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Aging in Place.

Riverwalk Artist Studios


The Chattahoochee runs like an artery through Columbus' urban core, pumping water through the rift between its downtown and Phenix City. The river connects multiple towns across Alabama and Georgia, a relationship that has had both commercial and recreational ramifications. Today, the stretch of whitewater that separates the two cities is the longest urban rafting course in the world, and one of Columbus’ biggest draws for outdoor enthusiasts. Most of the city’s historic buildings take the form of either functioning, abandoned, or repurposed mill architecture. Many of the neighborhoods within the city limits started off as communities for the mill workers. Several of the mills had dams spanning the breadth of the river, most of which have since been demolished to enable more white water rafting. This site was selected because the overlap of the artistic and historic networks, the rich character of local materials, and the juxtaposition of urban and natural fabrics resulted in a preexisting set of atmospheric conditions. The river especially provides a connection between primitive, resultant, and considered atmosphere within an urban context.


The project program consists of three artist studios and a gallery oriented along an east to west axis. These are a pottery studio and outdoor kiln, a music studio above a multipurpose space, and a painting studio nested within the gallery. Formally, the structure is composed of two steel volumes that float above a concrete plinth, held together by a glue-laminated truss skeleton.  The volumes are largely devoid of openings on the sides, preserving the privacy of the artists and the integrity of the material. Light enters from above and from a few key side openings. The site is traversed by a set of overlapping paths, each catering to a different type of user.


architecture, atmosphere, patina, masterplan, commercial, materiality


Columbus, GA, United States


50,000 ft²


Spring 2020


Justin Miller


Artist Studios, ​Landscape


Auburn University, Studio X


Materials and techniques were implemented which mature over time.


The steel volumes of the studios frame one end of the park, while city mills holds the other edge.


The annual $20,000 Aydelott Travel Grant enables the recipient to travel the world to research a topic of their choice through the lens of any four buildings they select. As the Auburn winner of the 2019 award, I chose to research the atmosphere of sacred space. The selected buildings were the Cologne Cathedral, The Pilgrimage Church in Neviges, Saint Peter in Klippan, and Grundtvig’s Church in Copenhagen. The research took place throughout 2019, with the travel portion occurring during the summer,  and was documented using photography, sketches, and written journals. The final form of the research consisted of four thirty-five-page fully-illustrated essays, summarized below, an exhibition, and further personal study, which was included in my book Atmosphere

Atmosphere is why we visit architecture, why it is not enough to simply read about it, to look at pictures of it, or to represent it. There is precise terminology in architecture used to quantify function, scale, mathematical ratios, and time. There is a decidedly less specific vocabulary for softer qualities, such as color, tone, and materiality. These are described by terms such as hard and soft, cool and warm. Ultimately, what draws us to architecture are not the parts we can represent but rather the parts we cannot. The parts which lead us to tell others that “you just had to have been there.”  


The definition of atmosphere in relation to the field is: “the pervading sensation of a tone or ambiance in/of a place, space, or object.”³ Sacred space is characterized by its atmosphere. Sacred is defined by Merriam Webster as “entitled to reverence and respect.” Sacred space exists in the natural world, in groves of trees and on mountain peaks, as much as it does in the built environment. Sacred architecture is a designed form of sacred space. It attempts, through intentional, designed conditions, to create an atmosphere that promotes reverence and respect. Often when considering sacred architecture, archetypal images of soaring medieval Christian churches spring unbidden to my mind. The Gothic cathedral looms large in the education of the Western-trained architect. Historically, there has always been a primary purpose behind religious sacred architecture, to inspire visitors to worship and create an atmosphere that encourages a reverent attitude. What about the atmosphere of these places makes them successful sacred spaces? How can the architects of today design places of similar quality?

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