Posts tagged with "Marcel Breuer":

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The National Trust acquires more of historic Rockefeller estate

The National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) has announced the expansion of The Pocantico Center in Pocantico Hills, New York, which will include the acquisition of the Rockefeller Playhouse, a “large Tudor-style building built by John D. Rockefeller Jr. in 1927 as a venue for family recreation and events,” and family properties from the historic Rockefeller estate, according to a statement from the trust. Following the passing of David Rockefeller last year, the properties were gifted to the National Trust, and will join the Trust’s portfolio of 28 historic sites across the nation. Other properties at the Center, including the Marcel Breuer House, the Coach Barn, the Orangerie, and the encircling gardens and landscapes are managed the RBF but are not owned by the Trust. The Pocantico Center is home to philanthropic and public programs. It attracts over 32,000 visitors each year with its public tours and art collections. Annual community programs include “a biannual lecture forum, a dinner series, garden symposia, and other talks on the Center’s art and sculpture collections, as well as an actively cultivated school garden.” The Center also welcomes artist residencies each year from a range of disciplines, including “dancers, musicians, playwrights, poets and visual artists.” The additional buildings and land were already handed over to the trust and the RBF on July 15. The organizers expect to open the added buildings in September. “Saving, using, and sharing historic properties like the nearby Playhouse and Guest Houses help us to understand and appreciate the past, engage with the complex issues that define our present, and come together in a beautiful space to imagine and create a better future,” said Stephanie K. Meeks, president and CEO of the trust. “With a 70-year reputation for excellence in stewardship, the National Trust is honored to protect these historic places and committed to the long-term sustainability and success of both these properties and the entire Historic Hudson Valley. We are deeply indebted to the Rockefeller family for this remarkable gift, just the latest in their exceptional multi-generational commitment to preserving America’s past.” AN recently reported that Meeks is stepping down at the end of 2018, after more than eight years in office. The organization’s board of trustees is actively searching for Meek’s successor.
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Breuer’s Pirelli Tire Building will be reborn as a hotel

One of Marcel Breuer's two New Haven, Connecticut buildings will be preserved and converted into a hotel. When it was finished in 1969, researchers and administrators at Armstrong Rubber worked out of the company's Pirelli Tire Building, a Brutalist structure whose office tower core is bisected by beguiling angled windows. The building—vacant since the 1990s—is now owned by IKEA and sits aside a store parking lot. IKEA is in talks with a developer to convert the I-95-adjacent concrete building into a hotel, the New Haven Independent reported. AN IKEA spokesperson told the paper that the company hasn't gone public with its plans for the structure yet. The conversion scheme were revealed at a meeting of the city's development commission. Breuer's work is enjoying a strong revival, thanks in part to renewed popular interest in Brutalism. In Atlanta, city officials are looking to revamp the Breuer-designed main library, while back in 2016, the Metropolitan Museum of Art restored the Whitney's former home and re-christened it the Met Breuer. (H/T NHVmod and Docomomo US)
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Architect wants to add more windows to Breuer’s Brutalist Atlanta library

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.
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Remembering Robert F. Gatje, noted architect and author, who passed away at 90

