The city’s world-class modern design has earned it the credential of being sixth in the list of the nation’s most significant cities for design innovation and heritage, according to the American Institute of Architects (Washington, D.C., in case you were wondering, is fifth). It also earned a top 20 spot in National Geographic Traveler’s list of historic destinations around the world.
The city’s official visitor center recommends 75 notable architectural sites in all, seven of which have been designated national historic landmarks. One is the Finnish-American architect Eliel Saarinen’s First Christian Church, completed in the midst of World War II, in 1942. With a flat roof, brick and limestone cladding, and grids of windows, the boxy modern complex was a bold departure from the city’s historic mix of Victorian and vernacular buildings.
Quickly embraced by the community, Saarinen’s church all but sparked a local design revolution that took off in 1954 when J. Irwin Miller, a third-generation executive of Cummins, began the Cummins Foundation Architecture Program to bring great architecture to the city, which faced growing need as the post-war baby boom expanded the local population.