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Scogin-Elam Atlanta Library to be demolished!!!

136
Bluesman7

Hey guys,

I have been a long time reader of Archinect, but this article in today's Atlanta Journal Constitution got me so fired up, that I had to post.

Article link:

http://www.ajc.com/search/content/metro/stories/2008/02/10/library_0211.html


Some of the quotes in this article show the ignorance that we have to deal with in Atlanta (and our profession).

Would love to here your thoughts!

 
Feb 11, 08 5:43 pm
Apurimac

I used to go to school right next to that library. It is by far the nicest building in buckhead and the most original public building in the entire city IMO.

Demolishing it would be a grave loss to the culture of Atlanta. I will have to read the whole article later.

Feb 11, 08 5:48 pm
wurdan freo

Scogin-Elam = hacks!!!

Tear it down. Maybe do some creative recycling.

Sorry if that's not what you wanted to hear.

Feb 11, 08 5:49 pm
John Cline

calling mapa.

Feb 11, 08 5:53 pm
mdler

i dont see what the big deal is...the new library will have a reading terrace

Feb 11, 08 6:00 pm
weAREtheSTONES

WOW - that sux

Mdler - Still shitting in others threads I see!!! - How have u been?

Feb 11, 08 6:04 pm
MysteryMan

Ooooo. Better not hang around Wakefield Drive, that kind of comment'll get you off'd.

I've got mixed feelings about Scogin-Elam (& Bray)'s work. They were the Champs of Deconstrivist ATL Arch Students in the 80's & 90s. Their forms & massing are interesting, but the detail's a bit heavy on the plexi glas . Nonetheless, to demo this bldg is typical of the ATL - after all, just a couple of blocks over, the old Oxford Bookstore (a sort of Bruce Goff design for a mercedes dealership) was levelled. If it don't look like it's from Ye Olde Williamsburg, ATL don't want it.

In being away from ATL for the better part of the last 2 years, I was astonished when I came back & wanted to geet a beer in Buckhead this Fall - Seems that Buckhead is no more. That seems to be the way of Atlanta. I'll bet that Midtown & Inman Park are next.

It's kind of a ridiculous city when developers get involved, but I still kinda love it.

Feb 11, 08 6:07 pm
MysteryMan

Ooooo. Better not hang around Wakefield Drive, that kind of comment'll get you off'd.

I've got mixed feelings about Scogin-Elam (& Bray)'s work. They were the Champs of Deconstrivist ATL Arch Students in the 80's & 90s. Their forms & massing are interesting, but the detail's a bit heavy on the plexi glas . Nonetheless, to demo this bldg is typical of the ATL - after all, just a couple of blocks over, the old Oxford Bookstore (a sort of Bruce Goff design for a mercedes dealership) was levelled. If it don't look like it's from Ye Olde Williamsburg, ATL don't want it.

In being away from ATL for the better part of the last 2 years, I was astonished when I came back & wanted to geet a beer in Buckhead this Fall - Seems that Buckhead is no more. That seems to be the way of Atlanta. I'll bet that Midtown & Inman Park are next.

It's kind of a ridiculous city when developers get involved, but I still kinda love it.

Feb 11, 08 6:08 pm
snook_dude

I was dissapointed in Atlanta...considering the airport is at the south end of the city and I was headed north....on a Friday Afternoon. They should save every building that is designed by an architect which isn't
done in Marble or limestone.

Feb 11, 08 6:08 pm
mdler

weAREtheSTONES

any more naked beer pong?

Feb 11, 08 6:08 pm
j

it's a neat little building and it would be a shame to tear it down, but as they said in the article - it's a public building. therefore, the public owns it and can decide to toss it aside if they really want.

maybe i've been here for too long, but this town is probably beyond architectural appreciation. it's no surprise that so many people hate the building, and it's no surprise that there are folks who would gladly tear it down and make a $19 mil profit.

it will be interesting to see if the community rallies around this project. in my opinion, it's the users who should come to its defense. of course architects (mostly) love the thing - everything going up in this city is mixed-use crap and there's really not a lot of great, real architecture to visit here. but the general public seems to gravitate toward the 'brick and limestone = quality' mindset noted in the article and this building definitely doesn't fit that bill. if the buckhead community - the end users - like the library, they should stand up and fight the developer. i just don't think they will.

