By Maria Saporta
Tear down the Atlanta-Fulton Central Library? Not so fast, says the World Monuments Fund.
The fund announced today its list of international sites on its 2010 Watch — places that are in some kind of danger of being destroyed.
And the one entry from Atlanta is the Atlanta-Fulton Central Library, an eight-story, modern-style building that was designed by architect Marcel Breuer. The library, which was completed in 1980, 11 years after it was originally commissioned.
In its report, the fund said:
“In November 2008, legislation was passed to direct public funds to the construction of a more contemporary library space, a decision that would likely see the destruction of Breuer’s final work. The potential plight of this building echoes that of many modern structures, particularly those of the Brutalist period, as preservationists and planners seek to ensure their functionality and relevance in the changing urban context.”
The report, which called Atlanta a “sprawling urban metropolis,” also described the downtown library as a “cube-shaped, neutral-toned cement façade.” The building embodies the “Brutalist tendencies of Bauhaus design, eschewing excessive ornmentation while promoting asymmetrical designs that offer plentiful and unique interior space.”
Outside the library, the report said the “weighty composion of Richard Hunt’s 1991 stainless steel sculpture, The Wisdom Bridge, reflects many of the architectural characteristics Breuer employed in the library.”
The fund also said that “inside the steel-framed modernist monolith, enormous staircases wind their way up the central corridor, expanding the open floor plan and flooding the library with natural light from above.”
The World Monuments Fund annually releases its list of endangered significant sites in the hope that they will be preserved.
My only question to them is where were they when the city of Atlanta and Fulton County decided to demolish the grand Carnegie Library in the mid-1970s, one of many mistakes our city made in the name of progress.
Just to elaborate, the ideal solution would have been to keep our Carnegie Library intact and to have asked Marcel Breuer to build a modern addition (an approach taken by Boston’s public library).
Because we tore down the Carnegie Library to construct the new building, a temporary library was established at 10 Park Place overlooking Woodruff Park. But in that transition, our library lost a great portion of its collection.
So we lost twice — a historical gem and many of its magnificent contents.
A personal note: when I was 16, I worked in the Fine Arts section of the Carnegie Library where I cleaned the music albums and filed them back in their sections for $1.60 an hour. My best friend, Francie (see Maria’s Metro), also worked at the library putting books back on the shelves.