Photo courtesy Indianapolis Museum of Art

Miller House and Garden

Eero Saarinen

Columbus, Indiana

By Suzanne Stephens

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The house that architect Eero Saarinen completed in 1957 for J. Irwin Miller and his family in Columbus, Indiana, easily qualifies as a paragon of residential midcentury Modernism. Amazingly, the glass and steel, 6,838-square-foot pavilion, with interiors by Alexander Girard and landscaping by Daniel Kiley, has remained intact all these years.

Since the Miller family gave the one-story house, the grounds, and most of the furnishings to the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) in 2009, the property has undergone a $2 million restoration and will open to the public this May. Sightseers can now add this National Historic Landmark to the long list of architecture that Columbus offers, owing to a program instigated in the early 1950s by Miller. As head of Cummins Engine, Miller brought in significant Modern architects to create civic and institutional buildings and transform the town, about 45 miles from Indianapolis, into a hub of inventive design. At the glass and gray-blue-slate-paneled Miller house, supported by steel cruciform columns and illuminated by a grid of skylights, visitors can admire Girard’s vivid colors and the living room’s conversation pit. They can also inspect the dining area where Saarinen placed his sculptural white pedestal chairs, or walk around the property on which Kiley formed open rooms with hedges and trees. To help keep up the house museum, the Miller family and the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Foundation have donated $5 million, and the IMA is raising more funds.

February 2011
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