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ironchapman

IC Visits Fairlie-Poplar

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Yep, a couple of weeks ago, I went to Atlanta to attempt to skate at Centennial Olympic Park for the second time. Unfortunately, I couldn't, for the second time, as it was closed for maintenance (the first time, it was just too @#$% cold). Instead of declaring the trip a total waste, I decided to set out on a trip to find Atlanta's not-quite-so-famous Flatiron. This, of course, took me to Fairlie-Poplar and Woodruff Park. This area of Atlanta is one of the few places in the city that could easily be mistaken for a place in NYC, Boston, San Francisco, or Chicago with all the street life and street level retail and vendors.

Enjoy! :)

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Atlanta's Flatiron!

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Pigeons' Paradise

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Flatiron Offices

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Base of the Flatiron

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Atlanta's Ironically Named Broad Street

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Arch

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Citizens & Southern (C&S) Bank Building

--My Grandmother used to work here!

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Street Corner

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Looking Towards 191 Peachtree

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Music! Dance! Theater! Film!

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Sixty Walton Building

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Centennial Tower

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Street Level Retail and Activity....In Atlanta!?! Surely You Jest.........

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what do you guys think? :)

Be on the lookout for my Atlanta at night thread. :)

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This area of Atlanta is one of the few places in the city that could easily be mistaken for a place in NYC, Boston, San Francisco, or Chicago with all the street life and street level retail and vendors.

Cool photos, IC!

Fairlie-Poplar looks good these days, but I've been surprised that I don't see many people out on the streets, at least on the weekends. Perhaps I shouldn't be comparing it to the 70's and 80's, but basically I usually just see a few dudes hanging out and the occasional pedestrian passing through. Does everybody go to the country on the weekends or something?

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Cool photos, IC!

Fairlie-Poplar looks good these days, but I've been surprised that I don't see many people out on the streets, at least on the weekends. Perhaps I shouldn't be comparing it to the 70's and 80's, but basically I usually just see a few dudes hanging out and the occasional pedestrian passing through. Does everybody go to the country on the weekends or something?

I don't know where they go, but the one particular day I was there, the streets were full of pedestrians. My Mom and I almost ran over someone! ( :o ) They were alright, though.

The fact that you can't make a right turn practically anywhere in the district is extremely annoying, though. :angry::angry:

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EDIT: Here's one from Broad Street that I forgot to add to the origianl post:

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I don't know where they go, but the one particular day I was there, the streets were full of pedestrians.

Okay, I was looking at your photos, which show only a handful of people. Down near the entrance to Underground you have a good many pedestrians coming in and out, but the rest of the city seems pretty desolate to me. It's still a far cry from what you'd encounter in NYC or Boston or the typical mall in Atlanta.

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Okay, I was looking at your photos, which show only a handful of people. Down near the entrance to Underground you have a good many pedestrians coming in and out, but the rest of the city seems pretty desolate to me. It's still a far cry from what you'd encounter in NYC or Boston or the typical mall in Atlanta.

Fairlie Street (I think) was still pretty active at the time. I think the fact that it was lunch hour may have had something to do with it, though.

As for where I compared it to NYC, Chicago, and the like, I guess I overstated myself. I was just so happy to see what streetlife I did there. I'll edit that part out of the post in a minute.

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Fairlie Street (I think) was still pretty active at the time. I think the fact that it was lunch hour may have had something to do with it, though.

As for where I compared it to NYC, Chicago, and the like, I guess I overstated myself. I was just so happy to see what streetlife I did there. I'll edit that part out of the post in a minute.

Heavens, don't change a word, IC!! I'm glad there are some people out, too. The cold probably kept some folks in, too.

Fairlie-Poplar looks great, but Atlanta is just a different kind of city than places like New York or Chicago. The streets actually have a good number of cars on them, and I think that's just Atlanta. People will get in their car to drive from one end of the mall to the other around here.

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Great pics IC. I love the few remnants of old Atlanta that still exist. I weep for the old Piedmont Hotel... and even for the Ansley (even though it suffered a really bad reno in the late 50s).

Most Atlantans these days have no clue that an old city is buried underneath Portman's garbage. And I'm not talking about "Underground".

