Into the Hedge, Columbus, Indiana
As recipients of the J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prize for the second edition of Exhibit Columbus, we created an unusual opportunity: to make a lasting contribution to Columbus, Indiana’s rich design legacy by engaging the local residents in play.
The Arbor Vitae hedgerow at the Miller Garden is a modern icon of landscape and architecture. While the glass walls of Saarinen’s Miller House disappear—erasing the boundary between inside and outside—the densely planted hedgerow on the perimeter defines a hard edge to the site between the streets and the private grounds of the Miller residence.
The 70-year-old Arbor Vitae trees were due to be replaced, and the preservation effort provided the chance to create a different and more engaging relationship between the public and this modern icon.
We procured 130 living Arbor Vitae trees in partnership with the Miller House and Garden, placed them on the lawn of the Bartholomew County Courthouse, and strung a large hammock structure amongst them.
The oversized hammock was made by hand with nylon webbing – in colors taken from the color palette Alexander Girard developed for the dining chairs at the Miller House. Simple, off-the-shelf agricultural and construction materials were used for other components of the installation to ensure that everything could have a life afterward. The gabions, mulch, limestone, and stakes that comprise the planters and central pathway were all recycled into local infrastructure projects.
The trees whose final purpose was to become a border wall temporarily enchanted the public; to play, explore, hang out, interact and enjoy a memorable new landmark.
After the exhibition, the trees were permanently planted in the garden, making a direct link between the installation’s original architectural inspiration and a contribution to the stewardship of one of Columbus, Indiana’s seven National Historic Landmarks.