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Indy turns architectural corner

February 8, 2010

It’s hard to miss the new J.W. Marriott downtown as workers add the skin and continue finishing the exterior. The building is tall by local standards—34 floors—and the dark blue glazing contrasts against the limestone and light colors of other downtown buildings.

That’s a good thing, says Ball State University architecture professor Michel Mounayar. The hotel design, which Mounayar describes as “exciting,” is another in a string of recent examples of clients’ allowing architects more latitude to create buildings showing Indianapolis is “not a shy place.”

The new terminal at Indianapolis International Airport and the Central Library expansion are two other recent examples of more expansive thinking, he says. So are some of the buildings at White River State Park.

“Indianapolis is kind of showing an evolutionary kind of face, saying, ‘Look at us, we’re one of the best places in the region to locate,’” Mounayar says. The Marriott “creates a sense of freshness to Indianapolis. It also makes it feel like a contemporary place. It’s really good for the image of the city.”

The Marriott, the airport terminal and the library expansion are a step beyond several “classy” buildings added to the downtown in recent years, he says. Emmis Communications’ headquarters on Monument Circle and the Simon Property Group’s headquarters nearby both make use of limestone, a traditional local material if ever there was one, while distinguishing themselves as contemporary structures. The Emmis building in particular blends the past and the present well, he says.

Whether more buildings like the Marriott or airport terminal are in the offing depends on public reaction, Mounayar says. Building owners will hesitate to step out if the Marriott draws much criticism.

His bet? People will like what they see. So, Mounayar predicts, “Indianapolis is on the verge of more refreshing.”

What are your thoughts? Do you like what you’ve seen of the Marriott so far? What about Mounayar’s broader observations of Indianapolis residents’ developing a taste for more interesting buildings?

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