Bauhaus & Breuer: Preservation In Atlanta

Submitted by Eternity on Sun, 12/21/2008 - 17:40.

Please read and sign the online petition. 

In response to several pieces posted on this site, all of which relate to historical significance of legendary architect, Marcel Breuer, I've decided, at the urgings of fellow blogger and preservationist, Susan Miller,  to post a piece that specifically concerns Breuer's final, monumental, public commission (completed in 1980) that site being The Atlanta-Fulton Central Public Library.  And while I am fully aware that RealNeo is a site devoted to all things Northeast Ohio, because there has been so much discussion concerning local preservation efforts for Breuer Buildings in Ohio, it can only help to bolster both local and national efforts towards educating the public-at-large about the importance of the relationship between civic identity, cultural wealth retention, socio-political integrity and fiscally sane, environmentally sound preservation. 

 I make my case first by pointing to a couple of pieces which have previously been posted to the RealNeo website.  This is followed by another Ohio site, GreenCityBlueLake (sustainability in Northeast Ohio).

All entries are provided as links.

Renowned architect Carl Stein explains "rampant environmental recklessness" of plans for Breuer

Administrators Can't Let Marcel Breuer's Work Alone

Green Modernism Comes To Cleveland

Now, with a foundational understanding of Marcel Breuer's local, national and international presence, I now provide a very pointed letter that I wrote in response to insensitive manner in which governmental and institutional powers in Atlanta (Fulton County) Georgia, have attempted to hastily and "stealthily" defund preservation and thus "recklessly" jeopardize the very existence one of Breuer's most historically significantly sites, The Atlanta-Fulton Central Library.   It is a beautiful site, representing his swan song; his final architectural creation before his passing in 1981.

 The letter, an open letter written to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, reads as follows:

Questions For The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Sent: Sunday, August 03, 2008 @ 9:08 PM

To: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
ATTN: Angela Tuck, Public Editor/Ombudsman
CC: AJC Staff Writer, Alan Judd
CC: AJC Staff Writer, David Bennett

Dear Angela,

As a engaged citizen who's deeply concerned about Greater Atlanta's legacy of cultural diversity, artistic excellence, sustainable "greenliness" and long-term economic success, I now write to you in the hopes of having a few rather vexing questions answered. The subject on which these questions are based pertains to The AJC's media coverage of Fulton County's recently drafted bond referendum for it's Library Facility Master Plan; a risky plan which may have grave consequences for the entire public library system, as well as specifically horrific consequence for the future of it's flagship library, The Atlanta-Fulton Central Branch. That building being a monumental structure designed by a creative genius of epic proportions, the late Marcel Breuer.

Nonetheless, before I ask these questions, allow me to state for the record, that I consider The AJC to be a respectable organization, which employs many a fine journalist. And because I have in the past, found the paper to be worthy of merit, I trust and believe that the paper's management takes the view that critical self-analysis is an asset and not a liability. And again, before I pose these questions, I also ask that one be mindful of the fact that the future of 30+ libraries is at stake as well as $275,000,000.00 taxpayer dollars.

Here are the questions:

The original Library Master Plan went through a 2-year public vetting process, but the last-minute, radically- amended plan did not. Why is this not emphasized and clearly stated by the AJC?

Recorded in FCC public documents (transcripts of meetings & video) is a procession of opposition to the Robb Pitts (amended) version of the Library Master Plan, but in reading several news articles by AJC writer, David Bennett, it occurred to me and some of my colleagues that while there are seven members on the FCC Board, one seems get his voice heard in every published piece, that person being none other than Commissioner Rob Pitts. Why is this? Why, I ask, has one individual been allowed to molest public dialog and shape the entire public debate for his own personal will, especially when that same person's voice grossly misrepresents the will of the people who had already made their intent very clear through the heavily documented two-year vetting process?

The 2 year public vetting process for the original Library Master Plan included input for every public library in the system and was unanimously supported by all parties involved, with not one single individual asking that the current Central Branch be demolished, sold or otherwise disposed of. Why is this not clearly stated by the AJC?

