After 8 years in the Murphy Building, this Friday will be our last First Friday in Fountain Square.
The Murphy has been good to us, primarily because we were able to connect with so many of you, the citizens of Indianapolis. And incredibly, after countless First Fridays, people are still discovering us for the first time. I really love this. I love the look on people’s faces as they step into our studio… one woman last week exclaimed, ‘This place looks like stuff you see on TV! It’s so cool in here.’ As she and her daughter explored our space, we shared our work and our story with them, as we’ve had the privilege of doing so many times.
This exchange reminded me of two things - First, how much our city has changed over the past few years. That yes, PUP is pretty cool, but so too is Indianapolis. And second, how important it is to constantly be exploring where you live.
In a roundabout way, both of these thoughts introduce two key reasons why we’re moving to Central State and what we’re looking to accomplish there.
On the cool factor, Indianapolis seems to be entering a golden age of sorts, as new restaurants, retailers, urban farms, tech startups, and businesses are popping up everywhere. The city is changing, and it’s changing quickly. We voted for transit, for God's sake! In so many ways, for those of us that are long-time Indy residents, we’re getting closer to living in the future we’d always hoped for.
What strikes me most about these changes, is how different the city looks. Physically. Think of all the new buildings and infrastructure that have been developed over the last several years, including the ones currently under construction. And yet, as the city takes shape, we almost never talk about what it looks like, or what it should look like. It’s a fundamental conversation that is hiding in plain sight.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why this is the case. In large part, I think it’s because design quickly (and perhaps rightfully) gets swallowed up by other pressing social issues - Indianapolis is up against some serious realities regarding crime, education, and diversity, among others. And I don’t disagree, when compared to these very real problems, design issues can somehow appear less essential.
But an either/or comparison simply isn’t helpful. Because no one is quarterbacking this conversation in Indianapolis, we forget how much design and architecture can play an important role in countless urban issues. In so many ways, this is PUP’s sweet spot - we’re not trying to solve transit, but we can provide people a place to sit. We’re not trying to address Indy’s food deserts, but we can develop a shelter for a new urban farm. We’re not reinventing Midwest manufacturing, but we can create a few jobs for local makers.
Design is at the core of this work - a baseline that is not only optimistic, but also all about the future. And make no mistake, design - Design (let’s capitalize this sucker) - is an unbridled investment in the future of how things could be.
The Cultural Trail is one of the clearest examples of Design in Indianapolis as both essential and forward-thinking - from connectivity on one end to boosted development on the other. It is a fearlessly optimistic investment in the future of Indianapolis, and it reminds us that a city is an organism. You chance one piece, one factor, and the whole things responds. Design and Architecture have the power to remix our experience of the city - each building is a new beat laid upon an old song.
This is all a long way of saying that PUP intends to help Central State become the Design Hub for Indianapolis. We will be your Design quarterbacks, along with Ignition Arts and ProjectiOne, both of whom are also moving along side us. We are co-locating with these design leaders and makers to create a place that can serve as a platform for discussion, collaboration, and constructive criticism around design, architecture, urbanism, making, and community. And perhaps most importantly, a place that shows how Design matters for the future of our city.
It took a lot of convincing for me to wrap my head around a move to Central State. I was concerned that PUP would be separating ourselves too much from the city. We are not, nor have we ever been, a neighborhood-based organization. We are instead about Indianapolis itself, particularly its urban heart, and I wanted to make sure this focus and energy was preserved as we searched for a new headquarters.
I first credit my sister and PUP Director of Design and Fabrication, Jessica Bricker, for changing my mind. She responded to the beauty and, I dare say peacefulness, of a place with such a volatile history. But I also think she recognized Central State as a home where we could put our heads down and get some work done.
Critical feedback from Paul Puzzello, Donna Sink, and Michael Kaufmann also helped me realize how Central State could be a design laboratory both for PUP and for the city at large. That we needed some room to grow, to spread out, and to be more of an incubator for design talent and dialog for Indianapolis. I started to see the potential of this incredible campus. We could do a lot here.
And if design is our method, reuse is our tool. At Central State, for the first time ever, PUP will be housed under the same roof as our resources. So for those of you who have always wondered what acres of RCA Dome fabric looks like, we'll be able to show you. More importantly, we'll be able to fully highlight the trajectory of our resources - demonstrating how, through design and making, they are transformed from trash to a custom bag, a bus stop, or a pavilion.
Not long after we’d made the decision to move, was when that mother and daughter wandered into our studio in the Murphy Building. I was moved by their interest in the work we were doing, but more importantly, I was struck by the delight with which they were exploring and discovering their city. Their city. Our city. We get stuck sometimes, myself included, in the same paths and routines as we traverse Indianapolis. If we don’t stick our heads up every once in a while by walking down a different street, biking a new route, or taking the long way home, we miss how the organism is changing. We miss the potential for delight.
So in June or July, when we’re all moved in, we’re going to invite you to explore Indianapolis a little more, and rediscover us at Central State. It's a pretty optimistic view.
Michael Bricker is the Founder of PUP + Director of Public Design and works extensively in both design and film, aiming to raise the caliber and conversation of both industries in Indianapolis.