By Megan Pettner
COSI is Columbus’ Center of Science and Industry. It is located on Washington Boulevard, in between West Broad Street and West Town Street. The site is located in Franklinton, across the river from downtown Columbus, where Central High School was previously located. COSI actually opened at what is now the Franklin Country Memorial Hall in 1964. It wasn’t until November 1999 that COSI moved to its current location.
Architect Arata Isozaki designed the new COSI building. Isozaki managed to keep part of Central High School and incorporate it into his design. The old high school was cut so that the main entrance and the majority could be used.
The addition is an extremely different style than that of the old high school. Isozaki designed the new part of the building to be very contemporary. The new part features a long wall that curves from the top to the ground. The curves, however, do not have the same curvature along the wall. Each curve is cut from a spiral making them different sizes, otherwise known as a clothoid curve. Not only does the building curve from top to bottom, but the whole back side bends slightly. The gentle curves mimic the nature. This feature is very popular in Japanese architecture. One of Isozaki’s previous works, Casa del Hombre (Domus) in La Coruna, Spain, has the same curved wall structure.
While this wall creates a statement, there are criticisms of it. Franklinton, where Columbus was originally settled, is behind the wall, while the front façade faces downtown. Franklinton failed as a city because of its low elevation and its likelihood of flooding, so the civilization was moved across the river to downtown Columbus. Flooding is less of a threat now, and the community is trying to bring Franklinton back, but there is one hindrance. The huge wall of COSI creates a barrier between downtown and Franklinton due to its horizontality and materials. The elliptical curve was constructed out of precast concrete, steel, and architectural panels. These materials convey a very masculine and confrontational barrier.
The barrier is part of a system of platonic solidsthat make up the shape of the building. While the building may look very complex and almost futuristic, it is actually made of up very simple shapes. As previously discussed, the long arms of the building are formed by an ellipse. A cylinder is located near the center of the ellipse. This cylinder houses the planetarium at COSI. Throughout the building there are multiple rectangular prisms, one being the atrium.
The atrium is the one place in the building where you can see how the old high school building connects to the new COSI building. A corner of the old brick building juts out into the corner of the atrium. Other than the contrasting interior spaces, the old building flows pretty seamlessly into the new building. The interior spaces of the old building look like the interior spaces of any other high school building with tiled flooring and long hallways with flat ceilings. This space is used mostly for meetings and offices, but some exhibits such as the children’s play area are located here. Some parts of the building are falling apart leaving exposed ceilings. COSI has embraced this and made it a feature of their children’s area.
On the other hand, the interior spaces of the new building are very large and open. They have tall ceilings and organic room shapes, rather than the typical box shape. This allows the public to see the structure and shape of the building from the interior, as well as the exterior. The building itself is an exhibit. COSI is all about teaching the public about science and industry. Through the structure and design of the building, the public can learn about different strategies and design concepts in architecture.
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