FCC Chair John Eaves, as well as Commissioners Bill Edwards and Lynn Riley, are on the record stating that they had received hundreds and hundreds of phone calls and emails voicing support for keeping and renovating the current Central Branch, and they also said that not a single person (absolutely no one) ever called or wrote for anything otherwise. In other words, in the last two years, there was never any desire expressed in the public process by any citizen to build a new Central Branch, but instead there was overwhelming consent of a desire to keep the iconic structure that we already have. Why then is this point not emphasized and/or clearly stated by the AJC?

Led by Commissioner Rob Pitts and the library system's executive director John Szabo, with the auspices of a few additional "self-will-run-riot" commissioners, a PR campaign is in full force. It is a PR campaign, which mentions none of the information I now inquire about, though I will say that some of these omissions were very beautifully written about by Cynthia Rogers, in an op-ed AJC piece entitled Progress In Preservation. Still however, the assigned writer(s) who are supposed to be reporting on all sides have never really confronted Pitts et all on all these omissions. Why is this?

Furthermore, while heading Clearwater/Tampa's Public Library System, John Szabo is credited with getting a new central branch library built there. Now the same thing appears to be happening here. Is this a coincidence? Or was he hired with the intention to work stealthily towards doing away with our current central branch, in exchange for Pitt's vision of a "bigger better" newer one? And keep in mind, whether being coincidence or deliberate action, shouldn't the public know about this bit of potent information?

FCC Chair John Eaves, as well as Commissioner Lynn Riley, expressed much dissent against Pitt's et all, with (at a later date) Lynn Riley, in response to an email that I had sent to her thanking her for voting to honor the people's will by supporting only the original Library Master Plan, she wrote back in her reply saying "It was disappointing that a comprehensive library facility master plan could be hijacked for an un-substantiated purpose". By any measure, that statement packs a punch. So, with the question being that if I, a private citizen with no special access to public officials, was able to learn this directly from the source, why could the infinitely more powerful staff at The AJC not gather this very important quote…and so much more?

Moving on.

The Executive Director of American Institute of Architects Atlanta Chapter, Susan Ellis Proper, as well as the organization's president, Bruce McEvoy, are ardent supporters of the original Library Master Plan. I know this information as I have personally spoken with both of them. However they like I, do not support the Pitts/Szabo amended plan that has now become the stated bond referendum. Thus with both of these very knowledgeable architects and many of their architectural peers having expressed these same sentiments at FCC meeting(s) and through the AIA Atlanta website, why have neither they, nor young architect leader Newel Watkins, not been given, as respected cultural stewards of Greater Atlanta, a proper interview? Yes, why haven't any of these distinguished individuals been asked to weigh in on this issue via The AJC?

Too this, with an onslaught of daily news reports around the globe which speak of the collapsing state of the U.S. economy, with some economist essentially equating our current recession as fast approaching the very same dynamics and fallout of the 1929 Great Depression, why has Commissioner Rob Pitts and Library Director John Szabo been allowed to dramatically fatten the projected budget of the Library Master Plan by approximately almost 25% with virtually no public input, or rigorous scrutiny from your paper; a paper which itself is feeling the direct effect of the prior mentioned economic woes i.e. with the laying off of 200 of your own employees. Where is the objectivity and scrutiny that ought to be de rigueur, especially in such dire economic times?

And, another question…. with local and global concern for environmental preservation increasing daily, why hasn't The AJC thought to ask a LEED certified expert or some other knowledgeable individuals in the field of project sustainability and urban renewal, about the impact of the wholesale "junking" of a large civic structure? Wouldn't that have been an appropriate line of questioning for the commissioners, which may have shown a sign of sane, reflective, leadership on the behalf of the FCC Board?

