Circle Idea Competition finalists selected

A panel of judges has chosen three prize winners from among 12 finalists in the Monument Circle Idea Competition, a public call for suggestions on how to improve the look and use of Indianapolis’ city center.

Their top three picks—which received cash prizes—were unveiled Wednesday afternoon. Posters highlighting nine of the proposals have been on display in storefronts around the Circle since at least Tuesday afternoon.

First: From Inertia to Inner Circle, submitted by Jean-Baptiste Cuelle and Francois David of Paris, focuses on opening up the space around the monument to allow for more natural interactivity between pedestrians. $5,000 prize.

Second: RE:Centering Indianapolis 1001, submitted by Indianapolis-based Ratio Architects’ Urban Design Studio, envisions many small changes, including adding a local grocer and reducing vehicular traffic to one lane to allow for sidewalk cafes. $2,000 prize.

Third: Nexus: Indianapolis, submitted by Studio Three Architects Brian Hollars, Lohren Deeg and Kerry LaPrees of Muncie, proposes reserving the northwest quadrant of the Circle for pedestrian use only. $1,000 prize.

The competition, announced in March, came about after Indianapolis hosted a CEOs for Cities event last October that brought together local stakeholders and national experts to brainstorm ideas for making cities more livable. The group of urban leaders was dazzled by Monument Circle, but puzzled by its apparent under-use.

A similar competition in 2008 raised ideas for the Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Ideas generated by the contest may be considered by planners already working on the future of the Circle.  The Indianapolis Department of Public Works has retained the team of local design firms Woolpert Inc., Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf Architects Inc. and Eden Collaborative to conduct a scoping study.

All the finalists suggest a variety of ways to make Monument Circle more dynamic, including expanded pedestrian space, reduced traffic lanes, more green space, interactive water features and cafes, all of which are common elements in successful public spaces, national design and urban planning experts told IBJ.

However, some suggestions are completely original.

Christopher Short, principal of Indianapolis-based Haus|The Architecture Studio and co-designer of the “The Pulse” proposal, said he and his partner tried to focus on the perimeter of Monument Circle. He and Derek Mills, designed mobile canopy structures that can be placed around the Circle in a variety of different arrangements. The canopies can cover parking, seating and food stands and could even accommodate a light show.

“We intended to improve the human scale by narrowing the vehicular traffic lanes and focus on the experience of looking toward the monument,” Short said.

Other original ideas include a pedestrian promenade from the monument to the state Capitol building and a glass-enclosed café at the base of the monument.

Finalists hailed from Indianapolis, Muncie, California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Ohio, France and England.

Posters representing all 12 finalists will remain on display on Monument Circle until June 26, to allow the public to vote via text message for the People’s Choice winner, which also gets a cash prize. That winner will be announced June 28.

All prize funds were raised through private donations.

CICF is a co-partner of the competition, along with Indianapolis Downtown Inc., which is overseeing the project.

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