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Most Atlantans these days have no clue that an old city is buried underneath Portman's garbage. And I'm not talking about "Underground".

I hear this about Portman from time to time, yet I never hear what it was he demolished. I think he only worked on about 8 blocks or so over a 30 year period, and I know that a lot of that area had been vacant or just parking lots for many years. (The period photographs in other threads show this pretty clearly).

It also seems to me that even what Portman may have torn down is barely a drop in the bucket compared to the vast areas of Atlanta that have been destroyed by fire, neglect, white flight, "urban renewal", the relocation of businesses to Midtown, Buckhead and the suburbs, freeway building, etc, etc. Although I'm no defender of Portman's architectural style (way too inward-focused, of course), he did at least put up buildings of commercial significance. The Mart buildings, the Peachtree Center, Marquis and SunTrust office towers, and his three large convention hotels probably did more to keep downtown alive during the 1960's-90's than any other development I can think of offhand.

Portman certainly could have done a far better job in creating streetscapes, but I don't think he deserves the rap for burying or destroying Atlanta.

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Much of what people dislike about John Portman's extensive foray in the built environment is simply the lack of street addressment. The merchandisemart is a prime example. Instead of activity and a street scape, there exists more often than not an urban wall to keep the "undesirables" out. Or, also frequent, is the placement of enormous service entrances along prime steet real estate. Anyone who has walked past the exhaust fans along Centennial Olympic Drive knows the consequences of this. The air those things move is overwhelming to pedestrians. Sure, those facilities require vast amounts of service dedicated space, but it could have certainly been handled better.

Another common lament in the academic community stems from the rampant use of skybridges. Growing up I always loved them, but after years of schooling in these areas (brainwashing?), I see now the argument against them. Take all the people moving in and around buildings with the bridges, and place them on the street, and the scene changes.

One final sore point for many, though this is of course in contention, is the use of atriums. It has been argued that John Portman was the first to introduce (reintroduce if you count historical housing styles) the atrium into the building as a major feature. I believe the Mariott Marquis was supposedly the first, and even included an indoor lake in its early days. At any rate, the argument is that the atrium removes people from the street and focuses a building inward.

What is more at issue than John Portman and his architectural choices is the nature of skyscraper development, especially in America, where the buildings are by all accounts enormous, completely out of scale with surrounding development, and altogether unable to create a sense of intimacy and connection available with smaller development, skyscraper or otherwise. It is not that Portman has buried downtown, but that a substantial amount of the development, which for all intents and purposes is permanant, has been built in such a way as to hinder street life, and has created an unrectifiable situation (short of large-scale renovation or complete teardown).

I certainly would not go so far as some of my professors and say he has destroyed Atlanta, but I might say that he has lowered some of the potential.

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I certainly would not go so far as some of my professors and say he has destroyed Atlanta, but I might say that he has lowered some of the potential.

Right, I agree with all those criticisms and they have been voiced -- often loudly and by many people -- almost since Portman got underway. To some extent, the lack of streetscape, at least on the Peachtree and Peachtree Center Avenue facades, and on some of the side streets, has been ameliorated over the years. Yet other areas still leave a lot to be desired.

Nonetheless, I still don't think Portman can be charged with "destroying", "ruining" or "tearing down" downtown Atlanta. Many other forces of vastly greater impact have been at work for decades. These include the factors I mentioned, such as white flight, the relocation of businesses to other parts of town, neglect, ill-conceived "urban renewal" projects, fires and vandalism, and the lack of interest among landowners and the city in keeping up older buildings. Any look at aerial photographs over the years will demonstrate that vast areas of downtown -- most of which are not even remotely connected with Portman's work around Peachtree Center -- have been laid to waste. Even the areas that Portman redeveloped were, to a large degree, abandoned, neglected or simply asphalt parking lots well before his plans got underway.

Again, while I'm a strong critic of Portman's architectural style, I will have to say that many other Atlanta architects and developers have been just as bad about turning their backs to the street. The massive areas around the Federal Center, for example, are literally a concrete fortress stretching over many blocks. Much the same is true of the huge developments around Phillips Arena, the Dome and the World Congress Center. The Bank of America Tower sits in the middle of a lawn, separated from the street by a driveway, and its rear and side facades are service entrances and parking decks. Even the new Aquarium presents a stark 60' concrete wall to the street. The list goes on and on.

