Into the Hedge is an interactive installation, inviting the community of Columbus to inhabit a series of hedges destined to be replanted later around the perimeter of the Miller House. From August to December, burlapped Arbor Vitae trees, laid in a grid on the lawn of the Bartholomew Court House, becomes a public playground. A net woven into the hedges is a surface to sit, rest, and eat lunch on. Each step on the net pulls the trees subtly toward each other, creating an interactive environment. During the day, Into the Hedge is a playground and picnic space for day time gathering for Indiana University J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program students and faculty, nearby residents, workers at the Courthouse, downtown visitors, and beyond. At night, the installation features festive lights to create a welcoming space to gather, as well as a new landmark at the gateway to the city.

SO-IL is a future-oriented architectural design firm based in New York. Led by Florian Idenburg and Jing Liu, 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.

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."

Driving along State Road 46 into the heart of Columbus, the distinctive roofline of the Bartholomew County Courthouse peers just above the tree line. Designed by Isaac Hodgson (1826-1909), the building sits on the corner of Third and Washington Streets in downtown Columbus, occupying the original central square as planned in the original plat of 1821. According to Colonel John A. Keith, one of the first chroniclers of the city, the areas around the square were razed and felled soon after Columbus was designated as the seat of Bartholomew County. In May 1821, the square was leased and easements were granted so that the square itself could be cleared and developed for $46. Of the very two first buildings erected on the square, one was a corral or “estray pen” for holding runaway hogs and cows that would be auctioned to the public if not claimed. The other was a small jail built from logs by John McEwen. Records show that although this jail was poorly constructed, the city honored its contract with McEwen and paid the $112 that was owed him. At that time, Luke Bonesteel, one of the founders of Columbus, offered his house as a courthouse and archive, and it was quickly purchased. Other jails and courthouses followed. McEwen’s log jail was razed in 1831 and replaced with a 18’x18’ two-story building designed by Samuel Patterson. Samuel Patterson’s jail was demolished in 1845 to make room for a larger, 20’x20’ jail. In 1870, Frank L. Farman built a large brick and iron jail with adjoining residence.

By 1838, it became clear that Bonesteel’s house was too small. A new, larger courthouse was needed. That year, a committee consisting of John B. Abbott, Ephraim Arnold, and Moses Joiner hired architects John Knapp, John Oglesby, and Elisha P. Jones to “furnish a draft and a model” of a new courthouse that would be “built of brick, two stories in height, with stone trimmings.” The city appointed John Elder to build it in 1839. It would be erected in the middle of the square and remained there until 1870, when city officials determined that the building itself was not just inadequate for a county seat, but unsafe. And in 1871, the city hired Hodgson to design his now-iconic structure.

As one of the first licensed architects in Indiana, Hodgson had an eclectic background. He was born in Ireland and trained in England before emigrating to New York in 1848. He practiced briefly in Louisville and settled in Indianapolis in 1849. While there, he designed various Federal and State Government Buildings, including the United States Arsenal, Italianate courthouses in Covington, Martinsville, and Vernon, and the campus for Rose Polytechnic Institute in Terre Haute.

The Bartholomew County Courthouse is as eclectic as its designer. Hodgson evoked the visually-striking Second Empire style that had been fashionable in the United States since the end of the Civil War. The courthouse’s lintels, arching, quoins, and cornices are all Indiana Limestone. When viewed from a distance, it appears as if contrasting bands of red brick alternate with brownish buff, culminating in a series of towers with mansard roofs topped with iron tracery. A No.4 Howard Clock and bell weighing 3,000 pounds were installed in the towers. The east facade features a portico with Corinthian columns made of red granite imported from Scotland. The interior trim was decorated with carton pierre, papier-mâché painted to resemble marble. Decorators from Italy painted frescoes on the interior. The firm of McCormick and Sweeney was hired to build the courthouse.

When the Courthouse was completed in 1874, it became one of the most visited and revered buildings in the region. John A. Keith even remarked that “[t]he design, arrangement, and construction of this building will long remain a monument to the wisdom, enterprise, and skill of those who ordered, erected, and constructed the same.” Yet Hodgson’s scheme involved a substantial amount of infrastructural and landscape work. New fencing, plantings, and sidewalks were required after a chunk of the ground between the courthouse and jail was removed for the installation of a state-of-the art underground heating system. The entire plan cost $250,000.

With the courthouse firmly anchoring a prominent corner of downtown Columbus, other buildings began to fill the once-empty spaces bounding the central square. The 1879 Atlas of Bartholomew County, for example, shows John A. Keith’s law office directly across Washington Street from the courthouse. On the opposite side of the square was the Indiana House Hotel and J.G. Schwarzkopf’s wagon store and blacksmith. Across Second Street, on the southern side of the square, was the Western Hotel. An aerial view illustration from 1879 shows two important aspects of this site. The first is the glade of trees south of the courthouse, versions of which continue to this day. The second is increasing densification: evidence of a city that is growing.

Columbus did indeed grow from the 1880s until the beginning of World War II. And though the central square remained an important historical fixture, it was clear that the urban life of Columbus was migrating to other areas. This is especially evident in the growth of the Washington Street corridor, which was the subject of various urban design schemes by the likes of Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM), Lawrence Alexander, Kevin Kennon/Caudill Rowlett Scott and others. The lower half of the central square was eventually redeveloped by SOM, resulting in the demolition of the old prison and sheriff’s residence in 1966 that had sat there for so many years. Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates created a landscape scheme for this area that now features the 5x5 grid of 40-foot tall limestone pillars of the Bartholomew County Veterans Memorial, designed by Maryann Thompson and Charles Rose in 1997.

Site History written by Enrique Ramirez