And then there is this looming question, with Marcel Breuer having been such a phenomenal artist, architect and industrial engineer, and given the fact that Atlanta-Fulton has the very last public structure built by such a towering figure, why hasn't The AJC asked the same type of questions that one would expect to be asked if a structure of said significance had such historic value to African-Americans causes and the Civil Rights Movement. In other words, as an African-American myself, who is very proud of that fact and who prides himself of the legacy of equanimity and justice that our own Dr. King and Coretta Scott King left with us, why then has the AJC not inquired to the commissioners as to why that the same sensitivity of one subculture cultural value is not being given to another subculture. I make this point because as a fair-minded human being (that happens to be African-American) who can chew gum and walk at the same time, meaning that I understand the win/win of a multi-faceted system of just inclusion, I have a deep appreciation of civic equity where ever it may be. From this place of vision, it is a logical step that an awareness should exist, which facilitates that the Marcel Breuer building represents an easily seen parallel equation in the world of architecture and civic preservation to the civil rights world? Meaning that if one were to draw a direct comparison between the Civil Rights aesthetic and the Artistic aesthetic, Marcel Breuer would easily rank as an Andrew Young, Malcolm X, or Rosa Parks. So again, to rephrase, why wasn't The AJC able to parse the need for common sense wisdom, historical sensitivity and civic stewardship, when dealing with the legacy of ALL the great contributors to our society?

And what about the one off, site-specific monumental sculpture by famed African American sculpture Richard Hunt. It is a piece ironically titled "The Wisdom Bridge". What's to happen to that irreplaceable piece and doesn't such an epic work of art deserve to be thought of in advance? Why aren't we talking about this?

Jere Woods, mayor of one of Fulton's largest cities, The City of Roswell, spoke eloquently (with the endorsement of Sandy Springs Mayor, Eva Galambos) at the July 16th FCC meeting about why he stridently endorses the original Library Master plan and not the Pitts/Szabo amended one. Shouldn't some of his remarks have shown up in a subsequent AJC news article, given the fact that he represents such a huge populace in the metro area?

Through my own independent studies as a freelance artist and layman's intellectual, and through the engagement of a discourse with government officials, past and present library employees, a plethora of reputable architects, school teachers, urban "green" stewards and private citizens from all walks of life, more often than not, I have encountered a sheer befuddlement at the idea of ditching the ever fabulous current central branch, and that in effect doing so would essentially be tantamount to cultural genocide. Why then has this diversely held, public perception been utterly ignored in The AJC's ongoing reporting effort?

And about the money, with there being $275,000,000.00 at stake, shouldn't the "watchdog" element of The AJC's journalistic ethic, have automatically kick in…Isn't that appropriate, just as a natural response to the prospects of such a staggering amount of money being misappropriated; this being especially true when one considers that the county's largest city, Atlanta, is now (last time I checked) facing a class-action law suit for it's own misappropriations of public funds with the Percent for Art program?

And finally, what is The AJC's position when it comes to espousing a civic duty of holding public officials publicly accountable?

I look forward to your reply

Bests,

Max


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I have yet to receive a response to this document.

***

 Additional documentation can be found by clicking the links below:

 

Here is a link to Marcel Breuer's Atlanta Central Library Preservation WordPress website.

Here is a link to the "Plea for Preservation" online petition.

Here is a link to the homepage of The Central Branch Library Blogspot

Here is a link for a Ga. Tech's speaking event, which featured Isabelle Hyman

Here is a link to Archinform's author's listing for Isabelle Hyman

Here is a copy of the letter I sent to the Public Editor of The AJC.

Here is a copy of the letter of support that John Stanley (Deputy Director @ The Whitney Museum NYC) sent to me.

Here is a link to the AFPL WATCH web site which has (independly) documented all that has transpired, with additional coverage here.

Here is a link to the Archiplanet website created for The Central Branch.

Here is a link to DOCOMOMO's (partial) coverage of said events.

 

Cleveland Restoration Society and Atlanta should learn from Rub

A modern historic preservation oriented leader in a distant land - the Lost City of Atlanta - has connected with REAL NEO for support of his efforts to save an important Breuer global historic landmark (and I believe we are in a time and age when we need that designation, and must enforce it worldwide like the UN, but effective).

I have openly questioned the value of our Cleveland Restoration Society and other local "preservationists" and planners because they have been absent from the leadership - all unfunded grassroots citizens, like Ed Hauser - fighting to preserve many important historic structures here, like our Breuer Tower and the Coast Guard Station, and protect our historic fabric, like Whiskey Island and the Wolstein blight zone on the East Bank of the Flats.