Bob Gatje, an architect who served as a partner of two AIA Gold Medalists and whose work is to be found in half a dozen countries, died on April 1st, 2018 in New York City. He was 90. The cause was a stroke according to Susan R. Witter, his companion and partner of 35 years. Bob worked with Marcel Breuer and Richard Meier as well as his own partnership, Gatje Papachristou Smith, during a career of over 50 years, largely overseas. He is best known for his role in the design of two "monuments of French Modern architecture," IBM’s La Gaude Research Center, and the ski town of Flaine. In the U.S., he was responsible for the award-winning Broward County Main Library in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. A fellow of the American Institute of Architects, Bob was president of its New York chapter from 1975 to 1976. As a student, Bob broke academic records at Brooklyn Tech and Cornell University, where he received his B. Arch in 1951. He served in the U.S. Corps of Engineers and studied at Deep Springs College, an institution to which he returned as Trustee and received its medal in 2008. He was a Fulbright scholar at the Architectural Association (AA) in London from 1951 to 1952, president of Telluride Association, and Trustee of the New York Hall of Science and the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute. I first met Bob at Marcel Breuer’s office in 1960, which in those days, along with Ed Barnes and Philip Johnson's offices, was the place for a young, ambitious architect to work. The office was right above Schrafft’s at 57th Street and 3rd Avenue. Bob and his partners ran the office. Breuer or Lajos, pronounced ‘Laiko’, was not always easily understood, and was often away. Bob was the steady hand in the office, forever patient and in good spirits. I sat between Richard Meier and Paul Korelick, who went on to win the Dublin Library Competition, while in the office. Bob and Breuer made a great team. Bob had an excellent handle on design, with a strong passion for the visual product. His graphic work, as well as the several books he wrote on design, showed this. He was the author of Marcel Breuer: A Memoir, co-written with I.M. Pei, and "Great Public Squares: An Architect's Selection," a book that sets international standards for urban space. We remained good friends over the years, as he did with so many others who worked with him over the years. His friendships reached out to many, even outside the world of design. An evening at the Gatje/Witter household was always a broadening experience.
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New map pays tribute to concrete and Brutalist buildings across New York City

Blue Crow Media, a publishing group that publishes architectural guides for cities worldwide, just released a map glorifying concrete structures across New York City—titled, appropriately, Concrete New York. Among the structures highlighted by the map, many will be familiar to AN's readers. Eero Saarinen's TWA Terminal at JFK airport, currently being renovated into a 505-room hotel, is listed, as is the Marcel Breuer–designed granite and concrete monolith now home to the Met Breuer. Perhaps less visited is Breuer's Begrisch Hall on the Bronx Community College campus or I.M. Pei's Silver Towers at NYU. Concrete infrastructure also gets its due: the Cleft Ridge Span at Prospect Park (completed in 1872) is featured as well as the more recent Dattner Architects and WXY Studio-designed Spring Street Salt Shed (completed in 2015). In Greenwich Village, New Yorkers will recognize New Orleans architect Albert Ledner's Curran/O'Toole Building, unmistakable with its double cantilevered, scallop-edged facade, formerly serving as St. Vincent's Hospital (a landmark institution for victims of the HIV/AIDS crisis). The guide also points out historic works by Paul Rudolph, Frank Lloyd Wright, Edward Durell Stone, and many others. The map was edited by Allison Meier, a Brooklyn-based writer. The next guide will look at the use of concrete in Tokyo, and will be available next month. Previous maps by Blue Crow Media have examined modernism in Berlin and Belgrade, art deco in London, and constructivism in Moscow, although Brutalism remains their favorite topic to date, with maps on the subject for Boston, London, Paris, Sydney, and Washington, D.C.
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New photography exhibition explores four Marcel Breuer projects from all over the world

For the Met Breuer’s first architecture exhibition, curator Beatrice Galilee has commissioned photographers Luisa Lambri and Bas Princen to revisit the iconic work of Marcel Breuer. The exhibition presents two distinct series of photographs paying homage to Breuer’s still-existing monumental modernist buildings from the 1950s and 1960s. The selected buildings include Saint John’s Abbey Church in Collegeville, Minnesota and the UNESCO headquarters in Paris which are Breuer’s first two important institutional buildings. These buildings were significant because they allowed Breuer to expand beyond what was essentially a residential practice. The IBM Research center in La Gaude, France (which is Breuer’s personal favorite) is known for its modular prefabricated concrete facade panels and distinctive double Y-shaped plan. The final building selected for the exhibition is the former Whitney Museum of American Art (now the Met Breuer). The museum is a New York City landmark known for its strong urban form as an inverted ziggurat. Lambri and Princen’s uniquely idiosyncratic approaches to the commission provide a welcoming juxtaposition of photographs. Lambri’s work documents the ephemeral experience of interior space through focused studies of light and materiality. The hexagonal screen at Saint John’s and the trapezoidal window at the Met Breuer are each documented as a series of photographs displaying the calm modulation of light over time. Princen’s dramatically large scale photographs document the post-occupancy use of buildings and their evolving relationship with nature. The sculptural, tree-like pillars at Saint John’s library are framed by a row of ordinary public library book shelves in the foreground. Upon revisiting the unoccupied IBM research center, Princen’s photos place the building within what appears to be an overgrown forest—a distinct contrast to the 1965 site which was sparsely covered by small trees. Long after Marcel Breuer’s passing in 1981, the influence of his work continues to gradually develop much like the life of buildings after they leave the drafting table. Both Lambri’s and Princen’s photos present us the opportunity to contemplate Breuer’s work unencumbered by the great modernist architect’s own intentions. Breuer Revisited: New Photographs runs through May 21, 2017, at The Met Breuer.
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Toshiko Mori unifies Breuer home with diaphanous glass “bridge and break” staircase

