Tag Archives: modern

more than just bad design.

What is it with putting additions on the FRONT of a building?? The award-winning design mentioned in my previous post by super-awesome, forward-thinking (heh) architects Gamble + Gamble, proposed a boxy front addition that reaches for the sidewalk while completely covering up one of the building’s most significant and identifying features: the Clermont Hotel sign. This exhibition of conceited architectural prowess in a [just-for-fun right?] design competition pales in comparison with what the Center for Puppetry Arts intends to do, nay, IS doing (?!?!) with their building. Sometimes I fear that these dramatically insensitive designs are examples of architects trying “think outside the box” but it is as if the design process wasn’t complete, like this was just one crazy brainstorm idea from an intern, a devil’s advocate suggestion that someone took seriously! It was meant to be revised a million more times before it went to press and—oops.


“This raises some serious questions. First of all, that design won a competition?” (commenter, Rees)

Maria Saporta is pretty much the sole reporter on the intended shoebox addition, and I can’t add much to her thorough report on the subject: Spring Street Elementary School about to disappear behind the Center for Puppetry Arts museum expansion

Ordinarily I would be thrilled to see one of Atlanta’s premier cultural institutions doubling in size and attracting a world-renowned collection as significant as Jim Henson’s puppets… but… the expanded design of the Center will completely shield the historic Spring Street school from Spring Street — with a window-less, bland structure built to house the Henson collection.

As another commenter puts it, “I’m all for modern architecture, but this is bad.”

It IS bad, I went up there myself to check it out, to see if it was true that they needed to build this addition JUST SO. I found the mock-ups of the addition (still in black and white just as you see here) proudly displayed in the atrium, the atrium which looks out onto Spring Street but does not, and will not, open to it. It brings me to another of Maria Saporta’s concerns and I’d say, her most important one:

The expansion plans for the Center for Puppetry Arts seem to go counter to all of Midtown’s development guidelines—a new faceless building with no uses that relate to the street, a new development that does not respect the historic and urban texture of the community, an expansion that removes green space in order to preserve surface parking spaces and a structure that discourages the establishment of a walkable environment.

It’s true, “It’s unfortunate they didn’t take more cues from Freelon’s proposal during the competition for the expansion. Which would have properly addressed both streets as well as maintaned the character of the original school’s front—including maintaining a larger portion of the green space in front of the school’s original entrance” (arctk2011tj). They fail to take advantage of their 17th St. side, to provide access or interest from the visible Spring St. side (the Atrium already goes through the building, how about a front door AND a back door?), and, looking at the aerial below, how in the world did ANYONE think the front yard was the best place for an addition to begin with??

aerial PuppetryArts property

Ms. Saporta implies that the die has been cast, the Midtown Design Review Commission cannot go back on their decision, the trees have been cut (actually). But some express hope that a change will come, and I wish it would.

“Perhaps the Center for Puppetry Arts board of directors should put the breaks on this and consider more input from local citizens and discussion of funding requirements to develop an architectural design which can stand the test of time and enhance the area which already suffers with dullness.”

(look, i didn’t even argue about the historic significance of the original building)

Pei update

re: demolishing modern architecture

well, it’s gone, as this Curbed Atlanta article reports, “temporarily.” Temporarily? yes, contrary to belief earlier that plans were to preserve a portion of the famous I.M. Pei’s first project, the plans were merely to have a look-alike in place. There is something lost and nothing gained by demo-ing and then reconstructing. Although, the sadly preservation-misinformed project manager is proud to report that the marble panels are in storage to be reused. In talking to Curbed Atlanta, he added that

‘…officials are “confident” the facade will look “exactly the way it was there before,” adding that the process of reproducing the actual steel for the dramatic straight-line look of Pei’s original project—and blending several four-story apartment buildings into that feel—is fairly in-depth, but designers believe they’ve done a pretty good job. “We think the Pei building’s a centerpiece,” he said. “We love the design, we love everything about it.” Newly released renderings show an affinity for Pei’s original, clean design (and lots of windows) throughout the residential parts of the development.’

I will refrain from commenting on every word our architect afficionado and I.M. Pei-lover project manager just said. Why even pretend you are “keeping” part of his building, you’ve just recreated something new, inspired by Pei, which is fine—great really except that you destroyed the real Pei piece to do it. It is not as awesome, interesting, environmental or in keeping with any sort of historicity as preserving the actual building and working around it.


demolishing modern architecture

UPDATE (2.14.13): the Architecture Tourist seems to think this is just the beginning of the partial demo/rehabilitation project, possibly. I love he way he describes the impending development as “modern apartments so familiar that we’ll pay no attention.”

SAD DEMO NOTE: the I.M. Pei building at the corner of Ponce and Juniper is being demolished as we speak. Full story to come when the word gets out I’m sure.

I can’t claim to be the one to catch this surprise demo, MMcD spotted the action at 131 Ponce and asked workers just to be sure they weren’t just in the demo phase of the partial rehab that was the plan back in August. His photos from today show the building surrounded in black construction fencing, and the white marble panels on the facade being removed. From all my searching there has been no word of the building’s future since plans to develop most of the block (also recently demoed) and salvage the front part of the Pei building were released back in the summer. Even the Atlanta DOCOMOMO chapter has nothing to say — yet.

The Pei building at 131 Ponce has been identified as the first I.M. Pei Building projects (his first acc to wiki). It was built in 1949 as the Gulf Oil Building, “a 50,000 sq ft two-story ‘box that invoked the lean rectilinearity of Mies van der Rohe.'” Another early Pei building exists at 46 Broad St and was completed in the same year as the one on Ponce. DOCOMOMO’s 2007 write-up insists that the 131 Ponce Pei building “has fared better. The subject of a recent replacement window and rehabilitation project, the building has served a variety of tenants well over the past 56 years”

In 2007, the Pei building at 131 Ponce de Leon was threatened, but revised plans in that year suggested incorporating the building into the new development of the rest of the block “in lieu of demolition.” According to the wiki article above, the mixed-use project in 2008 was dubbed “Fountains on Ponce.” I suspect the economy tanking got in the way of that developer and it wasn’t until just last August that a new development plan resurfaced. The Atlanta Business Chronicle and the MidtownPatch unveiled plans of the new owners, Faison Enterprises (developer) and Sereo Group Inc (investment) to create the ever-popular “mixed-use development” at the site. The plans pictured clearly show this front portion of the historic modernist building incorporated into the new stuff that oddly resembles all the other new “mixed-use” construction in this city (Atlanta Station, and nearby portions of North Ave and Piedmont to name a few)

Preserving the recent past is one the preservation’s most arduous tasks. In the 1920s no one wanted to preserve those gaudy Victorians (baudy “painted ladies”) and today we struggle to make a case for Ranch houses and, apparently, even modern architecture by world-renowned architects. more later…