Since its construction in 1979 near the banks of the Wabash River, New Harmony’s Atheneum has drawn second looks. Clad in white porcelain panels and glass attached to a steel frame, the structure was the first major commission for the now internationally acclaimed architect Richard Meier.
Built as a visitors’ center for the town, the structure is designed to guide visitors along a specific route through the building, with overlaying grids offering frequent views of the surrounding buildings and countryside. From a spacious deck on the roof, visitors can look out over the town and take in views of the Wabash River.
The building’s unique design has earned a catalog of prestigious architecture awards, including the Progressive Architecture Award and the American Institute of Architects Award. Meier’s original drawings and architectural model of the building are part of the permanent architecture collection at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
Today, the Atheneum houses exhibits on the communal history of New Harmony and serves as the starting point for tours of the historic community. As visitors exit the building to begin their tour, they pass through a hand-hewn split-rail fence symbolizing the separation between the modern Atheneum and the historic town.
To celebrate the Atheneum’s 40th anniversary, the University of Southern Indiana Foundation and Historic New Harmony held a celebration and gala in October, launching a $250,000 campaign for ongoing preservation and upgrades at the landmark building. For information, contact Historic New Harmony, 812-682-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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