Gardens to Drive For: Columbus, Ind.

By Michael Leach

My childhood dream of becoming an architect ended when I failed pre-calculus twice, the second time despite tutoring. Yet I still harbor one dream from that freshman year in college: Explore the architectural treasure trove in Columbus, IN. Turns out there are gardens and parks, too.

Architectural masters, such as I.M. Pei, Richard Meier, Robert Venturi and Eliel and Eero Saarinen, left a legacy, thanks to the largess of the Cummins Engine Foundation, which paid design fees for many of the works. The place is such an embarrassment of riches , it wins raves from the American Institute of Architects to National Geographic Traveler.

Landscape designers, such as Michael Van Valkenburgh, are also represented. And while we’re name dropping, let’s not omit Henry Moore and Dale Chihuly, among the artists with works found around town.

A personal favorite among architects is Eero Saarinen, the son of the Finish design duo.  His arch in St. Louis is perhaps his best-known design. But Columbus has three of his works, including the Miller House and Garden. Now owned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art and open to the public. This 1957 classic is surrounded by an equally impressive Modernist garden created by landscape architect Dan Kiley.

For those visiting Columbus on Sunday (June 28), there’s a tour of six private lakeside gardens.

After ogling gardens, landscapes and structures, consider Eisbury’s Greenhouses and Garden Center, said to be one of Indiana’s largest retail-wholesale greenhouses. Or check out other area attractions, such as the Edinburgh Premium Outlets and Indiana’s largest antique mall.

For more information on Columbus and environs, please visit the visitor and convention bureau .

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