Irwin Union Bank (1954)
Eero Saarinen Architect
500 Washington Street Columbus IN
Photographs taken March 16 2012
As luck would have it ( although I say this with a sad heart ) the day I visited the Irwin Union Bank and walked in the front door…was the last day that this building was open to the public. At least as a bank. All of the employees were packing up their desks, and carting off their belongings. I was able to take lots of interior photographs, probably the last opportunity in a long time. I asked several of the bank employees what they were going to do with the building. They all hedged a little, and I got the feeling they have been asked that question a hundred times and were uncomfortable because they did not have an answer. The consensus was that it may become a museum sometime in the future…a hopeful result but an unconvincing delivery.
Even if it does open as a “museum” it will not have the same feeling as being what it was designed as…a bank. When I was there, even on the last day, people were coming in and cashing their checks, and doing their banking, just as they did the first day the bank opened in 1954.
The building is an interesting low glass box with a thin white roof plane. The roof plane has 9 domes projecting out above the roof in a 3×3 grid. These domes are actually the light fixtures for the bank interior – reflectors for the suspended uplights flooding the bank with warm light. The only walls that go to the ceiling are the perimeter glass walls. The interior “walls” stop short of the ceiling. They actually look like part of the file cabinet system, with the conference room/private offices enclosed with the cabinets. This keeps the overall ceiling plane pure and uninterrupted.
Still worth a visit….the exterior walls are all glass so you can still peek in.