Exhibit Columbus’s University Design Research Fellowship Competition seeks downtown-activating visions

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Exhibit Columbus’s University Design Research Fellowship Competition seeks downtown-activating visions

Window Dressing by Ang Li, a 2020–21 University Design Research Fellow, located on the facade of The Commons in downtown Columbus. (Hadley Fruits)

Just a little over a month following the formal launch of the fourth cycle of Exhibit Columbus complete with a community kickoff event entitled Downtown Reconsidered, the next major component of the 2022–2023 iteration of Landmark Columbus Foundation’s flagship program has been announced: The University Design Research Fellowship (UDRF) Competition. Now in the Request for Qualifications stage through August 22, the competition, presented by Archinect x Bustler, will award more than $70,000 to full-time, United States-based university and college professors working across a span of disciplines including architecture, landscape architecture, art, and design.

While the UDRF is not a new component of Exhibit Columbus, this is the first time the fellows have been selected via an open competition—and one juried by a cohort of community members.

Winning fellows can request a budget of up to $10,000 to support the design and building of an academic research-showcasing public installation that explores the enhancement of modernist architecture-rich Columbus, Indiana’s downtown corridor during the three-month run of the Exhibition phase of Exhibit Columbus. In tandem with Exhibition, which opens the weekend of August 23–25, 2023, awardees will also be invited to participate in the UDRF Colloquium. This event is produced in partnership with the R. Wayne Estopinal College of Architecture and Planning at Ball State University and Eskenazi School of Architecture, Art + Design at Indiana University.

Travel stipends to attend both the Exhibition and two preceding events, the 2022 Exhibit Columbus Symposium (October 21–22, 2022) and the 2023 Exhibit Columbus Design Presentations (February 23-24, 2003), will also be provided to the winning UDRFellows.

graphic art for a design competition
(Courtesy Exhibit Columbus)

As detailed in a press announcement, competition participants are invited to “respond to, enhance, and/or critique” downtown activation strategies recommended by James Lima Planning + Development within the firm’s City of Columbus-commissioned Downtown Activation Study. The winning projects are envisioned as ones that will spark conversations about the future of downtown Columbus. Through this process, it is believed that themes connected to larger issues in downtowns will emerge,” Exhibit Columbus explained.

“The University Design Research Fellowship component of Exhibit Columbus is unlike anything else in the U.S.” said Richard McCoy, executive director of Landmark Columbus Foundation. “Over the past six years, we’ve seen how more than twenty professors have been able to leverage their research into the UDRFellowship as a way to advance and explore in the unique context of our community. We are very excited to see who is interested in participating this year and to grow this component as a unique and highly visible platform that showcases design research and education.”

As noted at its launch, the Exhibit Columbus 2022–2023 is mixing things up from previous cycles. In addition to selecting UDRFellows via competition, the event has a sharpened focus on community empowerment along with a revamped curatorial approach. While the 2020–2021 cycle introduced the event’s first-ever Curatorial Fellowship Program (Mimi Zeiger and Iker Gil served as co-curators), a six-person team of Curatorial Partners has been assembled for this edition. The multidisciplinary curatorial team will shape the event, while working in concert with the leaders of four Columbus organizations as a means of zeroing in on “social infrastructure in the heart of the community,” Exhibit Columbus explained. The Curatorial Partners have also been tasked with forming a shortlist of UDRF applicants.

The final selection will be made by a panel of Community Jurors. The 2022–2023 Exhibit Columbus UDRF winners will be notified in early September.

“Giving our Community Jurors the final say in the process will lead to a new set of connections for Exhibit Columbus that will help create a greater impact for everyone,” said Jamie Goldsborough, Landmark Columbus Foundation’s creative director who is also serving as coordinator for the competition.

The Community Jurors are: Esther Afolayan, Anuja Chandra, Jackie Combest, Mary Ferdon, Mary Harmon, Erin Hawkins, Anakarina Hurtado, Grace Kestler, Andres Nieto, Jasmine O’Conner, Catie Rix, Shanda Sasse, Kim Wadholm.

As announced last month, the Curatorial Partners are: Paola Aguirre, an urban designer and founder of Chicago­– and Texas-based collaborative research and design practice BORDERLESS; Chris Merritt, founding principal of Indianapolis and Pittsburgh-based landscape architecture studio Merritt Chase; Lauren M. Pacheco, a cultural and civic artist who serves as founding director of the Gary, Indiana-based Steel Studio FoundationBryony Roberts, a designer, writer, and educator (and past Miller Prize recipient) whose eponymous design and research practice is based in New York; Raymund Ryan, Curator-at-Large of the Heinz Architectural Center at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh; and Holly Warren, Assistant Director for the Arts in the City of Bloomington’s Economic and Sustainable Development Department.

The University Design Research Fellowship Competition RFQ can be download and viewed in full here.