What's next...a Center for Architecture

As we come to the end of one year and near the beginning of another wrought already with dire economic predictions and cutbacks in capital spending by many of our clients, one has to wonder what is on the horizon for the architect. How does our profession cope with the uncertain market condition and the general lack of confidence in the future? Lead! Charge ahead!

As architects, let’s use this time to develop a place that exposes the possibilities for change and has the potential to help us redefine our community. Lead thought, prove our theories, clear the way for prosperity, and help our audience experience first-hand the power of great design.  Let’s develop a center for architecture right here, right now.

It’s closer than you think. Planning is well under way toward achieving this goal.  Conceived during a year-long strategic planning process, the new Columbus Center for Architecture will serve as the chapter office; conference center; gallery of architecture, art and ideology; and community resource center.

The process began in early 2008, when President Lane Beougher commissioned a center for architecture task force. The group went to work on a feasibility study and was successful in determining a finite direction for the new center. Examples of similar centers were reviewed and studied, and the group met a number of times to determine the most appropriate use and location for a center of architecture within the Columbus market. Task force members included architects, a landscape architect, educators, representatives from arts organizations and emerging professionals. The task force recommended a scope and direction, which was presented to the board of directors in mid-summer; the board acted to initiate a separate implementation committee to seek out space and further define the center’s scope.

In late summer, a call for participants yielded a collection of representatives to serve alongside Chairman Andrew Rosenthal, AIA. The implementation committee has since heightened the investigation to define a Program of Requirements, establish criteria for success, and undergo a comprehensive site search. Within the past few weeks, the implementation committee has recommended a space to the board, and the executive committee of the board is currently undergoing thorough consideration in order to present a comprehensive business plan to the board of directors in January. 


Criteria for the center include:

  • Street front recognition with “retail” walk-in potential
  • Location in an urban area that is vibrant during business and non-business hours
  • Adequate space to accommodate offices, smaller chapter meetings, and a gallery space
  • Ability to accommodate sustainable design principles
  • Preference for space adjacent to public transit
  • Anticipated costs to sustain the center for architecture must meet business pro-forma developed by the task force.

Once board approval of the business plan is achieved, the implementation committee will establish criteria to sponsor a design competition for the renovation of the space to accommodate the goals of the center for architecture. The winning entrant will be awarded the commission and work to meet our goal of having a completed center for architecture by the end of fiscal 2009. Much work is required of the chapter to develop programs that meet the goals established by the center task force and implementation committee, and executive director Gwen Berlekamp will lead a process of strategy development for the center’s success.

Several weeks ago, our chapter hosted Maurice Cox, Director of Design at the National Endowment for the Arts. Mr. Cox encouraged our chapter to lead the way for change. He showed example after example of architects taking steps to initiate change in their communities, and agreed that the best start is to create a “place” that lifts up architectural ideas. Create the place, use this physical presence as a means foster and feature ideas, and introduce the community to our thoughts on issues related to livable communities, sustainability, and design. It’s that simple, but the potential is unlimited.  

Come, join our effort to create fundamental change in the nature of our chapter and engage our community in an unprecedented way. Let’s be at the front of the pack on the other end of the recession with architects leading Columbus to a prosperous future.

Stay tuned for additional updates in the future!


Timothy Hawk, AIA
AIA Columbus President-Elect