ARCHITECTURE NOTEBOOK: A towering

Atlanta's skyline is growing greener and more
modern as well as grander

DATE: July 8, 2007
PUBLICATION: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (GA)
EDITION: Main; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
SECTION: Arts & Books

Like a teenager hitting puberty, Atlanta is growing up. Fast.

Reflecting the sort of urban renaissance occurring across the country,
cranes hover above building skeletons and half-clothed structures
clustered on Atlanta's multiple skylines. Since 2004, some 16 towers have
sprouted in downtown, Midtown and Buckhead, according to, a 10-year-old global forum on the topic. The site lists
more than 25 others under construction here, and 50-plus in the proposal

This new generation of towers promises to change more than the city's
skyline. As one might expect of an adolescent growth spurt, Atlanta is
filling out, too. Or maybe it's filling in. After years of emulating suburbs, the
city and its citizens are recognizing the virtues of density, mixed-use and
transit-oriented planning.

Buzzwords like "human scale" and "pedestrian -friendly" have become
realities, thanks in large part to zoning codes that mandate street-level
storefronts and the like. An exemplar of this change, Blueprint Midtown's
guidelines spawned the synergy of residential high-rises, cafes and shops,
and it's making the district a vibrant community.

Similarly, developers who have assembled large parcels are thinking in
terms of building coherent ensembles. When Barry Real Estate Cos.
President Chris Schoen invokes Rockefeller Center as the model for Allen
Plaza at the north end of downtown, it gives one hope that the reign of the
skyscraper as a lone object in the landscape -- the 1992 Bank of America
Tower, for example -- is over. Up the road, Cousins Properties' Terminus in
Buckhead will be a 9.9- acre village in its own right, and its curb appeal
should contribute to the vision of Peachtree Street as a promenade rather
than a thoroughfare.

The new construction is bringing more changes. Eco-responsibility, for
one. Energy-saving design and devices are becoming de rigueur. LEED
certification -- a rating system that is the national benchmark for high-
performance green buildings awarded by the nonprofit U.S. Green Building
Council -- is a badge of honor. Better design is another, as savvy clients
are demanding higher quality. Though cities like Chicago that have
traditionally been more architecturally sophisticated than Atlanta remain
so, we are beginning to see a new maturity. Sculptural forms, careful
proportions and textural richness characterize the best of the new crop.

And Atlanta is going mod. The majority of the city's new skyscrapers are
constructed of glass, steel and concrete, fashioned crisp and sleek.

There is an economical imperative behind this fashion. Curtain-wall
construction, which allows for larger, more open floor plates, offers tenants
flexibility they need in fast-changing times.

But psychology plays a role as well. Just as teenagers inevitably disdain
their parents' fashion choices, the masonry and historical ornament of the
1980s and '90s now seem so last generation.

The success of the concrete condos geared for a young demographic that
Novare Group introduced in Midtown solidified the notion that modernism
is hip.

This despite the fact that modernist architecture is almost certifiably
antique, and that its self-definition as the path to utopia is long discredited.

Still, there's something about its aesthetic that connotes looking forward. If
it is executed with the urbanity and sophistication we are beginning to see
here, and building owners continue to commit to sustainability, then we can
all look forward to the changes, both in Atlanta's skyline and on its streets.

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