
“I am proud and privileged to be able to formally dedicate The Republic Building. I commend it as a place of deep commitment to the values of Indiana University,” McRobbie said.
The program’s first cohort of 20 students started classes Aug. 20, and are just into their second semester.
IU named the J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program in honor of the late Cummins executive and philanthropist who started the Cummins Foundation’s practice of paying architectural fees for select Columbus community projects, designed by renowned architects.
The program utilizes the city’s more than 65 examples of Modern architecture and famously designed buildings by I.M. Pei, Eliel Saarinen, Eero Saarinen, Kevin Roche and Harry Weese, including schools, churches, the public library and businesses. The concentration of such works earned Columbus the designation of the sixth-most architecturally important city in the country by the American Institute of Architects.
“There is no more fitting place for this program than Columbus,” said Lauren Robel, provost of Indiana University’s Bloomington campus.
Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop noted that the new use of The Republic Building is an important piece of the city’s current redevelopment plan, called Envision Columbus, to re-envision the downtown area.
Thursday’s ceremony served as a celebration of roughly three years of work by Columbus and IU to get the new master’s program approved and launched. The event included a reception with food and drinks, and opportunities for guests to tour the repurposed building and see the classrooms, works spaces and gallery in use.
IU also took advantage of the occasion to conduct its board of trustees meeting in The Republic Building Thursday and Friday.
“This building is what the program needed to (start) the cohort program,” McRobbie said.
It has great open space that meets its needs, IU’s president said. The next step is to get two more good classes of cohorts, and start graduating architects and designers who will obtain good positions and go on to do good work, he said.
Another goal is to get the architecture program to a point where it attracts international students, Mirro said.
“I think the future of the program is to grow enrollment, and connect this program to the much larger architectural community worldwide,” the chair of the trustees said.
T. Kelly Wilson, director of graduate studies in Columbus, said the swiftness of the program going from idea to reality has been noticed.
“My colleagues in the architectural world can’t believe that a new program has grown so fast,” Wilson said.
The piles of materials on students’ desks, and the scale models and sketches adorning walls and tables in the gallery and studio spaces are tangible evidence of the new life that has been breathed into The Republic Building, and the flurry of hands-on learning by the students.
“The inaugural students and faculty are embracing fresh ideas. …They have had many very interesting speakers already pouring great ideas into them. These connections and influences are key to their learning,” said Peg Faimon, founding dean of IU’s School of Art, Architecture + Design.
Master’s student Daniel Weddle said he’s surprised by how much he’s developed as an artist over the semester.
“From being shaky with the mediums at the beginning of the fall, and now feeling like there are drawings I can’t believe I’ve made,” Weddle said.
Projects he was originally given eight weeks to do can now be completed in a few days, he said.
“The ability to convey an idea has rapidly improved,” Weddle said.
Wilson said the students have done good work, but he has high expectations for them.
“I’m proud of what they’re doing and see the progress, but I see more,” Wilson said.
Jacon Bower-Bir, a master’s student who spoke to the assembled crowd, said the students recognize the gift they have received in the new program, including The Republic Building. He said the building is a great asset to the program, but challenged the school, community and students to not let the building itself define the program.
“It is up to us to fill this place with purpose and meaning, and this is a daunting responsibility,” Bower-Bir said.
2015 — Columbus-based Community Education Coalition discusses with IU the possibility of creating a master’s program in architecture, to be based in the city
2017 — Indiana Commission for Higher Education on March 9 approves IU’s proposed master’s program in architecture
2018 — Indiana University announces April 30 that it has purchased the former Republic newspaper building, at 333 Second St., from Columbus Regional Health’s holding company, for $2.77 million, to be the home for the master’s program. Columbus approves $1 million in taxpayer money to pair with another $1 million in private donations to assist IU with the buildout of the master’s program space in The Republic Building. First cohort of 20 students started classes on Aug. 20.
2019 — Indiana University formally dedicates The Republic Building as the home of its J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program on Jan. 31.
About the program:
What: Indiana University’s J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program, a three-year master’s degree program, offered through IU’s School of Art, Architecture + Design.
Location: 333 Second St., Columbus. Program’s building is the former home of The Republic, which the newspaper occupied from 1971 through December 2016. The all-glass building was designed by renowned American architect Myron Goldsmith, of the Chicago-based firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. The building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2012.
Number of students: 20 in the first cohort.
More information: Online at architecture.indiana.edu
Information about The Republic’s former office building:
Location: 333 Second St., Columbus
Year opened: 1971
Style of architecture: Modern
Architect: Myron Goldsmith of Chicago-based Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Stories: 1 (also has basement)
Square footage: 23,064
Notable: Designated a National Historic Landmark in 2012, becoming the youngest building in the nation to receive that honor.