SOM’s The Republic Named National Landmark
Chicago, IL: Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has named the Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM)-designed building for The Republic in Columbus, Ind., as a National Historic Landmark. “The Republic is an exceptional work of modern architecture and one of the best examples of the work of Myron Goldsmith, a general partner in the firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and a highly respected architect, architectural theorist, writer, and educator,” according to the U.S. Department of the Interior citation. The prestigious designation follows a lengthy nomination process that included recommendation by the National Park System Advisory Board last spring.
The single-story glass-and-steel building was completed in 1971 and still serves as offices for Columbus, Ind.’s local newspaper. The Republic is one of the oldest family-owned newspapers in the country—with publication dating to 1872. Under the umbrella of Home News Enterprises LLC, the company enjoys a combined circulation of nearly 55,000 for its varied publications. In a 1986 interview with Betty J. Blum for the Art Institute of Chicago’s “Chicago Architects Oral History Project, SOM Partner Myron Goldsmith (1918-1996) 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.”
The building is located on Columbus’ County Courthouse Square. Its 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 15-feet-tall glass exterior—raising its role from mere machine to that of functional art. Most of the newspaper’s 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 can be rearranged for flexibility.
SOM Structural Engineering Partner William F. Baker worked with Goldsmith early in his career. “The Republic is a seminal work whose clarity of form is elegant, economic and appropriate to its use and civic function,” Baker says. “We try to embrace these same principles today.”
Fewer than 2,600 places have been designated as National Historic Landmarks. These sites are “nationally significant historic places designated by the Secretary of the Interior because they possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States.” Columbus, Ind., has long been known for its modern architecture designed by the finest architects of the day. The town of 44,000 is home to six other National Historic Landmarks, representing the work of Eliel and Eero Saarinen, Dan Kiley, John Carl Warnecke and Harry Weese.
A handful of SOM-designed buildings are included on the larger National Register of Historic Places. The Republic is only the second to become a National Historic Landmark—joining the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Col.
About Skidmore Owings & Merrill LLP
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) is one of the leading architecture, interior design, engineering and urban-planning firms in the world, with a 75-year reputation for design excellence and a portfolio that includes some of the most important architectural accomplishments of the 20th and 21st centuries. Since its inception, SOM has been a leader in the research and development of specialized technologies, new processes and innovative ideas, many of which have had a palpable and lasting impact on the design profession and the physical environment. The firm’s longstanding leadership in design and building technology has been honored with more than 1,500 awards for quality, innovation, and management. The American Institute of Architects has recognized SOM twice with its highest honor, the Architecture Firm Award—in 1962 and again in 1996. The firm maintains offices in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Mumbai and Abu Dhabi.