For a dead architect, Marcel Breuer is blowing up the news this year: After the Whitney decamped to the Meatpacking, the Met annexed Breuer's signature Upper East Side museum building, honoring the architect in a suave rechristening. Virginia's only Breuer building was headed for the wrecking ball, but saved; this year, too, his Atlanta Central Library was scheduled to meet its end, but will not be demolished thanks in part to the dedication of Brutalism preservation activists. Now, Toshiko Mori has revamped a 1951 Breuer project in New Canaan, Connecticut, unifying a two-building complex with a "bridge and break" angular glass staircase that honors Breuer's forms while flooding the home with light. The New York–based architect updated the home's interiors to Breuer's original specifications, save the elimination of a ground-floor bedroom and a skylight she added to the main circulation corridor. "Visually, the skylight connects the original structure to the new addition and connecting stair," Mori told Dezeen. "The massing of the addition takes its cues from the original Breuer house, adhering to the orthogonal lines and modest proportions of the existing site." Like a modernist caterpillar cozying up to a choice leaf, the staircase, diagonally sited between the two original structure, rises gradually from the partially sunken lower level and switches back sharply to take residents to the upper floor. Mori's work adds 3,000 square feet of living space to the original 2,200: Three bedrooms occupy the home's top story, which is clad in transparent glasses and cantilevers out over the lower floor, while a garage, service area, and common rooms round out the program on the ground floor. New York–based Quennell Rothschild & Partners restored and updated the landscape to dialogue with Mori's work.
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Demolition approved for Virginia’s only Breuer building

The former American Press Institute (API) building, Virginia’s only building designed by architect Marcel Breuer and a noteworthy example of brutalist architecture in the U.S., can be demolished to make way for a residential development, under a ruling made Tuesday by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. The board voted unanimously to allow rezoning of a parcel in Reston, Virginia that contains the former API building, a 1974 structure designed by Breuer, and to permit its destruction to make way for a replacement project. Preservationists and historians have argued that the vacant API building on Sunrise Valley Drive is a significant example of Breuer’s work and should be recycled, possibly as a regional library or home for a nonprofit organization. They contend the Breuer building should be saved because it was the first building in Reston designed by an internationally prominent architect, that it was a significant example of Breuer’s sculptural use of precast concrete panels, that it was important in developer Robert Simon’s early plan for Reston, and that it was associated with a long list of noteworthy journalists. More than 1,600 people from North America, South America, and Europe have signed an online petition to preserve the building. Earlier this month, public officials in Atlanta voted to save and renovate Breuer’s central library building there, after it was proposed for demolition. “Fairfax County is fortunate to have a building of such stature designed by a world class architect,” said Carol Ann Riordan, a former API executive who heads a group that mounted an effort to save the building. “It deserves far more than a demolition permit.” The county’s Planning Commission last month voted not to recommend demolition of Breuer’s building, giving preservationists hope that it might avoid the wrecking ball. But county officials said the API building is not protected by any landmark status, that its significance was not noted when planners prepared a plan for higher density development in the area, and that the county has no funds to save it. Supervisors also noted that the housing proposal, by Sekas Homes, is consistent with the county’s plans for Reston and had to be considered on its own merits. Riordan said today that her group will not appeal the decision. “Mounting a legal campaign like that would be costly,” she said.
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Marcel Breuer’s Central Library in Atlanta to be renovated and NOT demolished