Feb 11, 08 6:09 pm
weAREtheSTONES

not lately...when are you coming up to SF again....my friend has been asking about you!

Feb 11, 08 6:09 pm
j

and yeah, the buckhead of old is no more. the only reason to go to buckhead these days is to buy a sofa.

Feb 11, 08 6:11 pm
snook_dude

The Oxford Book Store was designed by one of Bruce Goffs Students.
I'm having a mind fart....or I would tell you who he is....have to go do some looking. It was an automobile dealership....Grant ...something.....as I recall

Feb 11, 08 6:14 pm
MysteryMan

I just read that AJC article - Theyz just so many jerks in the ATL.

THAT's IT! I'm gonna protest by building what I really want on my property in my neighborhood, now. Forget fitting it in - I'm on a mission to make sure that my neighbors can't sell out to no
dirtbag developers.

Feb 11, 08 6:24 pm
Archinect
In the news

A reader sent in this information:

Comments@co.fulton.ga.us

This is the basic library email address to send comments to the library.

The head of the library is John F. Szabo

The Fulton County commission Chairman is john Eaves.

Shout the Manifesto, "Down with Haughty Buckhead EIFS Architecture"

Feb 11, 08 6:35 pm
Bluesman7

Sweet!! Everyone start emailing!!

Feb 11, 08 6:45 pm
Archinect
"That library, to my way of thinking, was an abortion the day it was dedicated," Fulton County Commissioner Tom Lowe said. "I am a lover of art. I can even stand abstract art. But God darn, who in the world would build something like that? There ain't no damn artistic value to that library."

... and if you feel like emailing Tom Lowe ... Tom.Lowe@co.fulton.ga.us

Feb 11, 08 6:48 pm
JMBarquero/squirrelly

hmmm....I find it rather interesting, and a shame if it was torn down.

Bluesman7....Im in!

Feb 11, 08 7:13 pm
AP

j, i tend to agree with your general position - that the local public should be the ones to decide if they like this building enough to fight for it. that said, it seems that they are being lead in a certain direction by local politicians:

That library, to my way of thinking, was an abortion the day it was dedicated," Fulton County Commissioner Tom Lowe said. "I am a lover of art. I can even stand abstract art. But God darn, who in the world would build something like that? There ain't no damn artistic value to that library."

This is an opportunity for the county to receive some money — to profit," commission Chairman John Eaves told the library system's board of trustees, of which he is a member. "But it's also an opportunity for the library to be brand new and relocated to the same immediate area."

"I think that it's absolutely worthy of exploring," John Szabo, the library system director, said. "Once the Streets of Buckhead development is completed, the library site is not going to be harmonious with the overall development."

if i had the time i would love to pick these quotes apart for all of their inherent idiocy...but alas, i have to write a letter...

Feb 11, 08 7:46 pm
mdler

i actually like this better...




its more warmer and nicer

Feb 11, 08 7:52 pm

as a former ATLien, i think j has a little too much faith in a public that is generally in between 'not giving a crap' and 'not having a clue' when it comes to development. take a look at what's happened to that city in the past 5 years.

i think mack and merrill should have the opportunity to defend this building...but then again, i'm a little partial.

Feb 11, 08 8:13 pm
citrus.grey

"That library, to my way of thinking, was an abortion the day it was dedicated," Fulton County Commissioner Tom Lowe said. "I am a lover of art. I can even stand abstract art. But God darn, who in the world would build something like that? There ain't no damn artistic value to that library."

Before I go into this I should say I’ve only flown through Atlanta so I’m commenting purely as a voyeur here, but if this is not just the opinion of Mr. Lowe, but as I gather from the article, a rather general sentiment of citizens of Atlanta (minus the architecturally interested) then doesn't this building represent a pretty major failure on the part of the architects?

Unlike Mr. Lowe I personally find the library interesting, if only aesthetically from studying these photos online, but doesn't the general distaste seem to stem from a big divide between the ideas of the architects and the values of a community? That's a pretty big part of successful public architecture in my opinion and seems worthy of discussion here before everyone trounces on the guy who's clearly not wearing slick glasses and odd footwear like all of us.

