Indiana Welcome Center / by Serhii Chrucky

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The Indiana Welcome Center is a surprising example of Post-Modern architecture, unexpectedly situated off of Interstate 80, five miles from the Illinois border in southern Hammond. It opened in 1999 as the Lake County Interstate Visitors Information Center and was designed by a Valparaiso-based firm called Design Organization, Inc., who were eventually acquired by Shive-Hattery in 2012.

Design elements of the building symbolize four distinctive aspects of the multi-faceted geography and economy of Northwest Indiana. The pillars marking the entry evoke the smokestacks of the nearby steel mills and oil refineries, most notably BP-Amoco in Whiting and The U.S. Steel Works in Gary. The cascading aluminum siding that covers the exhibition hall suggests the ebb and flow of waves on the shoreline of Lake Michigan. This element is juxtaposed with a rolling concrete wall bisecting the circular form of the entire building, reflecting the terrain of the Indiana Dunes to the east. Finally, the southern facing side is capped by a tall (non-functional) silo, symbolizing the largely agricultural economy to the south.

The jump-cut interplay of varied symbolic elements is in line with the strain of Post-Modernist architecture practiced by Stanley Tigerman, Michael Graves, and Robert Venturi, but was built at least a decade after that style faded out of fashion. Perhaps it took this brand of Post-Modernism a long time to move into the heartland. Or perhaps it was the best design solution to communicate the aims of the Lake County Convention and Visitors Bureau, telling the story of the region in a single structure. It stands nonetheless as an idiosyncratic example of very late Post-Modernism, rare in this part of the country, and an unexpected surprise to visitors passing through Northwest Indiana.

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