Modernist Treasures: A Visit to Columbus, Indiana

When you’re feeling a bit of wanderlust and looking for beauty in unexpected places, hit the road and make a beeline to Columbus, Indiana. Just 3-½ hours by car from Chicago and 50 miles south of Indianapolis, Columbus is a small city by American standards — and yet finds itself ranked 6th in the nation for architectural innovation and design by the American Institute of Architects.

As the website for Columbus explains, “Columbus is an improbable town. Every year thousands of visitors arrive to explore its streets and study its buildings, for it is one of the rare places on earth where the idea that architecture can improve the human condition has been put to the test. It’s a small, southern Indiana community with no apparent call to destiny that remarkably became an architectural ‘mecca.’”

The Robert N. Stewart Bridge, 1999
The Robert N. Stewart Bridge, 1999

The evolution of Columbus into an extraordinary experiment in modernist architecture began in the early 1940s when the industrialist J. Irwin Miller began commissioning world renowned architects to come to the city and undertake the design of commercial and municipal buildings. 

A tour through the city will take you to a host of treasures including  First Christian Church by Eliel Saarinen, the Irwin Union Bank, Miller House, and North Christian Church by Eliel’s son Eero Saarinen, and the Cleo Rogers Memorial Library by IM Pei. These commercial buildings and houses of worship expressed the deep beliefs held by J. Irwin Miller about the power of great architecture to shape the civic experience. 

Besides being meticulously preserved, the buildings are situated in proximity to impressive public art installations that include works by Henry Moore, Dale Chihuly, Jean Tinguely, and Robert Indiana.

First Christian Church, Eliel Saarinen, 1942
First Christian Church, Eliel Saarinen, 1942

Adding to the caché and allure of Columbus is a feature film that has drawn even greater attention to this unique metropolis. Columbus is a 2017 American drama written, directed, and edited by Kogonada was shot on location in 2016 over a period of 18 days. The film follows the son of an esteemed architecture scholar who gets stranded in Columbus and strikes up a friendship with a young architecture enthusiast who works at the local library. The film premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and was released in the United States by the Sundance Institute, receiving broad acclaim from critics. 

When planning a visit to Columbus, visit the city’s comprehensive website for a guide to the city’s architecture or to schedule a tour. And if you want to get inspired in advance, you can stream the film Columbus on Amazon Prime.

The History of IgCC

When it was developed, Optima Sonoran Village had the privilege of being the pilot project for Scottsdale’s International Green Construction Code, an alternative to LEED fully managed by local municipalities, and was one of the first projects in the world certified under IgCC. To understand the true breadth of its merit, we’re taking a deep dive into the code: its history, its mission and its modern day impact. 

History of IgCC

IgCC was first conceptualized by the International Code Council (ICC), a nonprofit association that provides a wide range of building safety solutions including product evaluation, accreditation, certification, codification and training. ICC also develops model codes and standards that are used around the world to construct safe, sustainable, affordable and resilient structures. 

ICC realized that there was a significant gap in construction in the way of a mandatory baseline of codes that would address green commercial construction. This kind of regulatory framework was becoming an increasingly appealing concept, with many local and state jurisdictions already exploring their own potential “substitute codes.” 

In response to the call, ICC collaborated with cooperating sponsors – the American Institute of Architects (AIA), ASTM International, ASHRAE, the U.S. Green Building Council (USBGC) and the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) to help get the code passed. And in 2010, ICC established The International Green Construction Code(IgCC) to provide model code regulations that promote safe and sustainable construction. 

IgCC Today

IgCC “provides the design and construction industry with the single, most effective way to deliver sustainable, resilient, high-performance buildings.” Support of the IgCC promotes a new era of building design and construction that includes environmental health and safety as code minimums.

Benefits of certification under IgCC abound; IgCC certification includes measures that result in better indoor environments, lower impact on natural resources, better neighborhood connections and improved walkability, increased resilience to natural disasters and climate change, resource consumption/management and service interruptions.


IgCC vertical landscaping at Optima Sonoran Village
Vertical landscaping at Optima Sonoran Village

IgCC and Optima

IgCC operates as a code that can be easily adapted by public or private entities, allowing government jurisdictions to adopt it and save themselves the labor of creating their own code. Arizona took advantage of this opportunity, adopting the IgCC, which then took effect in January of 2017. 

It was at that time that Optima Sonoran Village became a pilot project for IgCC in Arizona.

Optima Sonoran Village IGCC attributes include major building elements consisting of 95 perfect local and recycled content materials; energy efficiency as a result of the high-performing glazing, overhangs, building configurations and exterior shading devices; water resource conservation from plumbing fixtures and excellent indoor environmental quality and reduced material emissions from the materials used in the development. Because of its environmentally-friendly construction, Optima Sonoran Village passed muster and was one of the first buildings in the world to earn certification.

Optima will continue to push the boundaries of building in pursuit of new and sustainable ways to contribute to our built environment. ICC is an association that will continue to do the same—we look forward to a world in which green building is commonplace. 


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Maintenance Supervisor

Glencoe, IL

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