DIY Architectural Walking Tour

By Hilary Morrish and Amanda Pellerin

Walk Atlanta #SAA16! While your out make it a point to scope out the built environment of our beautiful city. Here are few places near the conference hotels with plenty of history to explore.

Woodruff Park and the William-Oliver Building

Robert W. Woodruff donated the land used to create the 6-acre park in the heart of downtown Atlanta. It first opened to the public in 1973 as Central City Park. It is surrounded by historic buildings and the lunch row known as the Fairly-Poplar district. Historically, the area contained by the park was been filled with structures. There are two interesting fountains in the park. The statue Atlanta From the Ashes, as known as The Phoenix, was restored and moved to Woodruff Park from its location at the city’s first Rich’s Department Store.  Because of its central location, the park is often a meeting site for rallies and protests.

The William-Oliver Building is one of the historic buildings flanking the park. Built by Francis Palmer Smith in 1930 as Atlanta’s first Art-Deco skyscraper. It’s sixteen stories currently function as apartments. It is named for the founders of the development firm that completed it, William T. Healy, Jr. and Oliver M. Healy. It was originally an office building for the growing center of Atlanta. The characteristically Art-Deco elements of the building are the ornamentation of the flat façade and frieze with wave and plant motifs and the prominent chevron patterns.

 

William Oliver Building, south façade circa 1950s. Photo Credit: Lane Brothers Commercial Photographers Photographic Collection, 1920-1976. Photographic Collection, Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library.
William Oliver Building, south façade circa 1950s. Photo Credit: Lane Brothers Commercial Photographers Photographic Collection, 1920-1976. Photographic Collection, Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library.
Aerial view of Woodruff Park, November 12, 1977. Photo Credit: Copyright Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Courtesy of Georgia State University.
Aerial view of Woodruff Park, November 12, 1977. Photo Credit: Copyright Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Courtesy of Georgia State University.
Aerial view of Five Points looking north on Peachtree St. at the intersection of Marietta St., 1904. Woodruff Park is presently on the cluster of two story buildings in the photograph. The William Oliver Building would replace the structure on the northwest corner of Peachtree and Marietta. Photo Credit: Copyright Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Courtesy of Georgia State University.
Aerial view of Five Points looking north on Peachtree St. at the intersection of Marietta St., 1904. Woodruff Park is presently on the cluster of two story buildings in the photograph. The William Oliver Building would replace the structure on the northwest corner of Peachtree and Marietta. Photo Credit: Copyright Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Courtesy of Georgia State University.

John Portman Hotels and Peachtree Center

The very setting of #SAA16 is embedded with Atlanta architecture gold.  While not a native son, John C. Portman, graduated from the Georgia Tech School of Architecture in 1950. He became world famous from his headquarters in Atlanta and single handedly reshaped the downtown hotel/convention/shopping districts. He designed and developed some of our best known hotels and conference centers intended to revitalize a dying city center. The Peachtree Center Office Building built in 1965 followed principles of multi-use development combining office, retail, and living. Portman created the prototype for atrium hotels that would dominate the hotel designs of the 1970s. The Hyatt (1967) and the Westin (1976) both have the characteristic vastly vertical lobby. The Marriot Marquis (1985) was designed with the aid of a computer and its atrium bested Portman’s previous designs with a 470” atrium that rises the entire span of the building separated by elevator banks bridges. For a while it was the largest hotel atrium in the world. Skybridges are another defining feature of Portman architecture and therefore the Atlanta downtown. The Apparel Mart (1957) is four interconnected buildings of wholesale home decorator’s heaven.

 

Photo 4 caption: Multiblock view of John Portman designed buildings, Peachtree Center, 1990. Photo credit: Copyright Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Courtesy of Georgia State University.
Photo 4 caption: Multiblock view of John Portman designed buildings, Peachtree Center, 1990. Photo credit: Copyright Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Courtesy of Georgia State University.

Central Library, Atlanta-Fulton County Public Library System

The Central Library of the public library system is a masterpiece of Brutalist architecture designed by the master architect Marcel Breuer and represents his last work. Completed in 1980, Breuer did not make it to the opening ceremony for the building. The Brutalist style is characterized by rough exterior cladding often of rock or concrete with blocky, unornamented shaping. The Central Library is constructed of precast concrete panels that were then bush-hammered to give it a rough texture. The interior concrete staircase creates a monumental anchor bringing the Brutalist aesthetic inside. Even during its hey-day, the style was controversial. It replaced the classic architectural styling of the Carnegie Library that once stood at the site. The fate of the iconic building is uncertain as the AFPL struggles with budget shortfalls and high maintenance costs.

Photo 5 Caption: Exterior of the Atlanta’s Central Library, 1982, Photo credit: Copyright Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Courtesy of Georgia State University.
Photo 5 Caption: Exterior of the Atlanta’s Central Library, 1982, Photo credit: Copyright Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Courtesy of Georgia State University.

Georgia State Archives

A bit of a hike from the conference is the first purpose built building for the archival records of the state of Georgia. You may catch a glimpse of this structure if you are headed to the SAA Braves outing. Built in 1965 by A. Thomas Bradbury and dubbed the  “White Ice Cube” for it’s monolithic, windowless design. Bradbury was a local architect who also built the Georgian (location and aesthetic) Governor’s Mansion on West Paces Ferry Rd, and the Shriner Temple on Ponce de Leon. Bradbury was known for his marble work on modern government buildings. The archive is actually 17 floors, but you wouldn’t know that from the street as two-thirds of it is underground. Some of the underground levels are parking but it was designed to eventually accommodate more archival storage. It has been used as storage and staging for the growing film industry in the Atlanta area. The building is slated for demolition in December due sinking from ground water infiltration and nearby interstate vibration.

Photo 6 Caption: Georgia State Archives building, 1966. Photo credit: Copyright Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Courtesy of Georgia State University.
Photo 6 Caption: Georgia State Archives building, 1966. Photo credit: Copyright Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Courtesy of Georgia State University.
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