The J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prize is the centerpiece of Exhibit Columbus and honors two great patrons of the Columbus community. The Miller Prize Recipients are international leaders in their fields and bring unique perspectives in connecting people to place and community. They have been selected for their commitment to the transformative power that architecture, art, and design have to improve people’s lives and make cities stronger.

Through their previous work in architecture, planning, landscapes, and performance the five recipients have already made positive impact on cities and communities around the globe. With this award they will have the opportunity to bring their unique perspectives to Columbus, while exploring the traditions and values that have created this city’s international design legacy.

Agency Landscape + Planning (Cambridge, MA)

Bryony Roberts Studio (New York, NY)

Frida Escobedo Studio (Mexico City, Mexico)

MASS Design Group (Boston, MA; Kigali, Rwanda)

SO-IL (New York, NY)

Agency Landscape + Planning was formed by landscape architect Gina Ford and planner Brie Hensold to address social equity, cultural vitality, and environmental resilience through design excellence, strategic planning, and community empowerment. Though the practice is young, its principals have deep experience. While at Sasaki, Ford and Hensold confronted disaster and climate change through the Cedar Rapids Flood Recovery Planning project, working with that community to plan for long-term sustainability and resiliency. Their partnership was further forged through their participation in the Rebuild by Design competition, a two-year examination of the post-Hurricane Sandy landscape. Ford led Sasaki’s work on the ten-year Chicago Riverwalk project, a built landscape that showcases the big ideas that now shape Agency. In founding Agency, Ford and Hensold have deepened their commitment to a socially-minded, diverse, and creative practice focused in the public sector. Agency is currently leading the White River Vision Plan, a year-long strategic plan for 58 miles of the White River in Indiana.

Site: AT&T Facility, 1978, Paul Kennon of Caudill Rowlett Scott


Image Credits: Chicago Riverwalk; photo by Christian Phillips Photography. Rebuild by Design – Agency Landscape + Planning; Sasaki Associates.

"Columbus is made of modernism. A philosophy more than a style, modernism, (much like Agency’s socially-motivated mission), was fueled by a compelling sense of optimism and aspiration. It is an idea that what we design can be beautiful while also making people’s lives - and, in fact, collectively society’s lives––better and healthier. It is a belief that design is a tool for humanity to live its highest ideals."

Bryony Roberts Studio is an architectural design practice that creates projects in response to complex cultural histories and urban conditions. Founder and principal Bryony Roberts argues for greater exchanges between the fields of architecture, art, and preservation in order to develop new modes of creativity in relation to historical sites. She uses design to bring attention to overlooked social histories and to make intangible heritage vivid and accessible to contemporary audiences. This work involves close collaboration with communities who are seeking to preserve and sustain their own histories, as in the exhibition and performance project “Marching On,” with Mabel Wilson and the Marching Cobras, commissioned by Storefront for Art and Architecture with Performa 17. Roberts’ work has earned numerous awards, including a Rome Prize in Historic Preservation in 2015-2016 at the American Academy in Rome and the Architectural League Prize of 2018.

Site: Columbus City Hall, 1981, Edward Charles Bassett, Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill


Image Credits: "We Know How to Order," Bryony Roberts and the South Shore Drill Team; photo by Andrew Bruah. "Marching On," Bryony Roberts and Mabel O Wilson; photo by Miguel de Guzman.

"Through my practice, teaching, and writing, I have argued for greater exchanges between the fields of architecture and preservation, in order to develop new modes of creativity in response to historical sites. I see preservation as an active design process––one that shapes how we perceive, value, and experience existing buildings and urban conditions."

Frida Escobedo Studio is an architecture and design studio based in Mexico City. The projects produced at the studio operate within a theoretical framework that addresses time not as a historical calibration, but rather a social operation. Principal Frida Escobedo produces work that ranges from art installation and furniture design to residential and public buildings in Mexico and around the world. The firm’s projects include “You know you cannot see so well as by reflection,” a summer pavilion designed for the central courtyard of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 2015, and “A very short space of time through very short times of space,” an art installation commissioned by Stanford University in 2016. Frida Escobedo Studio has just completed the 2018 Serpentine Pavilion in Kensington Gardens, London. Escobedo is the youngest designer—and only the second woman—to receive this prestigious commission. Like many of Escobedo’s projects, its sophisticated form is created from simple materials.

Site: Cleo Rogers Memorial Library Plaza, 1971, I.M. Pei and Partners


Image Credit: Frida Escobedo for Serpentine Gallery, City of Westminster, London; CC BY-SA photo by George Rex.

"I think the most interesting aspect of architecture is how it ages, how it changes incrementally in response to the ways that people use it — and this almost invariably evolves to encompass things the architect could never have anticipated. In this way, architecture continues to reflect its public, its community, indefinitely."

MASS Design Group is a nonprofit architecture firm that operates with the understanding that all architecture is embedded in a social, cultural, and political context. Led by a collective of Principals, the firm is based in Boston, Massachusetts, and Kigali, Rwanda. They have built a reputation for sensitive projects that strengthen community ties and use architecture to heal. Their international portfolio of mission-driven projects that span the fields of design, research, advocacy, and training was recognized with the 2017 Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in Architecture, and recently they earned the 2018 Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Architecture. MASS partnered with the Equal Justice Initiative to design and build the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a deeply symbolic and powerful site for reflection on the nation's history of racial terror and lynching. The memorial opened in April 2018 to national praise. MASS Design Group is driven by the shared belief in architecture that serves the community, without compromising high standards of beauty and design.

Site: Central Middle School, 2007, Ralph Johnson of Perkins + Will


Image Credit: National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama; photo by Soniakapadia.

"The design legacy of Columbus represents one of the core values that MASS Design Group stands for: architecture can improve lives. In Columbus, architecture has always been about more than just a building, it has both created and continues to represent the city’s vibrant, tight-knit community. We, like J. Irwin Miller, are driven by the shared belief in architecture that serves the community, without compromising high standards of beauty and design."

SO-IL is a future-oriented architectural design firm based in New York. Led by Florian Idenburg, Jing Liu, and Ilias Papageorgiou, SO-IL’s work is grounded in the conviction that architecture’s power resides in its ability to affect humankind for the better. Their participatory practice has resulted in award-winning spaces for creativity, innovation, culture, learning and living around the globe. Their projects explore fundamental questions like “How do we want to live?” in innovative, expansive ways. SO-IL first made a splash with “Pole Dance” for MoMA PS1, a playful installation that invited visitors to interact with communal space in new and unexpected ways. Through projects like the Kukje Gallery in Seoul and the Manetti Shrem Museum at UC Davis, SO-IL has become known for exploring the territory between craft and digital production and for experimenting with translucent and porous effects that blur edges and open up spaces.

Site: Bartholomew County Courthouse Lawn, 1871-74, Isaac Hodgson


Image Credits: MINI LIVING – Breathe in Milan, Italy; photo by Laurian-Ghinitoiu. Kukje Gallery in Seoul, South Korea; photo by Iwan Baan.

"Our practice is grounded in the conviction architectures power resides in its ability to affect humankind for the better. Better designed spaces actually really can impact the wellbeing of its inhabitants. The purpose of my being is to share this believe with as diverse a group of people as possible. Humanity is not exclusive."