That said, the biggest mistake here to me is to demolish a building that is so young. Seems like a lot of wasted material there for a parking lot.

Feb 11, 08 8:31 pm
mdler

money talks...bullshit walks

Feb 11, 08 8:32 pm
outed

i'll chime in as an atl resident...

first off, i saw this building when it first went up (way back in undergrad). it was clearly the nicest building around it - that isn't saying much, since the retail section of buckhead in those days was nothing but crappy strip malls, converted bungalows, and generally nothing of real interest. (the goff building had been so badly 'renovated' at that point, you would have never seen his hand in it if it hadn't been pointed out to you. it was not the equal of the bavinger house, let's say...)

in the last 20 years or so, though, that section of the city has slowly changed. still pretty low rise, but it all became more upscale, the parcels that were redeveloped were larger, more dense. the neighbors got bigger and the novelty of the building wore off. it hasn't been kept up well, nor was/is it a brilliant design in terms of aging gracefully. inside, the carpet was cheap, the detailing poor (though, i presume, more 'cutting edge' to most of hip kids), and the overall atmosphere a little less than remarkable. a lot of the money went into the exterior and general construction. in sum, it's like all their libraries here - lots of flash for the cash, but not holding up as well as you'd expect from civic architecture. it was clearly their strategic intent.

the location of the building, relative to the new development, plus the opportunity for the county to realize a sizable profit on the deal (let's say you build 25,000 for 400/sf, and add another 3m for the land somewhere else. it'll still have a surplus after all the soft costs, ffe, etc. or you get a bigger library), and it's going to come down no matter what anyone tries to do. mark it down.

thing is, i'm personally not going to be that sad to see it go. now, if they get an absolute hack to do a new one (and, sigh, the chances of that are high), then that'll be the real tragedy. but the idea of doing a more 'urban' library up there could be an interesting notion and unless they want to drop a lot of money into this one to refurbish it (and they won't), then it needs to be let go quickly and the focus needs to be on creating the conditions for generating another, better piece of architecture.

(and yes, i realize that preserving and restoring this one would be a culturally affirming act for this town. and, contrary to this post, i think the world of msme, especially merrill. to me, though, the early libraries were more about their ego and defining their name than their real abilities as architects -see the tulane student housing or berkeley projects for better, more mature examples. they're not going to stand the test of time, literally, so take them down sooner than later if need be. the kneejerk desire to preserve it, simply because, doesn't really wash in my book. i do expect to be in the minority on this, though...)

Feb 11, 08 9:45 pm
liberty bell

That Buckhead Devlopers website - the image mdler posted above - made me vomit a little.

Off to write some indignant, angry, and intelligent emails...

Feb 11, 08 9:47 pm
outed

"If it don't look like it's from Ye Olde Williamsburg, ATL don't want it."

mysteryman - i don't agree with that at all. in fact, i think there are plenty of people in atl who want something new, interesting, different, etc. and would happily embrace those buildings.

yes, the rulers of buckhead seem to think it should be a cross between georgetown and rodeo drive, but that's not true everywhere. our firm is doing a new branch library in decatur (which is almost as large as the buckhead branch) that is pretty damn far on the other end of the spectrum from 'ye olde' anything and the head librarian loves it. he's trying to dig up more money to help us preserve some key pieces of the design.

fact is, any city in this country is going to have some bluebloods who love and venerate the traditional. i'm actually ok with it. i just wish they could find some exceptionally talented architects who really believe in those principles (say leon krier or scott merrill, for example). plurality is a great thing - i don't need all of atlanta to be 'modern'....

Feb 11, 08 9:56 pm
outed

lb -

wait till tomorrow and see if you feel the same way. yeah, the commissioners are ignorant pricks. yeah, the developer knows he's going to get the property and is a cocky jerk. yeah, what's going to go back isn't nearly as interesting (or good) as the library. but all you're going to do is confirm their worst instincts, not convert their minds...

Feb 11, 08 9:59 pm
trace™

I agree lb. Had to laugh a little a the "...warmer and nicer..." comments.

