It’s official. Atlanta is about to take on one of the most ambitious and controversial building projects in its history. Last Monday, in a midnight vote before election day, the Atlanta City Council approved a $5 billion proposal to redevelop “The Gulch,” a 40-acre swath of sunken rail yards and parking lots in downtown Atlanta. Thanks to the decision, CIM Group, the Los Angeles-based agency that’s been eyeing the site for some time, will now likely receive a large government subsidy as the sole bidder on the project. CIM’s big plans for The Gulch came to light last November when people started speculating the meaning of an impact fee assessment filed with the city that month, which proposed the redevelopment of over 10 million square feet of publicly-owned land next to the Philips Arena. Over time, it became evident that CIM, a company founded by the brother of Atlanta Hawks owner Tony Ressler, was responsible for the filing and wanted to offer The Gulch to the city as part of Atlanta’s bid for Amazon’s HQ2. Despite news that Amazon will definitely not be coming to Atlanta, it seems that CIM’s plans to revitalize The Gulch are still underway. The scope of the project is nearly unparalleled, comparing only in size to Manhattan’s 28-acre Hudson Yards neighborhood and CIM’s 27-acres Miami Worldcenter development. Within The Gulch, the developer aims to create 9 million square feet of office space, one million square feet of retail, as well as room for residential and hospitality. The “mini city within the city” will sit atop a podium of parking garages and connect with a new grid of streets and parks. It could include more than a dozen new buildings, completely reshaping the city’s skyline. Newly-elected Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is a large supporter of the project. Leading up to last week’s vote, she started a massive campaign to “Greenlight the Gulch,” asking for the public and the city council to approve the around $1.9 billion subsidy package for the private project. In a tight 8-6 vote, her plan won out. Though the government is now on board, many locals aren’t game. Critics of the project say the area should be dedicated to a new transit hub (an idea that started in 2012), while others argue that an increase in luxury housing will raise rents and property taxes in low-income communities near downtown. While Bottoms's proposal requires CIM to build at least 200 units of affordable housing within The Gulch and invest $28 million into a citywide trust fund for affordable housing, some still hope for a better deal. Many say the process for approvals has been rushed and the public hasn’t gotten enough say. Since CIM’s plans were unveiled last year, things have moved at an unprecedented speed. Even opponents seem eager to build something in The Gulch, but only if it benefits the city, not the just owners who develop it. Given CIM’s large-scale goals for the site, this will be a fight with the public for decades to come.
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Last week, Atlanta’s notoriously dysfunctional mass transportation authority, MARTA, released a $2.7-billion expansion plan that will extend its services from the city center via light rail, bus rapid transit, and arterial roadways. The announcement marks the largest development strategy made by the organization in decades. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the 40-year plan, “More MARTA,” was approved by the authority's board of directors in a unanimous vote on Thursday. Officials have agreed to dole out money to 17 projects across the city, allocating large sums to the Beltline and the Clifton Corridor, the latter of which will include four miles of light rail service from the Lindbergh Station to a new station at Emory University. In total, 29 miles of light rail will be built throughout the city, as well as 13 miles of new bus lines. Three arterial rapid transit routes serving both the north and south sides of Atlanta will be built out as well, making 20-to-30 minute trips much faster. Station improvements along the MARTA rail line will also be made over the next few years. Initial plans for the major expansion were announced in May, but significant adjustments were made leading up to the final decision after Beltline advocates pushed for more money for public transit along the 22-mile loop. The light rail addition has long been in the works for the famed urban park and trial. Further tweaks were also made to extend train and bus lines more effectively into some of Atlanta's 10 outlying counties. In recent years, several have voted to join MARTA, further incentivizing the transportation organization to provide high-capacity services to the outer regions. Atlanta is the third fastest growing metropolitan area in the United States and it has suffered from poor public transportation. A report put out by the U.S. Census Bureau in March revealed that nearly 90,000 people moved to the city from 2016 to 2017, bringing the total population to approximately 5.8 million people. It’s the largest single-year growth gain since the Great Recession. These scores of people are moving to Atlanta largely for jobs—77,300 were added last year—but not everyone is living in the areas where mass transit is already available for their daily commutes.