A community with enlightened historic preservation leadership would not have allowed such a disaster as the demo of the East Bank of the Flats... that would have been like demolishing Playhouse Square or the Shaker Lakes, as proposed just a few decades ago, which did not happen in the past because some citizens in NEO at that time, not so long ago, had "balls".

In my most recent challenge of the value - and opportunity cost - of the Cleveland Restoration Society and our preservation establishment here, I pointed to their absence of leadership preventing our tax dollars from being used to demolish the historic Giglio property, in Historic District Tremont.

To put this challenge in context, I pointed out the Restoration Society had a few weeks before celebrated themselves in a surreal fashion by featuring as keynote at their annual "Community Lunch" the Director of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Timothy Rub, who spoke on the Cleveland Breuer under Rub's trust - our museum. It was billed that Rub would offer "his thoughts about his new city, Cleveland, and how we might develop our understanding and appreciation of our Modern and “recent past” architecture."

Considering the political absurdity and cowardice that has surrounded the Breuer Tower, for decades, those who were on the wrong side of the demolition issue - the people who promoted and voted for demolition or supported it in any way - are condemned to an eternity of shame... even though the Breuer here in Cleveland has been saved. So the Cleveland Restoration Society placed themselves and all their associations out of the enlightened mainstream. They have marginalized their value to the enlightened. As their world is crumbling, the economic tide is revealing their nakedness, and they will be removed from positions of community and economic leadership, for cause.

Certainly, many of the people who attended Rub's talk are intellectually on the right side of historic preservation, and have shown the right civic leadership or at least instincts, drowned out by the shouting of the establishment they reside in, allowing themselves to speak with the voices of brutes like Hagan and Carney or be drowned out by their drivel.

Perhaps Rub enlightened them further about the importance of Breuer and preserving his work!?!? I don't know, as I did not attend the talk and can't say if it was good or bad - pro-preservation or against. Evelyn did attend, for REALNEO, so I'll ask her to post a review.

All that said, the REALNEO member Eternity in Atlanta has been communicating with Susan Miller about preserving a Breuer library in Atlanta, about which Susan posted last year, and that led to this discussion on REALNEO.

This is an excellent opportunity for "preservation-minded" people of real NEO to share our enlightenment and lessons learned by helping save the Breuer Library in Atlanta. Sign the petition referenced below, and post letters of support here on REALNEO.

My promise to the "preservation" community in Atlanta is that enlightened citizens of the world will crush you if you attempt to demolish the Breuer Library - you will have no place to hide and be branded individually, by name and hyperlinks, as sell-outs of the global preservation community.

We will come to your city from around the world, by Internet and in person, to help stop you, and educate your local preservation activists on lessons learned from our own battle to save OUR Breuer, on the streets, spreading the wealth of Citizen Hauser and the Office of Citizen far and wide.

Learn from the Rub here in REALNEO, and don't make the same mistakes in Atlanta....

The email I received today from Susan Miller:

It appears another town has another issue in protecting our history.

I urge you to read Dr. Isabelle Hyman's remarks and seriously consider signing the petition to save Breuer's Central Library in Downtown Atlanta. Here's a sample from her essay:

"Tastes change with regard to the appearance of buildings as they do for every cycle of creative activity. Concrete architecture of the 1970s is not at this moment universally appreciated. But to remove a significant modernist monument — important in and for its time and still satisfactorily fulfilling its original function to serve the community — designed by a major architect of historical importance and world renown, would be a serious civic blunder in the cultural history of Atlanta." - Isabelle Hyman

 

Max Eternity is doing an admirable job but he needs fellows, he needs a throng. Would you join me by adding your name to the petition to save this building?

Please forward this email to any colleagues or friends whom you suspect may wish to support this issue.

