Monday, September 29, 2008

Coming Soon: Isabelle Hyman @ Georgia Tech


Isabelle Hyman Lecture: Marcel Breuer and The Downtown Library

DATE: October 28, 2008
TIME: 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
LOCATION: Georgia Tech Architecture Library
FEES: none

At a public lecture co-sponsored by the Georgia Chapter of DOCOMOMO and Georgia Tech College of Architecture, Isabelle Hyman will explore the 28-year-old Central Library of the Atlanta-Fulton County Library System designed by Marcel Breuer.

Hyman is Professor Emerita of the Department of Art History at New York University. An accomplished historian of art and architecture, she has published a number of works on Marcel Breuer, a preeminent figure of the modern movement.

Hyman was educated at Vassar College and Columbia, and received her PhD in Art History at the Institute of Fine Arts at NYU. Most recently, she received the Alice Davis Hitchcock Award for "most distinguished work of scholarship in the history of architecture" by the Society of Architectural Historians.


DOCOMOMO stands for DOcumentation and COnservation of buildings, sites and neighborhoods of the MOdern MOvement.

DOCOMOMO promotes the study, interpretation and protection of the architecture, landscape and urban design of the Modern Movement. It promotes the exchange of knowledge about this important legacy which extends from the planned city and the iconic monument to the house next door. DOCOMOMO is an international organization. Founded in 1988 in The Netherlands, today it has national chapters or working parties in 54 countries and over 2000 individual members. It is an important presence in conservation and in architectural culture, worldwide, working in partnership with other international organizations, national governments, and regional and national associations. Click here for DOCOMOMO International.

Visit the Georgia Chapter of DOCOMOMO at

Teri Nagel, College of Architecture
Contact Teri Nagel


Friday, September 26, 2008

Marcel Breuer: Architect of The Central Branch

Born in 1902 in Pecs, Hungary, Marcel Breuer, is remembered as one of the most influential architects and designers of the 20th Century. Early in life he developed an interest in art, which led him to Weimar, Germany where he studied and taught at the famed Bauhaus school. Once there he participated first as a student from 1920 til his graduation in 1924. Thereafter, he became a faculty member or "Bauhaus Master" from 1924 to 1928; by which time the school had relocated from Weimar to Dessau.

From the outset, Breuer had a clear understanding of the "form follows function" principle. To this, he embraced the concept of unit construction, and in 1925, with his innovative use of raw materials, Breuer was credited with being the first to use tubular steel in furniture; a now ubiquitous, modernist technique applied around the world. As well, Breuer was also one of the pioneers of minimalism.

In Europe, from 1928 to 1937, Breuer enjoyed a flourishing architectural practice. However, because of the outbreak of The Second World War, he made a decision to relocate in America. It was during this time when Harvard University offered him an Associate Professorship at it's School of Design. Simultaneously, many of his other colleagues were migrating to the U.S. including Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier and Bauhaus (faculty) colleagues Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe. At Harvard Breuer was joined by Gropius, who taught at the school as well. Breuer continued to teach at Harvard University until 1946. And in 1970 he received the only Honorary Doctorate in Architecture ever awarded by that school.

Throughout his illustrious career, Marcel Breuer was commissioned for numerous, monumental civic structures, with some of the more notable being The UNESCO World Headquarters (Paris), The Whitney Museum of American Art (NYC), The University of Massachusetts Campus Center in Amherst, the headquarters of The Departments of HUD and HEW in Washington D.C., St. John's Abbey (Minnesota) and The Atlanta-Fulton Central Branch Public Library (Atlanta). In addition to his civic commissions, Breuer also received many residential commissions, including The Wolfson House, Breuer House and The Frank House, which he created in collaboration with Walter Gropius.

A major Exhibition of Breuer's work was shown at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art in November 1972, and at Paris' Louvre Museum in the summer of 1974. More recently, in 2002 The Smithsonian Institution created an exhibition entitled Marcel Breuer: A Centennial Celebration

Marcel Breuer 1902-1981

AFPL Central Branch - Special Collections
Archives @ The Smithsonian Institution

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Whitney NYC: A Letter From John Stanley

Sent: Mon 9/22/08 2:31 PM

Dear Mr. Eternity:

Thank you for your thoughtful e-mail, which the Director's Office forwarded to me. As I hope you can understand, it is difficult for The Whitney to take an institutional stand, one way or another, on a subject that is in another city with issues and players that we cannot begin to know or understand. Having said that, however, as one who works with a Breuer building, and has had the privilege of working with many world-class architects over the years, I would like to send my personal hope that all possible uses might be examined and exhausted before this building is torn down.