Marcel Breuer’s dark and boxy Central Atlanta Library will literally light up this fall with projected images chronicling the city’s hip-hop and experimental music scene. Curbed Atlanta reported that URBANSCREEN, an artist collective from Germany, will design a light show on the Brutalist building’s hulking facade beginning October 5. The 250,000-square-foot concrete public library is situated at the corner of Forsyth and Williams Streets and is currently undergoing a controversial $50 million renovation by local firm Cooper Carry. URBANSCREEN’s “Superposition” installation will bring temporary color and motion to the exterior as part of the Goethe-Institut’s “Lightart Meets German Architecture” project. In partnership with the organization, the artists will illuminate two other iconic German-American pieces of architecture outside of Atlanta: the Athenaeum in Indianapolis and the German ambassador’s residence in Washington, D.C. Not only is the project a celebration of these enduring buildings, but it is also a chance to reflect on the history of German architecture in the U.S. and what that means to the countries’ relationship today, according to URBANSCREEN. For Atlanta, digital art, dance, and music will be integrated within the project “to unite several universal languages that transcend geographical definitions,” says a press release cited by Curbed. In an interview with the Goethe-Institut, the URBANSCREEN team described their inspiration for the projection on the Atlanta library. “We first had an entirely different idea, but then changed our minds completely when we arrived on site,” said Majo Ussat. “Now we are presenting a highly graphical projection in collaboration with local youth groups who will dance hip-hop—a kind of 'Bauhaus meets hip-hop.'" The team will install four projectors around the library, some in a nearby building and on the roof of a gallery, since the surrounding block is too tight to set them up efficiently. Per Curbed Atlanta, the event will also include a street festival replete with food and beer trucks. The revamp of the Central Library, as well as the light show, signals a rededication to the historic architecture scene of Atlanta. Back in 2016, the city was considering demolishing the building, but local and national preservationists came to the rescue. Cooper Cary’s retrofit will transform 50,000 square feet of the library into private, leasable space in an attempt to enhance its program. On August 24, the site was unanimously voted to the National Register of Historic Places as well as the Georgia Register of Historic Places by the Georgia National Register Review Board.
A new exhibit at the Yale School of Architecture, Adjacencies uses a multi-media approach to tell the story of various strange and tactile projects from 14 emerging firms around the country, and the show highlights a one-of-a-kind, ground-up residential project that’s set to open in Atlanta later this fall. Haus Gables, designed by Jennifer Bonner of MALL, is a single-family home under construction along the Atlanta Beltline and a playful and surprising reinvestigation of the architectural zeitgeist using an exaggerated roof plan. The house is broken down in detail at Yale through a series of bright models, drawings, and ephemera that unveil her design philosophy for this inspired and irregular building. According to the architect, the project was influenced by Le Corbusier’s free plan and Adolf Loos’s raumplan—both residential design methods that called for unconventional interior spacing. Bonner’s aim was to “rework the spatial paradigms of the past” by organizing her architecture solely around the roof. She designed Haus Gables, a 2,100-square-foot structure, with six gable roofs that form one elongated canopy. The unique shapes of the resulting ceilings produced an interior filled with oddly-sized rooms, catwalks, and double-height spaces that are confined to the steep ridges of the pitched roofs. The idea for Haus Gables formed out of a 2014 course she taught at Georgia Tech School of Architecture, according to an interview with Curbed Atlanta. Bonner worked with students to imagine designs centered around individual architecture components. This exercise led Bonner to create her massive Domestic Hats exhibition for Atlanta's Goat Farm Arts Center, for which she studied Atlanta’s various roof typologies and created 16 models with alternative roof forms that challenged traditional domestic design. While Adjacencies provides a behind-the-scenes look at how Bonner specifically conceived the Haus Gables project, the real-life version is nearly complete on an 18 foot-wide plot of land in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward. Not only is the design itself unusual, but so are the materials specified for the project. Most notably, it features a cross-laminated timber (CLT) structure, the second of its kind in the United States, and prefabricated components that were quickly put together on site over the last year. Haus Gables, once complete, will also include extensive faux finishes on the exterior and interior. From the black terrazzo to the marble and brick, nothing will be real, but everything will be cost-efficient. Bonner even plans to conceal the CLT in an effort to mimic, yet bring a contemporary twist, to the Southern architectural tradition of DIY and “faking it.” An inside look at the production of Haus Gables will be on view in Adjacencies, curated by Nate Hume, at the Yale Architecture Gallery through November 15. Bonner will give a gallery talk alongside the other featured designers this Thursday, September 13, at 6:30 p.m.