Atlanta in general -- and not just one architect -- has turned its back on the street for decades and embraced the automobile. I can certainly understand the critique of Portman's work, but there is plenty of blame to go around. Hopefully we're all well aware of the consequences now and at least a conversation about improving the situation is underway.

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I have to say 191 Peachtree is completley pedestrian unfriendly! Walking down Peachtree and being greeted by those huge bronze (whatever they are) doors was enough to steer me away.

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Nonetheless, I still don't think Portman can be charged with "destroying", "ruining" or "tearing down" downtown Atlanta. Many other forces of vastly greater impact have been at work for decades.

I agree, and I admit that Portman is only the most visible of the developers who "tried to keep downtown alive in the 60's" and (we can all admit now) it was a desperate attempt. Perhaps the most disgraceful destruction of a historically significant structure was Union Station in the 70s, and Tom Cousins did that. Almost as galling was the attempt to demolish the Fox in '72, and Portman was behind that. Fortunately, the backlash was too much.

I realize that DT never really had a residential core, but it did have several grand hotels and retail establishments (e.g. the destructive retrofit of the exterior of Rich's for the Federal CH). In true Southern fashion, downtown was the place to go and be seen. With all the praise that the Georgian Terrace received when it was renovated in the early 90s, it makes me sad to think that there were even grander hotels that never survived: Fulton and Grady Hotels (demolished by Portman) and the absolutely beautiful Piedmont (replaced by the bland but very tall Equitable Building).

I've said it many times before that it was a mixed blessing that Atlanta's first big postwar boom occurred in the 60s. On one hand, it established the city as the most important in the South. On the other, we were the first to go through the destructive effects of sprawl (courtesy of the expressways) and an endless chain of ruthless attempts to revitalize our core city (each time making the place less attractive than before). In effect, Atlanta became an example to other cities of what not to do in so many respects.

I hope (and believe optimistically) that all of the really big mistakes are in the past, and we're looking forward now. I'm not averse to many of our new buildings. I'm just not a fan of anything John Portman has done (and I've tried many many times to give him his due).

Atlanta in general -- and not just one architect -- has turned its back on the street for decades and embraced the automobile. I can certainly understand the critique of Portman's work, but there is plenty of blame to go around. Hopefully we're all well aware of the consequences now and at least a conversation about improving the situation is underway.

You're right about Portman. Unfairly, he has become the poster child of bad development run rampant through Atlanta. He does deserve credit for his involvement in 'building' downtown. But regrettably, my gripes are with his style. Specifically, I think all of his downtown buildings are repulsively uninspiring. As such, they're reminiscent of the high-rise housing projects that proliferated during the 50s and 60s. Only, his projects are for office "dwellers". My secondary gripe is that he doesn't seem to have evolved during his career. His newest buildings are just as blandly atrocious as his earliest. Sure he had a cutting-edge concept with his atria, but he managed even to make that a cookie-cutter look. Now you can see the same things in the "big box" Embassy Suites. I give him props for the Marriott Marquis. But sadly, I think the Suntrust Building is simply ridiculous. Even that building turned away from (and above) the street. My four year old son drew a picture that looked a lot like it a few months ago. Unfortunately, I think Mr. Portman has been running on fumes for the last 30 years just to pull himself out of the bankruptcy he went through.

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Almost as galling was the attempt to demolish the Fox in '72, and Portman was behind that. Fortunately, the backlash was too much.

I don't remember Portman's involvement, although I know BellSouth and the City of Atlanta were pushing hard for it. They were very, very close to pulling the Fox down!

...the absolutely beautiful Piedmont (replaced by the bland but very tall Equitable Building).

Yes, I hate it that the Piedmont is gone. I'll have to admit, however, that I have a soft spot for the Equitable, mainly because I worked there for ten years. It's strongly reminiscent of other SOM buildings in Chicago and elsewhere, and I think that for a modern structure it has stood the test of time fairly well. It at least has some sense of itself and is not made out of concrete.

