October 09, 2022

Architecture Professors Named Exhibit Columbus University Design Research Fellows

Exhibit Columbus has announced seven University Design Research Fellows (UDRF), including Molly Hunker and Greg Corso, assistant professors in the School of Architecture, who have been selected to partake in the 2022–23 cycle of the exhibition that this year will place special focus on the downtown core of modernist architecture-rich Columbus, Indiana.

Molly Hunker and Greg CorsoMolly Hunker and Greg CorsoAs a flagship program of Landmark Columbus Foundation, Exhibit Columbus is an exploration of community, architecture, art and design that activates the modern legacy of Columbus. Through a two-year cycle of events, conversations are convened around innovative ideas, and then site-responsive installations are commissioned to create a free, public exhibition.

Now in its fourth cycle, this year’s theme, “Public by Design,” builds on the legacy of Columbus to explore how collaborations between communities and designers can revitalize and reimagine historic downtowns as equitable, beautiful, healthy and joyful places.

Fellows were selected through a national, open call competition for full-time university professors whose work is deeply rooted in design research. Applicants were asked to “respond to, enhance and/or critique” downtown activation strategies recommended by James Lima Planning + Development (JLP+D) within the firm’s city of Columbus-commissioned Downtown Activation Study.

“City Thread” (2018) is a public space that re-envisions an unused alley in downtown Chattano...“City Thread” (2018) is a public space that re-envisions an unused alley in downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee. Credit: Benjamin ChaseShortlisted contenders were selected by six curatorial partners and then chosen by a 13-member jury of community stakeholders. While the UDRF is not a new component of Exhibit Columbus, this is the first time the fellows have been selected via an open competition—and one juried by a cohort of community members.

“These fellows represent a cross-section of artists, architects and landscape architects working in the U.S. at this moment. It’s an impressive group whose research is advancing important work on sustainable materials and community-based design in the public realm,” says the six curatorial partners in a joint statement.

The fellows, along with four J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prize recipients, will place the many communities of Columbus at the center of the conversations and do this in a public format by creating specific opportunities for engagement between the designers and the citizens of Columbus.

Winning fellows can request a budget of up to $10,000 to support the design and building of an academic research-showcasing public installation that explores the enhancement of modernist architecture-rich Columbus, Indiana’s downtown corridor.

As founders of the award-winning design collaborative, SPORTS, based in Syracuse, New York, Hunker and Corso’s work focuses on creating compelling spaces that are catalysts for social activities. Much of their work has been public interventions that leverage the possibility for simple design and fabrication gestures to have significant urban and community impacts.

“The theme of Public Design makes us think of design that privileges possibilities and multiple perspectives, rather than a specific way something should be understood or used,” says Hunker and Corso.

Hunker and Corso’s design approach for the fellowship is centered around an exploration of three main elements—context, flexibility and atmosphere. Building on the unique physical/architectural context of Columbus, they propose to frame their installation as infrastructural—an architectural intervention that supports and promotes a range of unique and exciting possibilities within the community.

“By embracing color, form and material effects in our project, we aim to a create a vibrant design that allows people to rediscover familiar spaces downtown with new atmospheres and experiences,” says Hunker and Corso.

Approaching the installation as an educational experience, Hunker and Corso anticipate engaging students in various aspects of the process and realization of the project. Such participation gives students a unique perspective of architecture outside of the classroom.

“Rounds” (2016) is an outdoor theater pavilion for the Ragdale Foundation in Lake Forest, Ill...“Rounds” (2016) is an outdoor theater pavilion for the Ragdale Foundation in Lake Forest, Illinois. Credit: Nick ZukauskasFurther, acting as a provocation for visitors and locals alike, Hunker and Corso see an incredible opportunity to engage the community in the process of the project, particularly through physical interactions and programs designed to deepen their relationship with the space.

“We’re excited by the value that the city and community of Columbus sees in design,” says Hunker and Corso. “What a special perspective—to see extraordinary design work that makes up the built environment as ordinary parts of daily life.”

The UDRF partner sites will be announced later in the month, around the 2022 Exhibit Columbus Symposium, which will be held in downtown Columbus Oct. 21–22.