A new exhibition at the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA) will press people to consider the ways in which architecture can bring dignity to those who need it most. Design for Good: Architecture for Everyone will open September 23 and will showcase real-world stories about structures designed by firms that put people first. Based on the 2017 book Design for Good, the show will be curated by the author, John Cary, an architect, writer, and curator. Cary envisions a more diverse industry that’s dedicated to designing for the public good. His seminal book led him to speak at a TEDWomen conference last November where he highlighted the narratives of the architects and clients around the world who participated in the featured projects. Similar to his book and TED Talk, Cary’s MODA exhibition will focus on why everyone deserves good design no matter their economic status, race, or geographic location. He’ll display the work of firms like Studio Gang and MASS Design Group as well as the stories of the people whose lives have been affected by their buildings. Design for Good: Architecture for Everyone will run through January 12 with an opening reception on Saturday, September 22 at 5 p.m. Tickets are available here.
International elevator and industrial company thyssenkrupp has revealed plans for a new headquarters complex in Atlanta that include both tower space for over 900 employees and a testing tower for the company’s experimental elevator systems. Thyssenkrupp Elevator Americas will be building the campus adjacent to The Battery Atlanta, a commercial and entertainment district developed by the Atlanta Braves and anchored by SunTrust Park. Thyssenkrupp reportedly has the go-ahead from the Braves for their “Innovation Complex," and the Braves Development Company is a partner on the project. The complex will include three buildings, including the 420-foot-tall testing and qualification tower as the project’s centerpiece. The test tower is slated to have a variety of uses; besides safety testing normal elevators, the company plans on using the 18-shaft tower to field test its rope-less MULTI system and the TWIN system (where two elevator cabins are stacked in the same shaft). Thyssenkrupp is no stranger to constructing technologically-advanced test towers, as the company completed an 800-foot-tall, spiralized structure in Rottweil, Germany late last year. The complex’s two other buildings will serve as more traditional office spaces and, judging from the renderings, will be clad in a glass curtainwall. The corporate headquarters is slated to be 155,000 square feet and will hold thyssenkrupp’s engineering and training offices, as well as space for company events and offices for executives. The remaining 80,000-square-foot building will house the administrative offices and shared services division. When the testing tower is complete, it will be the tallest of its kind in North America. The elevators the company wants to refine aren’t just science fiction, either; Atlanta’s CODA Building will contain North America’s first TWIN elevator system when the project is completed next year. The Development Authority of Cobb County has approved the sale of $264 million in bonds to help fund the project, and it's expected to bring up to 650 new jobs to Atlanta, so barring any major stumbles, the complex should be complete in early 2022.
This week, architects presented revised plans for the renovation of Marcel Breuer's Central Library in Downtown Atlanta to Fulton County officials and members of the public. The new scheme adds large windows to the building's lower stories, and converts some of the library's common areas into spaces that will be rented out by private interests. At that meeting, Tim Fish of Atlanta firm Cooper Carry previewed design and programmatic changes to the 1980 building. The firm plans to add an atrium and more windows to the front of the building, in addition to upgrading the electrical and mechanical systems. While the 250,000-square-foot library is exclusively public property now, the renovations will convert 50,000 square feet into private, leasable space. Library officials are hoping to rent the ground and second floors to restaurant or university tenants. The portions of the seventh and eighth floors that aren't taken up by mechanical equipment will be rented out to private interests, too. Back in 2016, the city wanted to scrap the Brutalist building and replace it with a contemporary structure. But after an outcry from preservationists in Atlanta and all over the country, the city decided to renovate the library instead. The renovation is expected to cost $50 million in total, and bids for construction work will go out next month. The SaportaReport noted that many residents at the meeting spoke out against the windows scheme, and questioned the need for more natural light, especially as adding multiple windows to an existing building is an expensive proposition.
