Irwin Conference Center

Must-See Downtown Art & Architecture

Irwin Conference Center

Columbus, Indiana 47203, United States

Created By: Columbus Area Visitors Center

Point of Interest Details


Cummins Inc. Irwin Conference Center, formerly Irwin Union Bank and Trust, was designed by Eero Saarinen in 1954, with landscape design by Dan Kiley.

This is one of seven national historic landmarks in Columbus.

Written by Will Miller, son of J. Irwin Miller

In 1950 J. Irwin Miller decided it was time to build a new headquarters for the Irwin Union Bank and Trust Company, his family's bank…
Miller desired a radical departure, given his belief that the bank was too stuffy and unfriendly. He wanted everything about the bank to make it comfortable and easy for customers from all walks of life to do business there, and at the same time he wanted the new building to be a good neighbor to the existing fabric of the town. He also asked that the office of the bank's president be placed in the middle of the lobby, forcing daily interaction with a full range of customers.

Saarinen designed every detail of the lobby to convey friendliness and accessibility. Customers enter at grade through an airlock of floor-to-ceiling glass. The floor is a basket-weave of brick, reflecting Miller's concern that a factory worker with oil on his boots should not feel uncomfortable walking in to do business. Loan officers and deposit personnel sit at Knoll desks, available to discuss a mortgage or set up an account without forcing customers to go into an office. A drive-up teller window, an innovation at the time, is provided.

To eliminate the unfriendly "closed" sign at the teller windows, Saarinen invented a new kind of teller line. Open above counter height, it has a band of fiberglass hoods that are removed when a teller window is open, to indicate clearly where service is available, but when in place form a continuous band that causes a closed position to disappear.

The inviting and comfortable spirit of the architecture has a timeless quality thanks to the skillful blend of Miesian formality and warm Cranbrook touches.

This point of interest is part of the tour: Must-See Downtown Art & Architecture


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