Thursday, May 12, 2016

"We Were Never Going to Tear It Down" - our Breuer Library

That's what former Fulton County Commissioner Robb Pitts said on Wednesday night about Atlanta's Marcel Breuer designed library which I call "The Breuer," (How to pronounce Breuer)

Mr. Pitts also said, "But in 2008 the voters voted to build a new downtown library."

Thanks to FOCAL - Friends of the Central Atlanta Library, Creative Loafing and the Center for Civic Innovation for hosting their 4th "Social Studies" and the meeting last night, this one about the future of The Breuer. They asked the panel:

"What’s wrong with Atlanta's Central Library and can it be fixed?"

I scribbled #terrystinybulletpoints which are a little whiny. Read Thomas Wheatley's report "What will happen to Atlanta's Central Library, an architecturally significant but undervalued building?" at Creative Loafing. And see "Atlanta’s Central Library debate" at Turned Georgian.


The stair window is my favorite place in the library. The grimy glass is a sign of why folks are talking about it. If the library can't manage to clean one of the coolest windows in Atlanta - and it's on the ground floor -  then....

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Here's the panel It one was as focused and on point as a panel can get. Special thanks to Kyle Kessler who opened with a history of the Downtown Libraries.

So here are #terrystinybulletpoints
  1. I had stumbled on to a discussion that began before 2008. 
  2. The most boring use I can imagine for The Breuer is as a library.
  3. At the very same hour Switch Modern held a seminar, "Why Beauty Matters." I wonder how this would go if The Breuer was considered beautiful as well as "significant," "world class" and "master work."
  4. I wished the Beauty Matters folks were at our meeting.
  5. Side 1: Politicians need to do what the voters voted for in 2008: a new downtown library.
  6. Side 2: The Breuer could work as the "new downtown library" and it would be cheaper and it needs some work. The library is at risk if it's not a library.
  7. Libraries are no longer be what they were when The Breuer was built. It's a white elephant.
  8. Libraries will no longer be what they were when the "new" library was(is) built. It will be a white elephant.
  9.  Does building to "the program" guarantee inflexible short-lived buildings?
  10. I don't think the government is the best long term steward for "The Breuer.".
  11. If they tear it down, will we get a world-class hotel befitting our international city? 
  12. A Kroger in The Breuer might help the downtown renaissance thing more than a library or a hotel.
So Terry what are your #smartypants suggestions?
  1. If we must, build the new library in Underground Atlanta. Maybe white elephants can cancel each other out or perhaps work together. Perhaps it can bridge south downtown with not-south downtown.
  2. Get the High Museum / Woodruff Arts Center to buy The Breuer and give downtown a major cultural center that is actually on the sidewalk where a lot of people walk, where tourists hang out, near our popular downtown park and our big downtown university, in the midst of the hotel/convention district. Make it our Whitney. The High would have a Meier, a Piano AND a Breuer. Can we get Calatrava to build a bridge to one of them? TOTAL PACKAGE!
  3. I don't think Atlanta has the patron capital or the art fan capital to pull it off right now.
  4. Check your lottery ticket and get back to me.
Thanks to everybody for a useful meeting in an extraordinary building.

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When it rains, the brutalist diagonal concrete grooves rock.

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