Atlanta has been known for having a serious gap in its urban landscape of historical architecture. Since Sherman burned the city, it has been difficult to keep much of anything around. They attempted to demolish the Fox Theater in the 1970’s as well as the simultaneous urban renewal that began in the 1960s that swept away countless downtown buildings to replace them with parking garages and freeways. Now, with the Buckhead reconstruction project underway, they have picked up a new scent and have yet another landmark to do away with; developers are rapidly plotting to demolish the historic Buckhead Library and replace it with condos and retail space (because clearly Atlanta does not have enough condos or retail).
The AJC wrote yesterday,
It’s one of the most important buildings of the last quarter-century” in Atlanta, said Robert Craig, an architecture professor at Georgia Tech. “It’s one of the handful in the city known well beyond the city itself.”But the library’s unruly character, its attempt to express the excitement of city life and elicit reactions, might help bring about its downfall in a changing but still traditional Buckhead. Developer Ben Carter, the builder of the $1.5 billion Streets of Buckhead project, is offering Fulton County $24 million for the 2-acre site. He proposes demolishing the building, which sits in the middle of his eight-block redevelopment, and relocating the library to a future mixed-use building with condominiums and retail. “The Buckhead area of our city is becoming more urban,” Carter said. “There is a great opportunity with public buildings to incorporate them into a more urban-style project.” Under his plan, the new library would occupy two floors above a parking garage. Patrons would gain entry via an elevator. An outdoor reading terrace is possible.
Fulton County Commissioner Tom Lowe stated, “That library, to my way of thinking, was an abortion the day it was dedicated. I am a lover of art. I can even stand abstract art. But God darn, who in the world would build something like that? There ain’t no damn artistic value to that library.” I’m so glad to see that the city is stepping up to salvage a piece of Atlanta’s architectural history.
Local artist and architectural enthusiast Karen Tauches wrote on an Atlanta arts listserv,
You would think having a piece of designer architecture. . . and a library at that. . . would be a valuable asset for the “streetz” developer to build next to, to be in the company of, or hell, even build above, around and over (ever hear of bridge architecture?). Atlanta’s has a lot of bridges for a city without water.
The library would sit beautifully juxtaposed to traditional styles (like the Guggenheim in uptown nyc or something), offering aesthetic variety, a rare view made by some of Atlanta’s finest architects (Carlos Tardio was working for Mack Scogin and Merrill Elam at the time). High-end visitors to Atlanta (as well as anyone with a library card) could lounge and read in this historical, non-comercial, fantastic, contemporary interior (with a view).
In attempt to halt the library’s impending demise, locals have created a blog where you can access information on the library as well as a petition against the demolition (www.savethelibrary.blogspot.com). Unfortunately for Atlanta, unless the Historical Preservation Society can step in, history would dictate that we will soon have condos and a single story library where Scogin, Elam, and Bray’s building used to stand.