All the best,

Susan Miller
Cleveland, Ohio
216.308.1622

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Max Eternity <maxeternity [at] hotmail [dot] com>
Date: Mon, Dec 22, 2008 at 3:08 PM
Subject: A Plea for Preservation: Breuer in Atlanta
To: maxeternity [at] hotmail [dot] com

Hello,

Thought you might like to know that I have had the good fortune of making much progress concerning my preservation efforts for The Central Library in Downtown Atlanta. Recently, I have been in regular contact with Dr. Isabelle Hyman, which has moved me to create a more international, scholarly site, which also serves the preservation cause, in a more sophisticated, academic tone. The new site works in tandem with the original site.

Dr. Hyman, Professor Emerita at New York University, has just recently wrote an exclusive essay for me, providing a first-hand, historically-based, plea for preservation. The document now serves as the introduction on the new site.

The new site is broken down in these basic categories:

Introduction

Letters of Support

Academic Commentary

An Online Petition

Relevant Bio(s)

Click here to visit the new Marcel Breuer site. As well, to this effort, I have made some new alliances across the US, one of whom is a woman (Susan Miller) that has done much toward preservation efforts in Ohio, writing on a rather large site there (realneo.us) which this past August, featured entry pertaining to Breuer and The Atlanta-Fulton Central Library. I contacted Susan in regards to said entry and she then requested that I become a blogger to that their site. I did, with my entry there being found here.

Dr. Hyman's (short) resume is attached herein.

As well, please read and sign the online petition by clicking here.

Remarks are most welcome, as are letters of support.

Wish you a wonderful holiday season.

Bests,

Max

Max Eternity
b a u h a u s e v o l u t i o n

 

Disrupt IT

RESPONSIBLILITY IS PART AND PARCEL OF JOURNALISM

Once one has experience in causing positive change, that experience asset becomes an ethical mandate to do better. 

In other words, if you have had any experience which you might call successful (saving a drowning victim, well read journalism), that experience puts you on an ethical hook:  if you know your s+IT, you have a magnified obligation to use it for public good.

overwhelmed with information

I know, I know... this is a lot of text! (there are some pictures here)

What appears to have been overlooked in this massing of information is the simple signing of the petition.

Please let your voice be heard in Atlanta, too.

It's easy - just go here and sign the petition.

I'm #219 and #220 on the petition

Somehow, I show up twice on the list of visible signatures on the Breuer petition. Laura McShane is #216. Go there.

  --TimFerris

Update on Atlanta"s Breuer

  I apologize for now catching the SIGN the petition in your first post.  I only realized yesterday that I have passed a beautiful historic house set back from the street on a route, I travel almost every day.  This is the sad thing.  We don't realize something is missing until it is gone.

What's happening to the Breuer in Atlanta?

Re: Update on Atlanta's Breuer

For those interested in following the Atlanta Breuer preservation effort, please visit either of these three websites:

www.centrallibraryatlanta.blogspot.com

www.marcelbreuer.wordpress.com

www.centralbranchlibrary.blogspot.com

- Max Eternity

congratulations to Atlantans - they can read Metropolis Mag

I'm sure that Max was astounded to see the petition gaining strength in the past few weeks. Thanks to all Northeast Ohioans who signed the petition to save Marcel Breuer's final work - the Atlanta Fulton County Public Library. If you haven't signed yet, click through in Max's post above to add your support.

Max had mentioned that an article was to appear in Metropolis Magazine and  just about the time it arrived in architect's and designer's mail boxes the petition burst into flame. Suddenly the sluggish sleepy eyed Atlantans woke up and began to see the Breuer and the library bond levy boondoggle in a new light.

So we're glad that Atlantans read Metropolis Magazine and that they got the message that this is a wonderful library well worth saving. But let's not stop with 300 signatures, let's get to 3,000 and then 300,000signatures of folks who realize that saving midcentury modernism is conservationist, environmentalist and a prudent way to spend tax dollars.

Thanks to Max Eternity for keeping the torch held high, for persevering in dark times when it was him alone. And thanks to the many folks tired from the fight to save Breuer's only skyscraper in Cleveland, Ohio who signed on to save another masterpiece. 

Please forward this news to anyone you know who cares about architecture, history, energy conservations, fiscal accountability and aesthetics. They may wish to sign on, too.