You'd be amazed at what we renderers can make look "warm and nice"!

Thankfully, good architecture is generally easier (and much for fun) to make look attractive.


Scogin, Elam and Bray were some of my favs for their residential designs.

Feb 11, 08 10:11 pm
digger

I lived and worked in ATL when this project was built and for 5-6 years after it opened. I lived only about 2 miles away and spent many hours in this building during that time.

While I always held the design in high regard, as a "building" it sucks. Money that should have been spent on better waterproofing and higher quality HVAC systems was spent to make the building "publishable" and a feather in Scogin's cap.

In the process, the taxpaying citizens of Atlanta got screwed. Maintenance costs were astonomical. For long periods of time, the stacks were draped in plastic to keep water off the books. I don't recall ever being comfortabe temperature wise while in this library - it was always too hot or too cold. Staff services declined sharply during the first years of this building's life - presumably to cover increased operating costs.

Atlanta built this building at the same time it was adding a number of branch libraries to their system. All had comparable programs and budgets. This was the only one of that group to suffer these sorts of problems.

IMO, architects should serve their client's operational needs first. That did not happen with this building.

If I still lived in Atlanta, I would miss seeing this building when I visited Buckhead. But I understand why the city would want to unload this (functional) piece of crap for the enormous sum it's been offered.

If this issue becomes your litmus-test for Atlanta's appreciation of good buildings, you're off base - there are legitimate extenuating circumstances that can be laid squarely at the architect's door.

Feb 11, 08 10:14 pm
liberty bell

That sounds suspiciously like rolling over and giving up, laru. I can't.

PS If you copy emails to the "ignorant pricks" to the journalists who wrote the article, they see that a potentially news-worthy fight is a'brewin'. And what journalist doesn't want to sell newspapers?!

Feb 11, 08 10:14 pm
liberty bell

And jeezus, what's the worst that can happen from writing angry emails? Maybe the County Commissioner realizes that the building is worth more than what the developer is offering, because it holds high cultural standing, and thus the city gets more money to build a higher-value replacement. What kind of county commissioner sells out his city's cultural legacy by telling a developer "Hell, that building's just an abortion anyway, take it for five bucks and we'll say thank you!"? That's betraying his citizenry by not only selling off their cultural inheritance but selling it off cheaply. Shame.

And for chrissake do we all really want to see free-standing libraries - libraries, the buildings that house knowledge - turned into rental spaces in mixed-use condo buildings? For godssake, that's a bleak view of where we value education. See ya at Border's.

Feb 11, 08 10:24 pm
Apurimac

^ that's atlanta for you LB, it truly is becoming the city taste forgot.

Feb 11, 08 10:44 pm
nb072

they can still build their retail development / town center whatever thing. all they have to do it surround the library with it. that would make a nice contrast.

Feb 11, 08 10:47 pm
gETnASTY

"That library, to my way of thinking, was an abortion the day it was dedicated," Fulton County Commissioner Tom Lowe said. "I am a lover of art. I can even stand abstract art. But God darn, who in the world would build something like that? There ain't no damn artistic value to that library."

This man is clearly very ignorant, if he and developer Ben Carter have there way and the Buckhead Branch is destroyed to make way for more parking (like ATL needs more of that!) and the new library is turned over to the private sector, this would be a huge blow to the Arch. Community in ATL. But it doesn't surprise me that the Buckhead community thinks this building is 'ugly', look at everything they build, its not to hot...

i also can't believe people are actually posting comments not really giving a crap, especially those users from ATL, if you just roll over and let nice works get demo'd to make way for parking and some EIFS crap, your no better than the ones that want it gone...

Feb 11, 08 11:16 pm
vado retro

say the word, i'll burn the whole damn town down...

Feb 11, 08 11:16 pm
Apurimac

I just noticed Mdler's image post and i have to say:

THAT'S WHAT THEY'RE DOING TO BUCKHEAD! TURNING IT INTO ATLANTIC FUCKING STATION! CAN THOSE FUCKING ASSHOLES HAVE ENOUGH EIFS COVERED HISTORICIST CORPORATE GARBAGE! THOSE FUCKING COCKAROACHES, I USED TO HAUNT THOSE STREETS!

