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Wexner Center for the Arts
Ohio State University
North High Street
Columbus, Ohio

Peter Eisenman and Richard Trott 1989

The Wexner is named after donor Leslie H. Wexner, founder of the Limited, Inc. retail chain, a man preternaturally active in the city’s philanthropic affairs. The Wexner fills a tremendous need in the community for a central arts facility; I grew up southeast of Columbus and can attest to its galvanizing effect.

The Wexner can feel alternately cramped and spacious; it can be disorienting to the point of near nausea (grids, grids, grids!), and has a stairway that seems like it simply must be in violation of numerous safety codes--but it is engaging, interesting, and friendly, giving shy Columbus comfort with "alternative" buildings--hopefully paving the way for better attention to architecture in the future.

The Wexner is also blessed with a site-specific work by Maya Lin, "Groundswell," and terrific landscaped gardens, by landscape architect Laurie Olin, to the north and west of the building. Unfortunately, the firm’s landscaping of the eastern, main entrance to the building was too vast and hardscaped to be welcoming to anyone but skateboarders and people who ride bikes that are too small for them, and these groups dominate the entry to the point of unfriendliness.

Much ado was made by the architects about the symbolic schism between town and gown: the university grid and city grid are misaligned by 12 1/2 degrees. By its site plan and use of grid vocabulary, they attempt to re-sew the university back into the city.

 

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Christy Rogers 1998 (updated 2006)


How to visit

Columbus has an enthusiastic pride in the building and its offerings, and has at the front desk a short, free "Architecture Guide" to the site. You can schedule a free, one-hour architectural tour for groups of three or more by calling +1 614 292 6982.

The Wexner Center is building 386 on the OSU's online map. You may also want to visit the Mathematics Tower and Science/Engineering Library by Johnson and Burgee, three blocks to the west. They are respectively buildings 007 and 005 on the OSU's online map. There is a public parking garage just south of the Wexner on High Street. Other parking options are shown on the map.

For more information about the Wexner, call Karla Rothan, Manager of Information Services, at +1 614 688 3162.

As stated by the "Architecture Guide",

The Wexner Center presents visual arts exhibitions, music and dance concerts, performances, films, videos, and mixed-media projects, as well as educational programs for audiences of all ages. Facilities include four exhibition galleries, a film/video theater, a flexible "black box" performance space, a lively cafe, a bookshop specializing in art and artists’ books and unique gifts, a state-of-the-art video production studio and editing suite, and the adjacent 2400-seat Mershon Auditorium.

The cafe food is great, but if you are spending the day in Columbus you might also want to wander along High Street, especially northward, to explore some neat bookstores, coffee shops, and restaurants--there is particularly good Indian food in the neighborhood.


 

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