As a frequent visitor to Atlanta, I can appreciate the desire for those there to try to preserve its architectural heritage. The sort of 60's concrete brutalism is much unloved, as I can attest having lived in Boston for a long time, witnessing the attacks on its Kallman, McKinnel City Hall building. Long term gain can sometimes be lost with short term thinking. I suspect at some point in the future this style architecture will be embraced for what it is, a raw, beautiful art form.

Best of luck in your quest. Regards,


John S. Stanley

Deputy Director

Whitney Museum of American Art

945 Madison Avenue

New York, NY 10021

212.671.8354 office

212.535.6186 fax

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Pimping The Public: Literary Bliss Or A Shotgun Wedding?

Since all the world now knows that this country was led into a trillion dollar war through a hijacked foreign policy of fear, lies and deception, are we really that shocked to experience more of the same at a local level? Yes, does it really come as a surprise that we Metro Atlantans now find ourselves being pigeon marched into submission by a group of greedy myopic public officials, with Commissioner Rob Pitt's and Library Director John Szabo dragging us down the isle while holding a $275M library bond 'shotgun' to our heads?


And though of course, a new war will not come out of this, still, second only to pimping and prostitution, it's the oldest trick in the book...a shotgun wedding. It starts with a misappropriation of sperm (sexual recklessness) a compulsive, selfish deed that then leads to unwanted pregnancy and a forced wedding. But of course, in this case, it's not some individual's metaphorical seed or sperm bank, it's a real live bank (roll) of $275 million dollars. And it's not an imaginary wedding of some giddy knocked-up girl to some freckle-faced, hormonal young man, it's the current, brutal reality of the public being hog-tied to the special-interest-wet-dream of two grossly egocentric, public officials who have absolutely no problem with lying and deceiving us all the way to the chapel...or in this case, the poorhouse.

Sounds outrageous, but do I exaggerate?

Well, if you think this scenario sounds scandalous, over-the-top, vulgar and horrifically grotesque, you better think again, because that's exactly what it is. For this, the November 4th Library Bond Referendum, is nothing short of a crucible to the soul of greater Atlanta's literary and architectural future. Pitts and Szabo knew that. Which is why, Pitts and Szabo exploited that. And in the weeks that have passed since Fulton County's once perfect Library Master Plan got transformed into a $275M legal deception of a pet project nightmare that can only be described as a financial Frankenstein. I have come to discover that I am not alone in my conflicted feelings about whether or not to allow myself to be hijacked and forced to support the now radically amended version of the original Library Master Plan; a plan which was originally designed to equally distribute money throughout the county, that now instead uses 30% of said funding to go directly toward new construction of yet another downtown library.


Now spending so much money, $84M, toward the construction of a new Central Branch library would be a good thing if it were something needed and asked for. But here's the thing, it's not needed and it wasn't asked for. Because anyone who'd been downtown in the last decade knows that we already have two massive public libraries already standing in the downtown area, the Marcel Breuer designed Central Branch Library and the civil rights inspired Auburn Avenue Research Library. Thus for reasons other than political profiteering, we do NOT need another library built in that area. It makes absolutely no sense. But the public be damned, because Pitts and Szabo decided that this is what they wanted (for their own socio-political careers?) and that that's what they'd manipulate us to get. And sure enough, it's stuck in our craw like a taco going down sideways.

Though if that were not enough, guess what. That $84M that I just mentioned, it doesn't buy us a whole library. It just gets our foot in the door. As we'd need more than $150M additionally (including the cost of land) to actually complete such a massive project, not to mention the laundry list of lingering questions that would still swirl around this completely ridiculous idea.

So make no mistake, we are being pimped. Pie is not falling from the sky. Osama Bush-Bin Laden has neither been caught nor impeached. And we Atlantans will not be getting the library system we asked for. Because in this high-wire walk of financial philandering, the public is the prey. It's a win/lose situation no matter how you slice it. Pitts and Szabo made sure of that. And as far as I can tell, the only real way out of this conundrum is to reject the referendum and expose Pitts and Szabo as the hideous frauds that they are.

I'd prefer not to advocate doing this, but these men fit the perfect description of wolves in sheep's' clothing. They have the public trust in their hand, but they have their own self will in their hearts. They have hijacked the democratic process. They have subverted the will of the people, and in turn they have perverted the outcome of the vote. Hence, instead of a vetted process of literary bliss, we are now stuck with a $275M last-minute, shotgun wedding, which appears to stave off the wolves, but ultimately leaves us economically anemic and civically deprived.

It's like something straight out of Karl Rove's playbook, cynicism at it's worst. But to this proposition I say no.

Hell no.

And a final word of advice to Rob Pitts and John Szabo. Do what's asked of you and serve the public honestly or find new work. For whether federal or local, we the people are still in power.