Atlanta has quite a few iconic buildings. But for those that come to fruition, there are many designed and destined only to sit on drafting boards, never to be built. As any architect can attest, many projects just don't make the transition from paper to reality. It happens for a number of reasons: lack of money, changing market conditions, a better proposal from elsewhere; maybe it's not exactly what the clients envisioned. While many city-altering proposals have come and gone — quite a few victims of the late-aughts economic slump — the concepts still live on in the drawings done by architects. We devote this installment of Field Note Fridays to four civic projects by prominent architects that could have been, but never will be.
Center for Puppetry Arts
When it was announced that the Muppets were moving to Atlanta en masse, the Center for Puppetry Arts realized they needed more space for Kermit and his friends. A proposal by the Freelon Group was based on the concept of interwoven fingers, with the galleries, theaters and rooftop zones overlapped and bent to create unique spaces suited for the needs of each component. They weren't selected to complete the project, but Freelon would go on to design the Center for Civil and Human Rights downtown. While on Spring Street, a more cartoonish chartreuse building with crooked windows is slated to open next month.
The Atlanta Pavillion
Proposed as a gift to the City of Atlanta and visitors to the 1996 Olympic Games, the pavilion was to be erected above the entrance to the Peachtree Center MARTA Station in downtown. Designed by locally based, nationally recognized architects Mack Scogin and Merrill Elam, the project was envisioned as a complex, nebulous web of wood floating high above the existing plaza. At street level, a small new enclosed information space would have provided visitors guidance and cultural information and also contain a small cafe. MSMEA characterized the project as a "low-tech assemblage that has required the most sophisticated and in-depth computer generated techniques to describe its parts and pieces and the forces at work in each." To this day, the site is still a barren plaza between the Central Library and the Ellis Hotel.
Atlanta History Center Expansion
Atlanta is often characterized as the phoenix, rising from the ashes. The proposal for the expansion of the Atlanta History Center by Stanley Beaman & Sears sought to capture that concept in built form. From the entry lobby, it would be a translucent, faceted box fronting West Paces Ferry Road, and visitors could take in the expansive collections of the museum within an interactive "knowledge hub." Visitors were to be drawn through the building by undulating ceiling forms, meant to evoke imagery of a flying phoenix, as the timeline of Atlanta history was displayed at their feet. The design was selected as the runner-up in an international design competition to reinvigorate the Atlanta History Center in Buckhead. The winning design has been under construction for the last year, and should be opening soon.
Atlanta Symphony Center
Santiago Calatrava is a highly praised Spanish architect (although Manhattanites might beg to differ) who has completed works across the globe. Back in the early 2000s, he was engaged by the Atlanta arts community to create a new music hall adjacent to Arts Center. The $300 million proposal was a swooping modern masterpiece to contain a concert hall and education spaces to be the envy of all symphonies. The work was described by the era's managing director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra as "a startling, beautiful creation, absolutely contemporary in its architecture and technology." But considering the massive cost overruns and protracted timeline for Calatrava's project in New York, maybe it's best this one stayed on the drawing board...
· Invited Architectural Competition | Puppetry Performing Arts By Freelon [unbuilt]
· The Atlanta Pavilion [Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects]
· Atlanta History Center [Stanley Beaman & Sears]
· Atlanta Symphony Center [arcspace.com]