It’s a rare moment when a designer gets the opportunity to work in the shadows of one of the greatest architects of the 20th century. For this weekend only in Columbus, Indiana, designer Jonathan Nesci will get his shot. He will install an exhibition in the courtyard lawn of Eliel Saarinen’s internationally-recognized First Christian Church, a building that was completed in 1942, and now is widely considered the first Modern church in America.
Working with independent curator, Christopher West, and a coalition of arts advocates in Columbus, Nesci will arrange one hundred unique occasional tables that he designed and had fabricated in this small and remarkable town. These tables have a mirror-polished aluminum surface that, when installed together on the courtyard lawn, and under a clear October sky, are meant to suggest the reflecting pool which was part of the original design of this famous church (the pool was removed in the late 1950s).
“I’m so thrilled to be working on this project, in this town, at this time. Really, it’s a dream commission and a true honor to install my work here,” said Nesci.
The title of the exhibition “100 Variations: New Reflections on Eliel Saarinen and the Golden Ratio,” references Nesci’s long-standing interest in exploring the Golden Ratio as a design system, and his research on how Saarinen employed it at First Christian — which is now one of seven National Historic Landmarks in Columbus.
“Nesci developed a parametric grid which is based on the Golden Ratio,” explains curator West. “For this project he used the Columbus-based company, Noblitt Fabricating, to experiment with new materials and manufacturing processes, pushing forms around his near-endless system, to create 100 truly beautiful tables.”
West hopes that this exhibition will demonstrate how other designers can work within the context of the famous architecture, landscapes, and public artworks in Columbus. “Realizing this project is but a taste of what I think we can do in Columbus,” said West. “It’s long been considered a ‘mecca of Modern architecture,’ and I think it’s time we start exploring and re-considering these spaces with today’s industrial designers.”
As proof of this concept, West has garnered the financial support of The Haddad Foundation, and the Columbus Museum of Art and Design and the Columbus Area Visitors Center to help him realize the project. After the tables are on view they will be dispersed to galleries in New York and Chicago and sold. A portion of the profits from each sale will be used to create future exhibitions and help develop West’s dream of creating the Columbus Design Biennial, which he hopes to have feature projects like this and would open as early as the fall of 2016.
This three-day exhibition will include an opening reception on Friday, October 10 from 5 to 8 p.m., and an artist talk Saturday October 11 at 11:30 a.m. in First Christian Church. The installation and its companion events are open to the public.