Breuer-Designed Atlanta Central Library Endangered
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 an appreciation for its historic landmarks.
Fulton County Commission:
141 Pryor Street, SW, 10th FL,
Atlanta GA, 30303
Fulton County Library:
Photos courtesy of the archives of Steven & Wilkinson (Atlanta, GA)