The Importance of Marcel Breuer at Mid-Century
DATE: October 28, 2008
TIME: 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
LOCATION: Georgia Tech Architecture Library
Teri Nagel, College of Architecture
Contact Teri Nagel
At a public lecture co-sponsored by the Georgia Chapter of DOCOMOMO and Georgia Tech College of Architecture, Isabelle Hyman will explore the 28-year-old Central Library of the Atlanta-Fulton County Library System designed by Marcel Breuer.
Hyman is Professor Emerita of the Department of Art History at New York University. An accomplished historian of art and architecture, she has published a number of works on Marcel Breuer, a preeminent figure of the modern movement, including the important reference, Marcel Breuer, Architect: The Career And The Buildings.
Hyman was educated at Vassar College and Columbia, and received her PhD in Art History at the Institute of Fine Arts at NYU. Most recently, she received the Alice Davis Hitchcock Award for “most distinguished work of scholarship in the history of architecture” by the Society of Architectural Historians.
DOCOMOMO stands for DOcumentation and COnservation of buildings, sites and neighborhoods of the MOdern MOvement. DOCOMOMO promotes the study, interpretation and protection of the architecture, landscape and urban design of the Modern Movement. It promotes the exchange of knowledge about this important legacy which extends from the planned city and the iconic monument to the house next door. DOCOMOMO is an international organization. Founded in 1988 in The Netherlands, today it has national chapters or working parties in 54 countries and over 2000 individual members. It is an important presence in conservation and in architectural culture, worldwide, working in partnership with other international organizations, national governments, and regional and national associations.
PUBLIC INFORMATION MEETING
Bond Referendum Meeting at Northeast
Library Bond Referendum Public Meeting
Tuesday, September 23, 2008 at 7:00 p.m.
Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System Director John F. Szabo, AFPLS Board of Trustees Chair John R. Thomas, Board of Trustees member Stephanie Moody and Commissioner Lynne Riley (District 3) will talk about details of the bond referendum and answer questions.
Northeast Spruill Oaks Branch
9560 Spruill Road
Johns Creek, GA 30022
UPDATE, July 2008:
The future of the 28-year-old Marcel Breuer designed Central Library of the Atlanta-Fulton County Library System is in doubt due to a push by members of the Fulton County Commission to pursue construction of a new “world-class” library facility.
In November, Fulton County voters will consider approval of a $275 million bond issue, which would allow partial funding for the new facility. These plans include funds raised through selling the current property – with no plans for preservation or adaptive use of the structure.
A July 28th article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC), “Beauty, truth, and bonds: Is Library a classy eyesore?” is accompanied by an awkwardly composed photograph and notes the building, “… challenges viewers to find its beauty,” underscoring an apparent lack of understanding of the design by the press, library board of directors, and county commissioners. The article notes that the building is strongly related to Breuer’s design for the Whitney Museum in New York (1966), and according to Susan Piedmont-Palladino of the National Building Museum, the building “…was really Breuer’s last work,” opening in 1980 (Breuer died in 1979).
A recent AJC guest editorial, “Progress in preservation,” by Cynthia Rogers calls for careful consideration of preservation of the Breuer library and the need for a new building. Rogers notes the current structure’s significance and the possibilities of a revitalized Central Library.
Marcel Breuer is one of the key figures of 20th century design. His furniture designs remain in production today, and through his teaching at the Bauhaus and later at Harvard where he would work with Philip Johnson and Paul Rudolph, he was largely responsible for establishing Modern design in the United States.
This challenge to the Atlanta Central Library is the latest in a series of national debates regarding Breuer’s work and the most recent in a series of preservation debates in Atlanta – a city that has yet to fully demonstrate its appreciation for its historic landmarks.
Fulton County Commission:
141 Pryor Street, SW, 10th FL,
Atlanta GA, 30303
Fulton County Library:
Breuer Library UPDATE: The Fulton County Commission voted unanimously at their June 4, 2008 meeting to approve a motion made by Commissioner Rob Pitts to “amend the Library Facility Master Plan to implement building a new Atlanta/Fulton County Central Library in lieu of renovating the current facility,” according to the post agenda available here.
Based on this vote, it appears that the commission may not be aware of the architectural significance of the structure, and the importance of finding an appropriate use, be it main library or otherwise. The next Fulton Commission meeting is scheduled for June 18 (see below). Contact information is available here.
Not just one, but two architecturally significant Modern Atlanta libraries are facing challenges, potential demolition, or sale.
As the DOCOMOMO/US, Georgia Chapter noted earlier this year, the Buckhead branch library is a remarkable structure, worthy of preservation. Due to public outcry, Fulton County Commissioners (with Rob Pitts abstaining) voted to support preservation of the branch in March. Perhaps the commissioners have a short memory – the County commission has been asked to consider a plan for a new library – if the Library is sold.
It is very important that commissioners hear our support one more time, before and during the June 18th meeting – a lack of response could doom the building – contact information here, meeting location:
Fulton County Commission
141 Pryor Street
Atlanta, GA 30303
Not only is the Buckhead Branch under consideration for sale, Fulton County Commissioner Rob Pitts recently “voted to place a $150 million bond referendum on the fall ballot…” which “… includes about $40 million to overhaul the central library downtown…” according to a recent Creative Loafing article (AJC article here).
Pitts says “Rather than spend $40 million to renovate an old building, we should build a world-class, signature facility that’s more user-friendly.”
The Marcel Breuer-design central library, completed in 1977, is a notable Downtown Atlanta landmark.
It is most important that both the Fulton County Commission and the Atlanta-Fulton County Library Board of Trustees hear from citizens who understand the significance of both of these buildings, more here, including contact information.