Sorry, I just had to get that off my chest. For those of you that don't understand, Buckhead has a fair amount of history behind it. In the 80's and early 90's it was the part of town you went to to party. The clubs have slowly shut down and moved south to midtown but now its full of mom-and-pop shops, restaurants, bars, a nice music venue and all of them are on an actual urban scale and within walking distance. Not to mention the library. It is one of the few bastions that actually has any real "culture" in Atlanta. But of course the new money assholes have invaded West Paces, moved the old money out and have started an all out onslaught of franchise stores and restaurants.

I apologize for the profanity in that post its just I have roots in that area and hate to see this happen to it, I'd rather its culture be enriched than dumbed down.

Feb 11, 08 11:49 pm

This just in...

A public forum has been created as a petition to save the Buckhead Branch Library at www.savethelibrary.blogspot.com ...Archinectors who wish to save the library, please go add your name and comments.

Feb 11, 08 11:51 pm
holz.box

MSME's write up/blurb:

project: a branch library
location: Atlanta, Georgia
client: Atlanta-Fulton County Library System
date of completion: winter 1989
building area: 20,000 sq. ft.
construction cost: $1.6 million

The Buckhead Branch Library is a 22,000 square foot neighborhood facility located in a unique nouveau riche strip of Atlanta. The Buckhead neighborhood is the foreground of an cultural shift where the boutique succeeds the pool hall. The neighborhood is a rupture, showing signs of a downtown with growing pains.

The existing Ida Williams Branch was a parking meter... past expired... unable to communicate with speed and clarity. The function of today's public library: a locus for knowledge within a civic landscape bounded by mobile sprawl and strip shopping.

The particular site is atop a crest that commands a spectacular view of downtown Atlanta. The new building consumes the large narrow portion of the site in-between the distinct frontages while perching itself in full view towards downtown. An array of canopies intensifies the pedestrian scale relationships along Buckhead Avenue and deposits the reader at the helm of the spectator city, air-conditioned and detached.

The plan organization is linear: sidewalk, entry sequence, circulation desk, reference and main reading room. Children's services, public meeting room and periodicals are located in "saddle bags" off the main linear circulation path.

Building materials and systems include structural steel frame, painted metal roofing, slate siding, and cast-in-place concrete foundation walls.

Feb 12, 08 1:54 am
rondo mogilskie

While it might technically be too "new" for their jurisdiction, anyone know what position the "official" local heritage/preservation bodies might hold, either now or potentially? After all, that might be a critical middle-ground between the so-called tyranny of the architectural minority and the tyranny of the "real people with real people taste" majority...

Feb 12, 08 6:45 am
vado retro

if this were a beaux arts early 20th century building you all would want to see liebskind jagged points violating it all in the name of cutting edge architecture.

Feb 12, 08 6:56 am
outed

lb and apu -

i think a campaign to try and save it is great. i don't think sending letters to the county commissioner in the article or the developer are going to do anything, especially if they smack of vitrol. if you're interested in a larger campaign, i'd suggest the following:

first, create an editorial for the atlanta business chronicle (http://atlanta.bizjournals.com/atlanta). this is the bible for the buckhead/midtown/downtown conservative business community, which has gleefully promoted this development. dick williams is the publisher/editor. send him a thoughtful, 200-300 word essay on why to save the library and see if he'll run it as a guest editorial. these are the people you have to convert.

second, you can check with the docomomo atlanta group - http://docomomoga.org - i think tom little is still the head of that group. they've done several of these kinds of campaigns.

third, go to one of the underground weeklies - creative loafing, etc. - and write a similar impassioned editorial. send it to felicia feaster there - she is familiar with the arts/architecture scene.

that's a start on the media. my resignation is that, knowing how power works here, this is probably a done deal....

Feb 12, 08 7:49 am
BrianBuchalski
"I can even stand abstract art."

Wow, that statement is loaded with condescenscion. On the surface, it would appear that this man doesn't understand art at all but is simply a stylistically limited worshiper of objects.