Marcel Breuer's Brutalist Central Library in Atlanta lives on. At a Fulton County commissioners meeting yesterday, commissioners voted in favor of a plan to renovate the library and not demolish it, reports AJC. In April this year, The Architect's Newspaper reported on how the building's future hung in the balance. The library, which sits on 1 Margaret Mitchell Square, was subject to numerous preservation pushes, including a petition which garnered 1,899 signatures, pressure from Docomomo, and public attendance to meetings of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners and city council. At a commission meeting earlier this month, 52 out of 55 residents called for the building to remain. Even so, back in May Commissioner Marvin Arrington asked: “Why would we spend millions of dollars on land in downtown Atlanta when we already have land? We need to be investing in technology.” Having been delayed numerous times, commissioners now indicated their support for the building's preservation and adaptive reuse. The change in dialogue from demolition to preservation is something that Atlantan architect Michael Kahn believes is "testament to a changing, maturing city." Downtown Atlanta resident and architect Kyle Kessler said “We just need to make sure that the library still functions fully as a library and then whatever other space is available that can enhance the library's mission, fantastic." The plan voted for yesterday also tentatively includes $55 million for fixing-up the library, according to Creative Loafing. Certain parts have fallen into a state of decay, including broken elevators and a leaking roof. In the mid-1990s, the theater closed after part of its ceiling collapsed. Next month the Commissioners will decide how to fund the renovation as well as how much should go towards the project. In addition to the news of the library's forthcoming renovation, nonprofit Atlanta-based group Architecture and Design Center joined forces with local practice Praxis3 to generate a proposal showcasing the library's potential. Work on the scheme was coincidentally started before the idea of renovation had even entered the discourse. Their proposal essentially advocates creating a new library within Breuer's Brutalist shell. This would involve gutting more than half of the building. The group has put a price tag for the renovation between $40 and $55 million.
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Endangered Marcel Breuer building gets a reprieve

For once, a Brutalist building gets a stay of execution. The Planning Commission in Fairfax County, Virginia, overruled its own staff recommendation yesterday and voted not to approve a developer’s request to rezone land in Reston so a developer can tear down the only Marcel Breuer-designed building in Virginia to make way for residential development. The planning department staff had recommended demolition of the former American Press Institute headquarters on Sunrise Valley Drive, a 48,000-square-foot building that opened in 1974, and rezoning of the land to make way for multi-family housing. The planning commission voted 6 to 6 on the question of rezoning the property for residential development, and that was not enough for the developer to obtain a demolition permit. Technically, it means that the planning commission forwards the developer’s rezoning application to the county Board of Supervisors with a negative recommendation. The vote came at the end of a sometimes heated hour-long discussion about the importance of the Breuer building and the groundswell of support it has received from preservationists, including an online petition signed by more than 1,300 people from as far away as Europe and South America. Several of the commissioners said they were impressed that the building was getting international attention and so many people wanted to see the building saved. Before the meeting, the commission received a flood of letters, emails and other materials from groups that want to see the building preserved, including the American Institute of Architects and New York architect Robert Gatje, who worked with Breuer for many years. “The world is now aware that this building exists,” said commission member Julie Strandlie. Commissioner James Hart, who studied architecture at the University of Virginia, said he was impressed by a site visit to the building that the group took on June 2. He said the building is in good shape and raved about the acoustics in the conference room. “I was favorably impressed by the use of natural light and shadows,” he said. “It brought the outside indoors” to the extent that some rooms “appeared to have trees in them,” he said. Hart also said the county was wrong not to recognize the Breuer building’s significance. “This was a major screw up,” he said. “I hope this is a wake up call to us that we need to make sure something like this does not happen again.” The commission also voted unanimously to direct the Board of Supervisors staff to conduct a countywide survey of properties to make sure there are no other buildings that deserve protection but don’t have landmark status. Preservationists had argued that the Breuer building should be saved because it was the first building in Reston designed by an internationally prominent architect, that it was a significant example of Breuer’s sculptural use of precast concrete panels, that it was important in developer Robert Simon’s early plan for Reston, and that it was associated with a long list of noteworthy journalists. Carol Ann Riordan, the last director of the American Press Institute (while the organization was in Reston) and founder of a group formed to save the building, praised the commission for its decision not to approve demolition. She said her group wants to see the Breuer building preserved and reused, perhaps by another non profit. “We’re all very pleased and elated that the planning commission took this stance, which was a very brave stance,” Riordan said. “It is an architectural treasure and deserves a second life. It’s part of Reston’s rich tapestry. There is still much work to be done. But the end game is that the API building had a mission—lifelong education, transformation, building community—and we would like to see it passed on to another group that has a mission along these same lines.” Riordan said she was most impressed that planning commission members admitted that the county “screwed up” in not recognizing the significance of the Breuer building and then voted not to support the demolition rather than letting the building be torn down anyway. “It takes a lot of guts to say ‘we screwed up,’” Riordan said. “I find that very courageous.”
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Virginia’s only Marcel Breuer building threatened with demolition

