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??
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)