dancing with architecture: atlanta, georgia
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Every year the bride's company has a retreat somewhere in the eastern U.S. (it has to be a day's driving from Charlotte), so I go as a supportive spouse. Last year it was Wilmington; a couple years before that it was Charleston. I almost didn't go this year, because, well: Atlanta. It's hot--and who goes to Atlanta for vacation? Yes, it was hot, but Atlanta was a worthwhile visit. It has an active mural/graffiti scene and several locales of architectural interest (as well as some yummy food and interesting history).
Below, in greater detail, is an introduction to Atlanta's greatest architect, John Portman (thanks to a post by W. Daniel Anderson); a sprinkled tour of Living Walls Atlanta; a library (and last work) by one of the original Modernists Marcel Breuer; a brief visit to MLK's neighborhood; a church by the brilliant Brutalist Paul Rudolph; an art museum by ever-lovely Richard Meier; an annex to that museum by Renzo Piano; and various randomness along the way. I walked over 30 miles of the city to collect these photos. My feet hurt!
I have to confess I had never heard of John Portman before coming to Atlanta. And if I hadn't seen photos of his interiors, I would have walked by his buildings without a second thought: they are, outwardly, big B boring. But like a creative introvert, these buildings are gaspingly gorgeous on the inside. Stunning even.
Portman did several unique things as an architect. One: he was his own client. In order to have creative control, he was the developer as well as the architect. Two: He placed his structures in neglected downtowns, taking advantage of a good location and cheap property; in the process, he turned around the downtowns of Atlanta, Times Square in New York, and Detroit. Three: Because of where he placed his projects, he created inwardly focused facilities that could meet all the needs of guests without leaving the property (his projects are presently criticized for the lack of a street presence, but that's taking his work out of its original context). Four: Because of this inward focus, he focused his architecture on the enormous interior atriums of his hotels (depending on the source, he was either the first to build hotels like this or was the one to popularize them).
Being a local boy, most of his work is in Atlanta in a part of downtown called Peachtree Center where, in addition to (at least) three massive hotels, he's built a number of office buildings, many of them Brutalist.
So here's the hotel that started it all, the Hyatt Regency Atlanta (1967). Nothing special, right? Now let's walk inside...
Here it is at night:
Immediately to the east is Portman's Marriott Marquis (1985). In true Portman style, you can access the Marriott via a bridge. This hotel, similar to the Hyatt, doesn't appear to be anything special from the outside, although the flaring at the base suggests something is going on...
And then you go inside:
Martin Luther King hailed from Atlanta. His church, homestead, and burial site are near downtown at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.
graffiti and misc
Lots of murals and graffiti near the MLK national historic site.
Back downtown there are more murals and whatnots.
krog street tunnel
The Krog Street Tunnel is the place to go and check out murals and graffiti. Ironically, the best part of the "tunnel" is outside of the tunnel along Wylie Street.
Paul Rudolph has designed some legendary if not controversial Brutalist structures, most famously at Yale. The Cannon Chapel at Emory University (1975-1981) is a nice example of his work, what I might call, in this case, soft Brutalism.
a few parting shots...
And there you have it: Atlanta! There was more to see, of course, but we seen a lot.
If you go:
- Top 50 architectural sites in Atlanta
- Where to see graffiti in Atlanta
- Living Walls Atlanta