Another Brutalist building by noted architect Marcel Breuer is threatened with demolition, this time in Reston, Virginia. The endangered building is the former American Press Institute (API) headquarters, located on a four acre site at 11690 Sunrise Valley Drive. It's Breuer’s only structure in the commonwealth of Virginia. Opened in 1974, it has been a place where newspaper publishers and editors attended meetings held by the non-profit API, founded in 1946. The $3 million, 48,000-square-foot building was constructed in the part of Reston that was reserved for non profit organizations, and its design is an example of Breuer’s sculptural use of precast concrete panels. It was the first building in the then-new town of Reston to be designed by an internationally prominent architect. The API closed in Reston in 2012 after merging with the Newspaper Association of America. Now a private developer controls the building and wants to raze it to make way for residential development. The Fairfax County Planning Commission is scheduled to meet on June 16 to consider the developer’s application to rezone the land and obtain a demolition permit.  If the planning commission and the county’s Board of Supervisors approve the plan, the building will be razed so single- and multi-family housing can be built on the site. An online petition has been created at ipetitions.com, asking county leaders to save the Breuer building. “For nearly 38 years,” the petition states, “tens of thousands of news media executives—representing a “Who’s Who in Journalism”—attended leadership seminars in the nonprofit’s Breuer-designed headquarters in Reston. The API building is historically and architecturally significant. It is a crucial chapter in Reston’s rich history. It should have a second life instead of being torn down.” A coalition of architectural and history experts, both local and national, has questioned the demolition plan. The group includes the Fairfax County Architectural Review Board; the Fairfax County History Commission; the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Historic Resources; residents of Reston and other parts of Fairfax County; architects; historians; preservationists; journalists who have participated in programs at the building, and people who have worked in the building. Some preservation advocates say the building would be ideal for conversion to a regional library and that the county has money in its budget to do that. “The more brutalist reminders of Reston’s awesome concrete past, the better,” says the writer of the Restonian blog. Others say it reflects the vision of Reston developer Robert Simon, who aims to encourage construction of architecturally significant buildings in his planned community. At a meeting in May, the Fairfax County Architectural Review Board passed a motion and sent it with a letter to county officials pleading that “The Planning Commission, the Board of Supervisors, and County agencies consider further historical and architectural evaluation and specific heritage resource significance of the American Press Institute building, and consider appropriate land usage that could lead to the preservation and/or adaptive reuse of the building…so that informed decisions can be made based on professional analysis.” The review board members had written previously that they believe "the property has a reasonable potential for meeting the criteria for listing on the Fairfax County Inventory of Historic Sites and the National Register of Historic Places.” On May 17, David Edwards, Architectural Historian for the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Historic Resources, wrote: "It is our opinion that the API building reaches the level of exceptional importance…and strongly encourages its preservation…. If the API building were to be demolished, the community and the state would lose the work of a master architect. Additionally, and maybe more importantly, Reston would lose a building that is part of its community’s distinctive architectural history.” Despite those and other warnings, staffers for the county’s planning commission have recommended approval of the rezoning application and demolition permit. As of today, the petition to save the Breuer building has more than 1,300 signatures, including signers from Europe and South America. An architect and furniture designer who worked at the Bauhaus in Dessua, Germany, and received the AIA Gold Medal in 1968, Breuer was born in Hungary in 1902 and died in New York in 1981. Breuer designed the 1966 Whitney Museum of American Art on Madison Avenue in New York City, which was recently converted to the Met Breuer, a satellite for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with Beyer Blinder Belle guiding the conversion. Breuer also designed the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, the Department of Housing and Urban Development headquarters in Washington, D. C. , and, while he was head of the cabinet making workshop at the Bauhaus, the Wassily chair. The Virginia building is one of several Breuer structures in the United States that are facing an uncertain future. In New Haven, Connecticut, his 1970 Pirelli Tire Building is vacant and its base has been modified. In Atlanta, Georgia, public officials are considering construction of a new library to replace Breuer’s 1980 Central Library and Library System Headquarters building at One Margaret Mitchell  Square NW. Preservationists there have been circulating a petition asking the Fulton Public Library Board to save the building and rename it after Breuer.
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Future uncertain for Breuer’s Central Library in Atlanta

