Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Szabo coming around on Central Library?

Via Thomas Wheatley comes this interesting piece from an architectural magazine's take on Robb Pitts' Central Library meglomania:
Even John Szabo, the director of the Atlanta-Fulton County Library System, who enthusiastically promoted Pitts’s vision for a new central branch when advocating for the bond referendum, now seems inclined to renovate the Breuer building. “It has a number of attributes functionally for us, in addition to being just a really fabulous building architecturally,” he says.

Those attributes include its considerable space (280,000 square feet); its large and relatively flexible floor plates; and its location at a Metro­pol­itan Authority Rapid Transit (MARTA) stop. Among the improvements Szabo wants are retail or restaurant spaces and better vertical movement. (There are just two stairways, but they’re memorable: an opposing set that only connects levels two through four, and a big, airy rhomboid that goes from the basement to the second floor. Coupled with a main elevator bank that does not reach the top floor, they hamper circulation.) There is also a rooftop terrace, which is currently inaccessible—and virtually unknown—to the public. “Wouldn’t this make a cool coffee bar?” Szabo muses. “If we were to do a respectful renovation of this building, we could give it some of the appeal that our residents currently don’t see.”
Robb Pitts is also a little clearer that he has no problem tearing down the existing building, which I recall he claimed he had no intention of doing when the initial bond vote was being debated:
The current building would also have to be sold to help fund the new one, and though it would ideally be repurposed, Atlanta has a poor record of preserving worthy buildings. With its central position near MARTA, this is a potential teardown. Pitts calls the site “a great location for some other use,” without explicitly calling for the Breuer building’s demolition. “The access to transit is huge, let’s say, for a hotel or an office tower, where from an architectural point of view you’re looking up instead of at four sides of concrete.”
I hope Robb Pitts is trying to use this as a platform for a run for mayor - that way, he can lose again and get out of public office. It really bothers me how much his opposition seems to be about the fact that the simply doesn't like the building's architecture. There are plenty of buildings I wish hadn't been built, but that I recognize need to stay because of their economic value (most of John Portman's work being on this list). It is one thing to be a critic, and another to waste taxpayer money because of aesthetics. If I can make peace with AmericasMart, surely Robb Pitts can make peace with the Central Library...


  1. I love your comment about Rob Pitts using this as his platform for running for Mayor so that he'll lose!

  2. I don't want them to spend a dime tearing it down or building a new library. Or spending a dime trying
    to make it a "destination." That's what they thougth they were doing to begin with.

    Getting on the roof would be cool though.

    But really, this is not what goes through my head when I visit. It's more like, "I hope this thing doesn't fall and squash me like bug."

    "...a monumental symbol, which is also accessible to the public on street level, through a kind of magic act of holding a heavy value up in the air..."

  3. Yeah, some of the architect-speak can be pretty arrogant. I'm not sure how "accessible to the public on street level" that building is, precisely because of the cantilever. It is rather imposing, as you mention.

  4. I just read the Metropolis article, and it and every one else (ESPECIALLY Rob Pitts) fail to mention that land along the park is not available! It's not like you just find a property you like and buy it; it's not that easy. If the landowners wouldn't sell to the big-wigs in town (who've all tried to buy), then how is the Library going to come up with enough dough to make a compelling offer to change the landowers' minds? Ridiculous.

  5. Considering how many months (er, years) it will take to absorb all of the current office space, and how many new hotels we've seen open in the last year... I think it's safe to say that the $ value that Pitts believes the building to have is not consistent with reality. Not that that matters, I suppose.

  6. Gotta say, since they did an entire building re-organization back in 2004 or so I've got not problems with the place; now the fifth floor is a fabulous collection. The building itself certainly beats some of Portman's contributions to the area and it is incredibly convenient to MARTA (and Rosa's at lunchtime!)


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