Skidmore Owings and Merrill’s Columbus newspaper building gets landmark status
Earlier this month the US Department of the Interior named 27 new national landmarks. One of them, The Republic, a modern building in Columbus, Indiana designed by American architect and SOM Partner Myron Goldsmith as a newspaper plant in 1969-71 was on the list.
Goldsmith was an undergraduate at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) where he first met and later worked with Mies van der Rohe, most notably on the Farnsworth House. From Mies he developed an interest in structural expression and evolved a spare design language. The Republic was one those buildings, with its simple steel supports that recall Mies’s spare industrial buildings.
The single-story glass and steel building still serves as offices for the Columbus-based newspaper, The Republic, one of the oldest family-owned newspapers in the US, with the publication dating back to 1872. In a 1986 interview with Betty J. Blum for the Art Institute of Chicago’s 'Chicago Architects Oral History Project', Goldsmith recalled: "It’s a very nice small building....very reasonable, very pleasant...in a small town." Despite his modesty, Goldsmith saw the qualities that led to the building’s current recognition: “It has a certain timeless quality, I think they’ll be good for a long time...It won’t date, I think not.”
Located on Columbus’ County Courthouse Square, the building’s crisp modern form symbolizes the company’s role in the community and the strict functional requirements necessary to produce a daily newspaper. Originally, the printing press was painted bright yellow and clearly displayed behind the 15ft-tall glass exterior - raising its role from mere machine to that of functional art. Most of the newspapers functions - including administration, accounting, cafeteria, editorial, advertising, press and composing rooms - were located along the building’s perimeter and open to public view. SOM's design included the interiors, whose components were designed to be flexible.
SOM’s Structural Engineering Partner William F. Baker, who worked with Goldsmith early in his career, called the Republic 'a seminal work whose clarity of form is elegant, economic and appropriate to its use and civic function'.
Fewer than 2,600 places have been designated as National Historic Landmarks. Columbus, Indiana has long been known for its modern architecture. A town of 44,000, it is home to six other National Historic Landmarks representing the work of Eliel and Eero Saarinen, Dan Kiley, John Carl Warnecke and Harry Weese.