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Downtown’s Brutalist library has been altered by window installation

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Following years of debate, the last design by famed architect Marcel Breuer is getting a controversial update

Construction crews cut holes into the side of the beefy grey library.
The iconic building’s facade today.
Sean Keenan, Curbed Atlanta

Large windows have been carved into downtown’s Central Atlanta Library, as the Brutalist monolith undergoes a $50 million update. Clearly, there’s no turning back now.

In July 2018, the library, which has stood for four decades just north of Woodruff Park near Peachtree Center MARTA Station, closed to the public to begin much-needed interior renovations.

The controversial exterior demolition work began this past summer, despite pushback from historic preservationists who claimed chiseling holes for windows into the last design of famed Brutalist designer Marcel Breueur would be an affront to Atlanta’s architectural identity—and to the artist, himself.

Until recently, the exterior alterations were visible only on the circa-1980 building’s Williams Street side.

Now, the library’s most prominent face—on Forsyth Street—has been altered, too.

A rendering of Cooper Carry’s design shows the windows cut into the side hulking concrete structure.
The vision for the exterior changes.
Cooper Carry

The updated design, the work of architecture firm Cooper Carry, met plenty of backlash from local architecture wonks during community engagement sessions in 2017 and 2018.

But officials with the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System have maintained that patrons wanted more natural light inside the hulking concrete block.

Plus, a survey conducted by the library system suggested that 72 percent of the more than 3,200 participants were open to the idea of adding windows to the building.

The hulking Brutalist library, before construction began.
The library, before construction fencing went up.
Google Maps

Some observers, though—namely people with architecture backgrounds—lament the modifications to Breuer’s work.

Georgia Tech associate professor of architecture Sonit Bafna told Curbed Atlanta last year the library was meticulously designed to carry natural light in a way that emphasizes the building’s rough edges.

Additionally, Atlanta-based interior designer Melissa Galt—who happens to be Frank Lloyd Wright’s great-granddaughter—told Curbed she was appalled to hear about the library system’s plans for Breuer’s facade.

“It’s not just a shame; they are literally decimating a national landmark that happens to be in Atlanta,” Galt said during an interview last year. “It is of national significance because that architect is a global treasure, and there’s no reason to make that change.”

Library system representatives did not respond to Curbed’s request for a status update. At last check, the project was expected to be complete by September 2020.