Regarding the building and it's possible fate, I'm not yet sure how to feel about this one. On the one hand, it is troubling that the developer is having such a large role in the shaping of the community and that there seems to be very little critique behind the idea of the county government profiting from this deal. And what is so discomforting about having a building stand out of its context anyhow? Especially a context that is not yet built.

Yet, if this is the people of Atlanta want, then there's very little that can be done to stop them.

Feb 12, 08 8:42 am
Apurimac

Oh laru I wouldn't dream of writing something as vitrolic as what I wrote above to the ABC. That is a fine idea though, and I may try it.

Feb 12, 08 8:48 am

It is interesting that many of the locals or at least those with experience/history in Atlanta and Buckhead, seem to acknowledge some problems with the building.

That maybe, many "new" buildings don't "last" well without some basic upkeep. This seems esp. true with decon based or inspired projects.

However, that being said it would be terrible to replace it just because it is an "abortion". Especially if the next one will be more faux-historical fluff, or as i have seen with some new libraries simple stuck in the rented space of some mixed use development.

Additionally, as LB points out at the very least, maybe the county can get some more money from the developer....

Feb 12, 08 9:09 am
Apurimac

So if it leaks fix it. Its almost always cheaper to repair and fix buildings up than all new construction unless the building is beyond hope, which it isn't.

Look the building's flawed, but Atlanta is fast becoming a cultural wasteland and its residents need to take a stand against the influx of new residents that have shown up in the last decade and demand some kind of faux-southern garbage to fulfill their dreams of living in a big house on big hill.

I'm sure in my lifetime they'll start demo work on Auburn ave to build condos unless us long-timers take a stand.

Feb 12, 08 9:20 am
MysteryMan

Tom Lowe, of Lowe Engineering - that explains his 'appreciation' of art.

Charles Loudermilk of Aaron Rents - Charging usury for cheap furniture Aaron Rents has been leaching off to low-income Atlantans for over 50 years. being around low-quality appliances & 'formica' tables w/ vinyl covered chairs for that long explains his lack of taste. iF he wants to promote 'quality', then his stores should close first.

Going back to my comment on SEBA's detailing being heavy on the plexi - I have to remember that the budget for this PUBLIC bldg was probably shoestring. As such, I'm guessing that SEBA pushed some limits with their use of finishes like 'cheap carpet'....although, that slte cladding must've eaten up much of the budget for finishes.

Feb 12, 08 9:33 am
snook_dude

Actually It wasn't grant but Robert Faust who designed the automobile dealership: It is not pictured in his site but I have
seen photos of it in the past and it is not so far afield of the MG
dealership building in the site. http://www.auburn.edu/~faustrl/

Feb 12, 08 9:37 am
Bluesman7

quote from Tom Lowe's Bio:

"Commissioner Lowe served 15 years as a member of the Atlanta-Fulton County Water Resources Commission from its inception in 1986, and served as chairman in 1990, 1991 and 1996."

We are in a serious Drought, enough said!

Feb 12, 08 10:30 am
Apurimac

LOL bluesman!

That's southern politics for you.

Hey, it could be worse, we could be New Orleans I guess.

Feb 12, 08 10:31 am
digger

I gotta say, I haven't seen this much ill-informed hysteria in quite some time. This is not the sort of thing that makes the public in general have a lot of respect for architects.

Don't get me wrong -- once again, I'll say that I like the design of this library, as a design. If it goes, I'll miss it on my future visits to Atlanta. But, it's a bad building and it's been an economic drain on the library system since the day it opened, whereas the other branches constructed about the same time have not.

This enormous knee-jerk reaction -- apparently arising solely because this massively unworkable building was designed by Mack and Merrill -- overlooks the broader context in which this proposal is being considered.

The library system in question is tremendously short on financial resources -- Ben Carter is offering them a way to a) get out from under an economic black hole, and b) obtain a replacement library that will serve their patrons at least as well as the current Buckhead branch, and c) pocket some much needed dough, which they can use to improve the library system. This is the context in which this decision will be made.

Architecture also must serve its users and the people who operate the facility. It can't just be about 'art', to the exclusion of all other considerations.

Feb 12, 08 11:02 am

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