Since the earliest days of the technology industry, home has been Silicon Valley. However, there are some signs the tide is turning and heading towards the east. Attempting to capitalize on an impending Atlanta tech boom is The Georgia Institute of Technology, which is due to move into Coda, a mixed-use development in Midtown Atlanta’s Tech Square, in 2019. Designing a building fit for such a brief is John Portman & Associates. The Atlanta-based firm has integrated a 645,000 square feet of office space, a high-performance data center, retail and collaboration space within the development, all while accommodating a former Crum & Forster insurance house that dates back 1927. Pierluca Maffey, a principal at the architecture firm, said the project was "all about" the Italian Renaissance Revival structure that, upon close inspection, is more than just a rudimentary brick building. Atlanta firm Ivey & Crook worked with New York-based Helmle, Corbett & Harrison to design limestone flourishes, notably three arches topped by owls and a lion, which serve as keystones. "It was immediately considered as a jewel," noted Maffey. Though two-thirds of the historic building was lost in 2012, its iconic features remain. Now the former insurance house is being repurposed as a restaurant. Adjacent will be a slightly taller data center which employs chilled beams along with captured greywater deployed in cooling towers to aid temperature control. Furthermore, the center retains some proportions of its older neighbor and also serves as a stepping stone to the larger massing behind it. This glass-clad part of the project is where most of the program is housed. Across 21 floors will be mostly offices, half of which will be for the university, which owns the whole complex, while the rest of the office space is currently being leased out. Retail and conference areas are located on the first two levels. Connecting all these areas will be what Maffey described as a "collaborative core," intended to drive fast-tracked connections through intentional cross-tenant “neighborhoods,” supplemented by "collaborative lounges" on each floor of the building. For the levels occupied by Georgia Tech, a staircase atrium, intersected at every third level, will indicate the university's presence as the building's hub and connect it visually and physically to other tenants. Externally, a glass curtain wall makes up most of the facade. However, this is divided by a band of glass panes that are each individually calibrated, in lieu of lighting studies, to varying levels of translucency and reflectivity to produce a gradient effect that wraps around the building. Pierluca Maffey will be speaking about Coda in greater detail at the upcoming Facades+AM Conference in Atlanta this January 26. He will be on a panel discussing innovations in mixed-use and residential projects in Midtown Atlanta. To find out more, please visit am.facadesplus.com. Seating is limited.
Atlanta's premier park is slated for a major upgrade. Late last month, Mayor Kasim Reed announced that the city will kick in $20 million to expand Piedmont Park and the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, which sit just east of the city's Ansely Park neighborhood. The new entrance, envisioned by HGOR, will replace now privately-owned parcels at the park's northern tip near Piedmont Drive NE and Monroe Drive NE. Preliminary renderings and concept sketches depict new outbuildings surrounded by rolling green hills and broad, winding paths, a homage to the park's original Olmsted design. The Atlanta Botanical Gardens and the Piedmont Park Conservancy, a nonprofit that stewards the park, commissioned the Atlanta-based landscape architecture and urban design firm to do the initial renderings. HGOR works for public and private clients, mostly in the South. The expansion will include connections to the Atlanta BeltLine, the city's massive pedestrian and bike path project, plus additional access points to Piedmont Park. Building on the city's $20 million commitment, which includes a $2 million donation from an anonymous donor, Atlanta Committee for Progress board member and Home Depot CFO Carol Tomé is spearheading a funding effort to raise $80 million from private donors to acquire property and pay for the project's design and construction. Despite Atlanta's notorious car-centricity, the city maintains that 64 percent of residents live within a half-mile walk of a park, and the new entrance should up that number even further. To start the process, the City of Atlanta signed Letters of Intent on December 29, 2017 with two property owners at the chosen site, and the city will be conducting community engagement around the design. A city spokesperson said officials are waiting to close the real estate transaction, then fundraise and plan for the expansion. No date for the groundbreaking has been set. Piedmont Park was established in 1834, and primarily served as fairgrounds until the next century. The city commissioned Olmsted Brothers, the firm that John Charles and Frederick Law Jr. inherited from their father, to redesign the park in 1909, and most designs since then, including the 1995 master plan, have honored the Olmsted Brothers' original design intent. For the Bicentennial, Isamu Noguchi designed Playscape, a delightful one-acre spread of swings, slides, and climbing blocks, the same year the city leased land for the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.
