Sunday, May 24, 2009

May 25th, the Anniversary of Central


May 25th: Central's 29th Anniversary

- The Atlanta-Fulton Central Public Library by Marcel Breuer -


- Wisdom Bridge sculpture by Richard Hunt -

May 25th marks the 29th anniversary of the Marcel Breuer designed Atlanta-Fulton Central Public Library’s dedication. From Ann Boutwell's "A Look Back" column in Atlanta Intown magazine:

Mayor Maynard Jackson, along with the Atlanta City Council and the Board of Trustees of the Atlanta Public Library, dedicated the new structure at One Margaret Mitchell Square. Architects Marcel Breuer and Hamilton Smith of Marcel Breuer Associates with Stevens and Wilkinson of Atlanta designed the building.

The building was originally commissioned by then Library Director, Carlton Rochell. Rochell had a special interest in Breuer’s work, and was known to be quite fond of New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, also designed by Breuer. From Isabelle Hyman’s book “Marcel Breuer: The Career and the Buildings” she writes:

The idea to seek an internationally famous architect for the new library was promoted by its board of directors and by the library’s director, Carton Rochell, who was particularly enthusiastic about Breuer’s Whitney Museum of American Art. Rochell and members of the board requested interviews with three architects in New York and visited two (Breuer and Paul Rudolph).

- The Whitney Museum of American Art -

One of the best works of Breuer’s late career, the Atlanta building is a departure from his standard library “box.” Instead, he reinvented the stepped profile, grand-massing, few windows and ”severe, hard-edged, geometric volumes,” as Hamilton Smith described them, of the Whitney Museum.

It should also be remembered that noted architect Carl Stein, who at one time worked for Breuer, is attributed with having made important contributions to the building’s site plan.

- The Atlanta-Fulton Central Public Library -

Nonetheless, the building does have its critics.

It has been more than a year now since Rob Pitts of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners announced his plans to demolish the building and sell the property to a private investor. That plan, supported by the current Library Director, John Szabo, was controversial from the start. It was, however, embraced by the Board and hastily attached to a very popular library bond referendum. And though the referendum was adopted in a public vote last November, Pitt's plan is still as unpopular as ever.

In the course of the ongoing preservation debate, with praise being lavished on the building by conservator Albert Albano of the Intermuseum Conservation Association, artist Max Eternity of Art Digital Magazine, architect Jon Buono of DOCOMOMO and Professor Barry Bergdoll, Chief Curator of Architecture at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) – Bergdoll having declared the building a “masterpiece” -- the building and plaza have received much public attention. The Atlanta-Journal Constitution newspaper has featured the library in several news articles, as has Atlanta’s Creative Loafing newspaper. As well on the national and international front, both Preservation Magazine and Metropolis Magazine have featured the library in their respective publications.

- Wisdom Bridge by Richard Hunt -

Still, however important the Breuer contribution is to Atlanta, there is yet another reason why the library's architectural site should remain intact. For one would be remiss not to acknowledge the site-specific, monumental sculpture created by famed American artist, Richard Hunt,. The stainless steel sculpture is entitled the “Wisdom Bridge.”

- Richard Hunt, American Sculpture (1935 - ) -

Like Breuer, Richard Hunt has had his share of firsts. In 1971, he became the first African-American artist to have a major solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. More recently, in 2008, the Sculpture Center in Cleveland, Ohio, exhibited a show of Hunt’s work. The exhibition was organized by Ann Albano, director of the center. Hunt is known for his lyrical compositions of metal in abstract form. His pieces tend to be sinewy and arabesque, while also retaining a certain degree of substance and heft. In Cleveland when asked about his work and process he said “when they're rendered in metal, the sources are synthesized into a metallic construction. What starts out as a leaf can become a flame." He went on to say “it's just like you learn a language -- you start to think in it," he said. "I think in metal. The ideas just come to me."

In April 2009, the International Sculpture Center honored Hunt with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Cleveland is a city with a long, complex past. And like many cities today, Cleveland is seeking to rebrand itself; carving out a fresh, new identity. Speaking to this, Hunt said “a lot of projects I'm doing are related to cities trying to renew themselves...feeling like art ought to be a part of it."

Sitting on the terraced forecourt of the Atlanta Breuer Library, the “Wisdom Bridge” sculpture which is a part of the Atlanta Public Art Legacy Collection, was commissioned by then Atlanta mayor, Maynard Jackson. Mayor Jackson, the great-grandson of slaves, became the first African-American mayor of Atlanta. He along with former mayor, Andrew Young – confidant to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and former Ambassador to the United Nations, appointed by President Jimmy Carter – are attributed with having elevated the appeal of Atlanta, transforming it into the capital city of what became known as the “New South.” In 2003 when Mayor Jackson died from a heart attack, Robert Cornwell of the UK’s Independent newspaper wrote:

Maynard Jackson was a giant in every sense of the word. Not just because of his boombox voice and his massive 6ft 3in, 21-stone frame that dominated every room he entered. He was a political titan as well, the first black mayor of a major Southern city, and a prime mover in the emergence of Atlanta in the 1970s and 1980s as one of the great metropolises of America.

- Mayor Maynard Jackson -

In 2004 Mayor Jackson was posthumously honored with an Atlanta Gas Light Shining Light Award. The award came with a purse of $10,000 which was donated to the Maynard H. Jackson Youth Foundation. Upon accepting the award, his widow Valerie Jackson said "This light so personifies Maynard's radiant soul…Maynard's light was a glow that took in everybody and everything around him." Ingrid Saunders Jones, a former member of Jackson's staff, called the gathering a reunion. And, when asked about Mayor Jackson’s legacy she said "we can't talk about the City of Atlanta without talking about Maynard Jackson. He gave voice to those who had no voice."

Learn more about Marcel Breuer here. Learn more about the "Wisdom Bridge" here.

Select images of works by American artist Richard Hunt can be seen below.

- Click Images to Follow Link(s) -

- Wisdom Bridge @ Breuer's Central Library - Atlanta, Ga. -

- Large Hybrid @ Hishorn Museum (D.C.) -

- I Have Been to the Mountaintop - Memphis, Tenn -

- Extended Hybrid @ LACMA - Los Angeles, Ca. -