Any hope left to landmark the Marcel Breuer-designed Atlanta Central Library may have been diminished this fall when the National Parks Service declared the Brutalist building ineligible thanks to the ongoing $50 million renovation.
The library has been a source of strain in the preservation world for years. At one point in 2016, its future hung in the balance as the city of Atlanta sought to potentially demolish the building. Since then, advocates have tried, and failed, to get the city to pass legislation that would save the building’s iconic exterior. Instead, construction crews began drilling into the concrete facade this summer, creating holes for what would be a set of windows across the minimal facade. Atlanta-based design firm Cooper Carry is leading the revamp.
Below, the yellow construction paper is where the new window glass will be:
From @HistoricAtlanta and NPS: The Atlanta Fulton County Central Library renovation threatens National Register of Historic Places eligibility for the Breuer-designed masterwork. pic.twitter.com/KUWkXHnVxk
— Docomomo US (@docomomo_us) December 18, 2019
The renovations were mandated by Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System, which has been sprinting to update its structures and build new libraries throughout the city. For too long, the Central Library itself hasn’t been full of activity; the building isn’t considered user-friendly largely because its interior lacks enough access to natural light. The library was opened in 1980 at the height of Brutalism’s popularity, which has sharply fallen in recent years as more and more such structures across the U.S. face similar tough fates.
Curbed Atlanta reported that an attempt by Docomomo Georgia to designate the library on the National Register of Historic Places was declined this fall “since the property is currently undergoing rehabilitation and alterations.” As Curbed noted, Docomomo can resubmit the bid once the project is complete, but even if it had secured a historic designation prior to the window work, it’s likely the changes would have still been made due to public demand.