John C. Portman Jr., the Atlanta architect and developer has died at 93. The Georgia Tech–trained architect is credited with developing large downtown projects that revolved around the concept of the the atrium, which he turned into large and dramatic enclosed open spaces surrounded by multiple balconies, hundreds of rooms and capsule elevators rushing vertically from base to upper floors. Portman—who often developed and partially owned his projects—thought of these megastructures as new downtowns and they were often built in old downtowns that had been decimated by urban renewal and middle class fight. These buildings were often criticized by theorists like William H. Whyte, Mike Davis, Frederic Jameson and others for their lack of context with the historic city, especially the street. However, later in life Portman received praise from multiple sources including Herbert Muschamp, Paul Goldberger and Rem Koolhaas, who praised his work as “a hybrid” of styles and urban relationships. In 2010 Portman’s career was featured at the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale and more recently, Harvard Dean Moshen Mostafavi used his designs in a GSD studio, sponsored by Portman, to think of “a new architecture, but one with a lineage.” Portman’s first large important project was for the Merchandise Mart (now AmericasMart) in his hometown of Atlanta in 1961 and this led to his design for the nearby multi-block Peachtree Center in 1965 where he maintained his office. His development firm created the multi-block complex at San Francisco's Embarcadero Center, the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles 1976, the New York Marriott Marquis in 1985, and the Renaissance Center in Detroit in 1977, whose central tower remained the tallest hotel in the Western Hemisphere until 2013. The Shanghai Centre (1990) was the first of many major projects in China and elsewhere in Asia. Look for a longer appreciation of Portman’s life and career in the next Architect's Newspaper print edition.
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When the Georgia Dome opened in 1992, its Teflon-coated fiberglass fabric roof was considered a modern marvel, stretching more than 395,000 square feet and weighing just 68 pounds. Atlanta's domed stadium hosted an impressive roster of sporting events in its 25 years of use, including three NCAA Men's Final Fours, two decades of SEC championships, two Super Bowls, two NBA seasons and an Olympics. Today, its new sibling, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, offers perhaps more impressive engineering accomplishments and promises to draw impressive sporting events to the city. Completed in August 2017, the multi-purpose venue is officially the first LEED Platinum-certified professional sports stadium in the United States. Among other industry-leading features, Mercedes-Benz Stadium is notable for its kinetic roof structure. While other stadiums with retractable roofs must allocate additional land for the entire roof assembly to open horizontally off the stadium, Mercedes-Benz Stadium offers an innovative space-saving solution by breaking down the geometry of the roof into eight triangular petals which retract in a radial fashion. The petals are composed of three layers of ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) membrane fabricated into air-inflated “pillows” involving more than 143,000 square feet of membrane. The lightweight material was selected for its durability and translucency. Each petal cantilevers approximately 200 feet inwards towards the center of the stadium on 16 secondary trusses which spring from four 720-feet-long primary steel trusses. This primary steel frame spans to concrete “mega-columns.” Nested within the steel framing of the oculus is the world’s largest media wall, an immersive six-foot-tall, 360-degree HD display covering over 63,000 square feet. Unrolled, the video board would stretch three football fields long. HOK worked with an integrated team of engineers from the start, coordinating information with a robust digital toolset that included digital modeling software. Custom algorithms and parametric modeling tools integrated the stadium’s complex geometrical layout with tens of thousands of pieces of information about the roof structure and its behavior and movement during various load scenarios. The project ultimately generated over 18,000 sheets of steel shop drawings, and during peak fabrication involved 32 factories in the U.S. and Canada making and delivering steel pieces simultaneously. The facade of the project is composed of insulated metal panels and a transparent ETFE facade, which has been marketed as a “window to the city” offering seamless visual connection to the surrounding context. ETFE in the wall assembly was fritted in a range of coverage from 20 percent to 70 percent in response to solar orientation. The composition of the angular wing-like wall panels abstractly reference the stadium’s National Football League team, the Atlanta Falcons. Beyond the Falcons, the stadium flexibly