One of the silliest trends in Atlanta recently has been to propose new “visionary” libraries to replace “old and busted” libraries. Please recall Ben Carter’s offer to create a replica of the Buckhead Library.
Metropolis Magazine — an architecture, design, and preservation magazine — just published a story on Atlanta’s central library designed by Marcel Breuer, he of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.
Breuer’s building is an example of brutalism. It’s an angular, blocky architectural style which resides in the trough of no value for most people, including Fulton County Commissioner Rob Pitts.
Pitts would like to create a “visionary” “technology library” because other cities have built iconic libraries and been successful. The Breuer Library would be sold and “repurposed,” which might as well mean “demolished.” Pardon me, but this is totally wack.
Sure, the renderings of the potential new library I’ve seen look pretty, but don’t most renderings look pretty?
I mean no offense to ai3, the architecture firm behind this rendering — it’s just too bad we’ve been through this before. It’s almost as if history could repeat itself.
The Breuer Library is already iconic and visionary. Plus, it was originally the new, modern answer to the beautiful Carnegie Library, which has been torn down. Sounds familiar.
Now only a pillar stands from the original Carnegie Library. It’s a sad little monument.
The Breuer Library, like the Carnegie Library before it, is not broken, but it does need some updating. Just because homeless people tend to congregate in front of the building does not mean tearing the building down is a wise thing to do.
As long as Pitts is talking expensive, pie-in-the-sky ideas (and he is!), why not repurpose the ground level of three parking decks that flank the Breuer Library? Giving those decks ground floor retail would activate the street, making the library much more attractive and vibrant.
There’s a blog and a petition to save Atlanta’s Central Branch Library. If you’re feeling limber, you can even tour the place courtesy of Docomomo and the Atlanta Preservation Center on March 11 at 6:30.
The moral —
Don’t: Tear down a significant, historic building designed by an internationally renowned architect.
Do: Read Overdue! in Metropolis Magazine by Jonathan Lerner and this post over at Terminal Station.
Then: Tour the place.
Edit, 2/26/09: It should be noted that I took the ai3 rendering of the new library without permission.
If you would, please discount that particular image from our Creative Commons license. My bad. I usually ask, and this time I neglected to. They do great work (truly), and their rendering should be considered separately from this issue.