DAYLIGHT // S1 E3 – Design balance within private and public spaces.

More and more people are moving to downtown Indianapolis, a trend that shows no signs of slowing. When accommodating for growth, however, we can’t forget to recognize and design for the needs of existing communities. There must be a balance between private and public spaces.

Take Market East, for example. Over the last decade, the district has decreased its dependency on vehicles. Now predominately pedestrian, the neighborhood boasts the Julia M. Carson Transit Center, the famed Cultural Trail, and a Pacers Bikeshare station at City Market. And with the City-County Building and the Cummins Distribution Headquarters residing within its borders, the district has cemented itself as a civic hotspot. The City-County Building and Cummins Distribution Headquarters flank the Cultural Trail and are surrounded by heavy foot traffic. However, their civic presence does not feel out-of-place or awkward. Instead, the buildings provide a backdrop for both formal and informal community gatherings (the weekly farmers’ market, lunch outside, etc.). 

Proximity to the Cultural Trail – and other downtown amenities – is what draws residents to the district. Indeed, Market East is fast-becoming a precedent on how design can blend civic and residential environments. It’s a place where privately owned outdoor spaces like the Cummins Plaza, the plaza at City Market, and the soon-to-be-completed Richard B. Lugar Plaza serve the public. These spaces promote social interaction and are designed for inclusivity and connectivity. In other words, privately owned public spaces influence how people view the city. They create dialogue and encourage everyone to be part of the conversation moving forward. As David Rubin said at the third DAYLIGHT event, “Engagement and dialogue within our communities will be the saving grace of culture.” 

One of the district’s most-recognized landmarks is the Cummins Distribution Headquarters, which was completed in 2017. Cummins knocked it out of the park with their privately owned public plaza just south of the building. The plaza provides moveable furniture for impromptu gatherings and offers an alternate route to get around the city. Here, you can relax and slow down for a moment; you’re not forced to walk alongside vehicle traffic. You’re not outpaced. What’s more, the plaza is open to the public. Anyone – not just Cummins employees – can use it. The plaza also connects directly to the Cultural Trail, an amenity that City Market executive director Stevi Stoesz described as a “catalyst for development not only in Market East, but across Indianapolis.” 

The Cultural Trail has certainly sparked a lot of development. But as our city continues to grow, we as a community should remain contentious. As Ben Park famously said in Spider-Man, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Future developments must include the communities and the people who have always been around. Yes, great things are happening in Market East – but this greatness should extend beyond the district’s “official” boundaries and should recognize the needs of existing communities. Drew White, partner at Axis Architecture + Interiors, put it best: “We can’t turn our back on equity … we have to watch our elitism.” This type of thinking – that socially and emotionally based design will benefit everyone in the community and won’t leave anyone behind – is what will strengthen our city.

People who move downtown may give up some element of privacy – they may not have a backyard to call their own, for instance. However, what would happen if more collective “backyards” began to appear? What if more places in Indianapolis – and more cities in the United States – opened their spaces for the benefit of the public? How, then, can these collective spaces work with private employers who want to provide more outdoor space for their employees? 

How about this: We let private space and public space come together and create a new space – a third space – that benefits everyone and is open to all. Citizens in the private space should continue to define the urban fabric of communities, just like in Market East. The district is rapidly evolving, becoming a place that betters the Indy community on multiple levels. The continuous balance of the civic identity and the urban lifestyle proves this district is not finished – it is just beginning.


Our next episode of DAYLIGHT will be a conversation on The Future of Retail. RSVP for this free event here.

DAYLIGHT // Season 1, Episode 3: Civic Identity through Design featured a discussion lead by PUP on how design shapes our identity as citizens of Indianapolis - focusing on recent development in the Market East District. PUP Vice President, Lourenzo Giple, faciliatated a conversation with David Rubin, Founding Principal at Land Collective, Stevi Stoesz, the Executive Director of Indianapolis City Market, and Drew White, Founding Parter at Axis Architecture + Interiors.

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Ashley Thornberry is an architectural associate at Axis Architecture + Interiors. An Indianapolis native,
Ashley graduated from Ball State University with a bachelor of science in architecture (2013) and a
master of architecture (2015). While at Ball State, she had the opportunity to study architecture
throughout Europe and Asia, which combined her love of design and history. At Axis, Ashley enjoys being
part of a variety of projects, including civil-based projects such as fire stations. She has been an active
member of AIA Indiana and AIA Indianapolis for the past three years, and currently serves as the AIA
Indy Architects’ Home Tour chair. Ashley has a passion for connecting with others, and is interested in
advancing the role of emerging professionals in AIA on both a local and national level. Outside of work,
Ashley enjoys relaxing with her husband and their dog, Anna; experimenting with different hand lettering
styles; and perfecting the best cup of coffee.