hosts Major League Soccer franchise, and is expandable for major events that the Georgia Dome used to host–Super Bowls, NCAA Final Four Basketball tournaments, FIFA World Cup matches, and major concerts and performances. To accomodate geometric differences between a soccer pitch and football field, lower level seats are retractable and an automated curtain system attached to the roof structure comes down to bring soccer fans close to the pitch. Several impressive planning decisions beyond the facade contributed to the stadium's LEED Platinum certification. Design elements of the building envelope which contributed to the stadium’s LEED Platinum certification include integrated rooftop solar panels, improved daylighting from use of ETFE, and passive cooling benefits from the retractable roof. Gus Drosos, technical principal of HOK's Kansas City office, said the consistency of the attachments of the ETFE system throughout the project and detailing of complex corners were specific successes of the building envelope design that offered valuable insight into working with ETFE and might carry over into future ETFE projects.Additional insight into the design and construction of Mercedes Benz Stadium will be offered at the upcoming Facades+ Atlanta, where a panel of architects from HOK, EcoWorks Studio, and tvsdesign will deliver presentations in a session titled, "Designing MBS: Secrets of the Mercedes Benz Stadium." For more information on the Facades+ conference series, along with registration information, visit Facades+.
With its red-and-white milk carton raised proudly along Memorial Drive, the Atlanta Dairies cooperative served Georgia's capital for 60 years. Complete with a Streamline Moderne facade and typographic logo, the cooperative's site had an aura that was deliciously 1950s (it was built just one year prior, in 1949). Like all milk, however, it couldn't stay out in the Southern sun for too long, and today, the site is in a state of dereliction. But this is set to change, through a Perkins+Will–designed scheme, backed by developer Paces Properties, that will reimagine the former plant. The ten-acre lot will soon be home to offices while doubling as a new cultural and entertainment destination in Downtown Atlanta, offering a music venue, retail outlets, cafes, and dining options. The all-encompassing program will feed off bisecting catwalks that span most of the site. While not original to the existing historical building, the catwalks were added when the building became a processing plant. They represent what Erika Kane, project architect at Perkins+Will, described as part of the "building and site’s eclectic evolution over time." Bar the old and damaged metal facade panels that were hanging off the rails, the catwalk structures have been kept in their entirety. A new open-air catwalk will also be installed. Mostly made from exposed steel, the catwalk continues to echo the site's industrial heritage. It will serve as a visual guide, drawing visitors down a large pedestrian corridor to the main courtyard at the heart of the site. "Atlanta Dairies is as much of a landscape architecture project as it is about the buildings," said Kane. "The buildings provide a rich visual framework and programmatic content around these outdoor spaces and the catwalks float above the ground level, linking up the five buildings on the Atlanta Dairies site." Further features of the old building will also be preserved. This includes loading docks, along with the iconic curved brick wall which looks onto Memorial Drive. Maintaining the material precedent set, a brick and steel colonnade complements the loading dock found on the west elevation. Kane described the architects' approach: "This component was not a part of the original building, but again, a fun appendage added over time. For these components, we took more of an adaptive reuse strategy, keeping the uniqueness of the element, but carving into it to keep it porous and in line with the pedestrian-friendly and park-like layout of the site." In addition to this, the original masonry from the loading dock was salvaged with what Perkins+Will called a “truck wash portico.” This will frame outdoor patios for a restaurant, coffee shop, and retail tenants along the facade. "The site is layered in many ways; historically, topographically and programmatically, with new, existing and adaptive reuse structures," Kane continued. "These layers are all connected with these organizing elements. The design of the two entirely new structures on the site, the new four-story office building and music venue uses a contemporary facade language that, together with the second-story addition on the adaptive reuse building, complements the historic Streamline Moderne building." Phase One of the project broke ground in March this year and is headed for completion in late 2018. Erika Kane will be speaking about the project in greater detail at the Atlanta Facades+ Conference on January 26 in 2018. For more information and booking visit am2017atlanta.facadesplus.com. Seating is limited.