Columbus is a city of night owls: 39% of the population works in manufacturing, compared to 9% nationwide. Among this group, many second and third-shift workers begin their “days” in the evening and finish work in the morning. Other residents also burn the midnight oil: restaurant workers, truckers on I65, parents of newborns, dedicated stargazers, residents with families overseas. However, many civic and amenity spaces only serve the sunlit-hours. Midnight Palace asks: How can we design for the midnight city?

Midnight Palace is inspired by the atmospheric qualities of nighttime and designed for the city’s night owls. Located at the Cummins Sears Building, it features a “wall of light” made from the historic light-bulbs from Columbus’ streetscape: old high-pressure sodium fixtures, contemporary LEDs, signal lights for the adjacent train. Built from a lattice-work of electrical conduit, its method of construction highlights the elegant and often invisible craft of trade electricians. The pavilion will feature a series of “drive-in” and “walk-by” screens for gatherings of different scales, including partner programming with community organizations. Additionally, the screens will present a participatory work, “Night Owl Map of Columbus,” highlighting the interviews with residents and the city’s nighttime wonders, past, present and future.

Sears Building Plaza
Cesar Pelli and Norma Merrick Sklarek of Gruen and Associates, 1971

The Commons was a project born out of a desire to meld architecture and technology to ennoble the civic spirit. Cummins’ Sears Building, originally called Courthouse Center, was part of the original design for The Commons plan that included a shopping mall anchored by Sears, a movie theatre, and an “indoor park”. The scheme also featured extensive interior landscaping and surface effects housed within a brown glaze wrapper to create a new kind of urban experience. At the heart of this project was a vision of architecture as a means to reanimate downtown Columbus.

Founded by Ann Lui and Craig Reschke in 2015, Future Firm designs spaces for clients who are change-makers in their own communities. Their work spans diverse scales: from events to residential and commercial buildings to urban and territorial speculations. Future Firm also currently operates The Night Gallery, a nocturnal exhibition space on Chicago's South side, which features video and film works by artists and architects from sunset to sunrise.