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Architect Tom Ventulett honored for his vision

Tom Ventulett

Tom Ventulett at the Atlanta History Center on March 3 at the Best in Real Estate Awards (Photo by Maria Saporta)

By Maria Saporta

Upon being presented the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s “Visionary Award,” veteran architect Tom Ventulett shared one of his pet peeves – the ugliness of our highways.

Ventulett, a co-founder of the Atlanta-based TVSdesign architectural firm, first pushed back against him receiving the award.

Tom Ventulett

Tom Ventulett at the Atlanta History Center on March 3 at the Best in Real Estate Awards (Photo by Maria Saporta)

“When I heard about  this award, I couldn’t figure it out,” Ventulet said during dinner at the Atlanta History Center Thursday night. “It’s not the architect that’s the visionary, it’s the client.”

After thanking a number of professionals with whom he has worked during his career, Ventulett made a personal plea – showing why he was deserving of the Visionary Award.

“I just want to make a plea to this powerful group,” Ventulett said. “Our expressway system is ugly, and it’s getting uglier. It’s something we need to watch. Let’s do something to give a better image of the city.”

In particular, Ventulett mentioned the unattractive sound barriers that exist along the borders of several of our city’s interstates.

Ventulett then talked about a recent trip to Europe where he saw sound barriers in Switzerland and France where there were openings in retaining walls where people had planted flowers and ivy. That softened the barriers and made for a much more pleasant travel experience.

sound barrier

Sound barrier along our interstates (Special)

In some cases, glass elements were added to blend the walls with the horizon and the natural elements of the environment.

“Somebody is thinking (in France and Switzerland),” Ventulett said. “Nobody (here) is thinking about what we are putting up. The interchange of 400 and I-285 is really ugly.”

And then Ventulett ended up sharing a comment that could be applied to just about any part of our built environment.

“If you are going to build it, make it beautiful,” Ventulett said. “But for God’s sake, if it’s ugly – don’t build it.”

Spoken like a visionary architect.

Here are some alternatives for sound barriers that I found in a google search:

Sound  barrier

This sound barrier wall is decorated with pre-cast concrete with planted ivy.

sound barrier

Sound barrier with plants at openings

sound barrier

Sound barrier with decorative design


Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


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  1. Peggy Denby March 4, 2016 9:14 am

    I am traveling in the SW, where the highway bridges and sound walls are beautiful.  Arizona and New Mexico are the best.  The walls are made from a number of design materials, various colors, and have designs etched in or added on that are colorful and often depicting images that represent the area.  Very attractive, colorful and fun.  And, tasteful, I should add.Report

  2. GrantParkJeff March 4, 2016 9:26 am

    I hate to say it, but we live in a damn cheap state, where our state and local governments are loathe to spend money on “frivolous” amenities like art, architecture, fountains, landscaping, and beautiful public spaces.  When our state has one of the lowest tax burdens in the nation and politicians still crow about cutting taxes further, that’s what you’re going to get.  There’s a correlation between low taxes and poor public amenities and services.  In Georgia, we’ve picked low taxes over all else.  So, hello, ugly.Report

  3. Linda K Reichelt DiSantis March 5, 2016 7:32 am

    Saw his wonderful art at the Terminus last week. A rendition of a bald eagle that is stunning. What talent!Report


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