Although Marcel Breuer's is most famous for designing the UNESCO Building in Paris and the Met Breuer (the former Whitney), the architect also designed a monumental public library in Atlanta. The future of that building, like so many Brutalist structures, is now in jeopardy.

It wasn't always this way. In the mid-1960s, attitudes towards the architect and his future building were solicitous: The then-director of the Atlanta library system was so impressed by the Whitney (completed in 1966) he urged the library board to invite Breuer to design the Central Library. After negotiating a 275-page program, and significant delays in funding, the project was completed in 1980. The six-story, 265,000-square-foot library featured a 300-seat theater, a restaurant, with space for more than 1,000 patrons and one million books. On the exterior, precast concrete panels are bush-hammered for texture, while inside, floors two through four are connected by a massive concrete staircase.

During the 2008 recession, the city asked voters to approve a $275 million bond referendum to expand two library branches, build eight new ones, and renovate others. If the county could come up with $50 million, over 30 percent of the bond could go towards…replacing the Breuer–designed library with another library.

Although critics like Barry Bergdoll have praised the structure as a perfect example of the "heavy lightness" that characterizes Breuer’s Bauhaus–influenced forms, the Brutalist aesthetic did not play well in Atlanta. Whether this indifference expressed itself through lack maintenance is difficult to determine, but the building has deteriorated, and programs have shrunk: In the mid-1990s, the theater closed after part of its ceiling collapsed while the restaurant was shuttered at the end of that decade. In 2002, the city spent $5 million to renovate the building, adding colorful walls and carpeting to improve its public perception.

As preservation petitions from groups like Docomomo attest, many municipalities struggle to preserve modern architecture, especially buildings that are seen as not user-friendly, or those that are "aesthetically challenging." Stephanie Moody, the chair of Atlanta’s library board, has asked the county to consider reallocating the funds for the central library for use at other, more popular branches. The remaining cash would be used to buy land and build a new library to replace the main branch.

Moody told local blog Creative Loafing that downtown doesn’t need a library the size of Central. County commissioner Robb Pitts framed the situation bluntly: “[Funding] would be for some renovations plus the construction of a brand new Central Library to be located in Downtown Atlanta. Period,” he said. “They’re not renovating the existing one. It’s very clear that the construction [of a new one] is what the voters called for.”

Although the building is listed on the 2010 World Monuments Watch List of Most Endangered Sites, its fate remains undecided, for now.