Sitting at the intersection of I-65 and State Road 46 near Columbus, Ind., a landscaped sign encourages travelers to “Discover Columbus!” Its message links Christopher Columbus’ efforts “discovering the new world” to the world discovering this small city in middle America.
The play on words references the 15th-century papal decrees that established the Doctrine of Discovery—edicts that enabled the slavery of non-Christians and gave empires total rights to the lands they encountered through exploration, disregarding the long histories of Indigenous peoples. These texts fuel the origin myths used to support the extractive and exploitative practices that are still present in our global landscape. Our ability to persevere through the everyday reach of this violence counters our involute history.
Through an installation consisting of 58 flagpole-like props without their flag-images, we portray the complexity of “Columbus” as both a physical place (in Indiana and elsewhere) and a system of signification extending in every direction. The location of the props, made of aluminum with Mylar lettering, corresponds to a specific Columbus, Columbia, Colombo, or Colón place name mapped using a Mercator projection. Carefully researched text specific to each locale spirals each pole, overwriting the network with new associations. Reading these fragments induces a spiraling movement, propelling the visitor to form a uniquely constructed story.
For all 58 narratives, please visit dreamthecombine.com.
Project: Columbus Columbia Colombo Colón, Columbus, Ind.
Architects: Dream the Combine. Jennifer Newsom and Tom Carruthers
Architectural design: Kathy Kao, Arseny Pekurovsky
Engineering: Elizabeth Woolf of Katahdin Engineering
Fabrication and installation: Bryan Burton, Ryan Hilbert, Vince Rubio, Andy Piercefield, Mike Butler, Kyle Ross of City of Columbus Public Works; Xai Vue, Erin Benesch, and Emma Rader of Advantage Signs & Graphics; Tim M. Allen of Independent Land Surveying Inc.; Garelick Steel; Tovey-Perry Co.; and Bo Jacobsson, Zeus Richardson, Anthony Gage Lockhart, Kruz Karstedt, Derek Ronding, Taylor Crosby, Jamie Goldsborough, Bethany Ferril
Documentation: Hadley Fruits, Isaac Gale
Thanks to: Mark Jones and Casey Ritz of the City of Columbus Parks Department, Clayton Binkley of ODD Lot
This article first appeared in ARCHITECT's October 2023 issue, which was guest edited and designed by Dark Matter U.