An international architecture publication sends a big kiss to the “new” Atlanta

This being a day all about love, it’s time to relay some (mostly) positive vibes for Atlanta’s physical evolution over the past few years that go through the international publication ARCHITECT magazine.

Billed as a leading resource for architecture and the building industry, with a focus on significant architectural projects around the world, the magazine sent columnist Aaron Betsky (director of the School of Architecture and Design of Virginia Tech) in Atlanta for an article published this month. .

Titled “The New Atlanta Is Old,” the take on Betsky’s Critic’s Notebook might surprise industry buffs who perceive “the crystal city at the heart of the American Southeast’s renaissance” — as the writer puts it — as a collection of John Portman skyscrapers hemmed in by a moat of congested highways and big-box strip malls.

Adaptive reuse projects merge with new construction along the BeltLine’s Eastside Trail. Shutterstock

Following a recent visit to Atlanta, Betsky nods to coastal metropolises from Boston to San Francisco that have repurposed warehouse districts and transportation hubs for decades, while also mentioning surges of Similar adaptive reuse underway in places like Denver and, yes, Des Moines. But in a city known for “the sprawling towers of … Peachtree Street” and its sprawl, Betsky posits, the revival of once worn and abandoned industrial buildings is “particularly remarkable.”

The article opens with the prose equivalent of a kiss – a chamber of commerce’s dream: “To get a sense of the transformation of the American city from a gleaming downtown surrounded by a collection of neighborhoods and points of interest increasingly focused on renovation, reuse and reimagining – go to Atlanta.

What follows is an analytical exploration, indeed a dissection down to the level of “selectively stripped stucco,” of adaptive reuse pioneer Westside Provisions District and Eastside titan Ponce City Market, both projects by Jamestown Properties, and later d ‘Atlanta BeltLine. (The Ponce City market is summed up as a “heroic renovation,” all things considered.) By highlighting two landmark success stories from either side of Midtown, the article only scratches the surface of recent and up-to-date ventures. coming from adaptive reuse in Atlanta that could be coerced, if not, to some extent, altruistic. (We won’t knock them for calling it “The Ponce City Market” or for implying that the BeltLine is a great effort to “copy” Manhattan’s High Line.) But as always, hearing the opinion of an informed outsider can be instructive and helpful.

To that end, Betsky’s take doesn’t shy away from Atlanta warts, some of which are caused by the very hailed drafts.


Westside Supply District

The “traffic jams” and “really ugly upscale apartment buildings” around the Westside Provisions District have not gone unnoticed; ditto the new construction along the BeltLine’s Eastside Trail “so big and ugly that Westside Provisions’ additions look dainty and good in comparison,” as the reviewer put it, without naming names.

The most significant criticism, however, is aimed at the gentrification — aka “hipification” — that the two markets have accelerated, if not caused, in areas that are no longer affordable to low-income people, Betsky writes. According to him, so many secluded upscale multi-family communities and gigantic parking lots don’t help.

Large-scale renovations in now-popular locations “become the 21st-century equivalent of downtown Atlanta and Peachtree: fortresses for the privileged in which architecture signs and guarantees the enjoyment of class life. higher,” writes Betsky. “What I would like to see is a way to apply the techniques that architects and developers have learned in such projects to achieve the kind of facilities that we need much more than another West Elm or another martini bar. First and foremost would be affordable housing, along with all the community services and employment opportunities that come with what should be at the heart of our revitalized urban areas.

This is food for thought, Atlanta. And certainly more nutritious than a box of chocolates.

• New Atlanta is old (ARCHITECT magazine)

• Coverage: adaptive reuse projects around the city (Urbanize Atlanta)

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