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Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen designed First Christian Church at the request of the Sweeney and Miller Families to build a new church in the “modern” style. The site once had a railroad depot and was a small park when construction began in 1939. Completed in 1942, the church is known as the first “modern” building in Columbus. The basilica and campanile arrangement is a bold reinterpretation of Renaissance church forms. Also notable is the “sunken garden” that flows under the educational wing through an arcade. Interior elements were designed by Charles Eames, Saarinen’s wife Loja, and son Eero.

Competing Finalists


Inspired by the dwellings of the Miyaamia people indigenous to Indiana, Cornelius adorns a walkway leading to First Christian Church with a contemporary “wigwam” - wiikiaami in the Miyaamia language - constructed of rebar and copper scales. The swooping conical form is aligned both to the church’s iconic campanile and to mark the autumnal equinox. The copper scales, equally reminiscent of eagle feathers and textile designs, are perforated and patinated to make shifting patterns of sunlight and shade, creating a space for gathering as well as a gateway to Saarinen’s church.

Höweler + Yoon
Pattern Pavilion

Höweler + Yoon’s Pattern Pavilion arises from an investigation into a meandering decorative motif carved into the stone of First Christian Church and echoed in other Saarinen projects. The Pattern Pavilion maps the Saarinen motifs in order to create a repeatable pattern that is then extruded to create a “foam-like” volumetric condition. The pavilion consists of a 3D patterned volume forming a vaulted space under the lattice-like canopy. While the pavilion’s rectangular outline follows the street grid, the space within is aligned to frame oblique views of the church and the nearby library.