I was thinking about how we deal with older buildings, and to some degree it is a matter of perspective. When the Equitable went up in the mid-1960's, the Piedmont was roughly 60 years old. That's like us today looking back on a building that went up shortly after the end of World War II. Old, yes, but not really an antique. I know that when I worked downtown in the 1970's, I had the sense that many of the buildings were fairly old, but not that I was walking around in a priceless antique market. Most of the buildings were still in regular use, and we tended to look at them in terms of how functional they were, whether they were delapidated or needed renovation, whether the facades were dingy looking, and how much all this would cost.

I don't mean to imply that people had no sense of history, because in fact we did think and talk about it quite a lot. It's just that some of these things didn't seem that "historical" to us at that point in time. If you think about it, the Equitable Building itself is getting fairly close to the age of the Piedmont Hotel at the time it was torn down.

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Regarding Portman, I don't think I've ever heard anyone praise his style, except that in the early days folks were ga-ga over his big interior atriums. People would come downtown just to ride the elevators up and down in the Hyatt and the Peachtree Plaza. But honestly, there are so many buildings here by so many architects that just hurt my brain. I can't really put the dagger in him any more than I can many others.

The bottom line, in my opinion, is that the problems experienced by cities like Atlanta go way, way beyond matters of architectural style.

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Andrea, I appreciate your perspective. Not everything can be old.

Just curious, I wonder how far back you go in Atlanta (without asking your age). I'm 36, and I have vague memories of the city in the 70s. I'm actually fascinated by the development that occurred in the 50s and 60s (I'm not supposing that you're nearly that old). All I have is what my dad told me about it, and of course the rare photos from the Atlanta Historical Society.

No doubt, I have a better memory of the boom-redux of the 80s, but by that time, Atlanta was already on the way. I think the Olympics actually got us "there", or "we had arrived" as it were. With our so-called arrival, I think we had lost something in the process. I can't name it specifically, but it was perhaps a collective determination to show the rest of the country that we wouldn't stay a dark-horse in the race among major cities. In effect, I think we tried harder (to borrow a phrase).

Before the Olympics, I was in my late teens and early twenties, but I loved showing out-of-towners my growing city. Now, when anybody who doesn't already have a jaded opinion of Atlanta happens to come through town, he/she is fairly ho-hum about the sights of our city. I think part of this reaction is attributable to the high expectations that have been established for Atlanta in the rest of the country and world.

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I don't think these people are disappointed in the city, it's just not what they expect. Atlanta is nothing like the way it is portrayed in Gone with the Wind or even Designing Women.

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That Flatiron is really a gem and is rarely heard of. I heard it came BEFORE NY's more famous tower! Sure good thing it didn't fall to "urban renewal" :)

Indeed the Flatiron did! It's fiveyears older than NYC's! I also hear that the people behind the New York Flatiron modeled the NYC one partially after Atlanta's.

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That Flatiron is really a gem and is rarely heard of. I heard it came BEFORE NY's more famous tower! Sure good thing it didn't fall to "urban renewal" :)

For many years, Atlanta had another building very similar to the Flatiron and situated in like-fashion down Peachtree. I think it was called the Centennial Building. I guess it's a good thing we still have Flatiron.

By the way, the one in NYC is very impressive (yes, I like ours too). But the one in NYC is so tall and graceful. That shape lends itself ideally to the taller, thinner structure. I guess when it was built, people came from all over the tri-state area to gawk at it.

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I don't think these people are disappointed in the city, it's just not what they expect. Atlanta is nothing like the way it is portrayed in Gone with the Wind or even Designing Women.

As an outsider, I've always been interested in Atlanta. My sister moved to Acworth in 1983 and we went to see her in 1987. It was an experience for me, it was unlike any city I had been to. Acworth is typical suburbia, with garden apartment complexes, shopping centers, etc., but it was growing at warp speed even then. That impressed me as a small town boy. I was shocked that there could be so much construction. Her apartment complex was bigger than my whole town, and to me, Atlanta symbolized the exotic, because it was far away from me, and because it was "rising" as it was at the time. It was seen as a place to party in those days, too. I don't believe it when people say that Atlanta is dull or charmless. Because for me, when I think about it, I think about history, and yes, Gone With the Wind is a part of it's romance. No city can always remain the same, but to me, when I look at Ansley Park, Druid Hills, Inman Park, etc., I do still feel the romanitc history of the city. I'm not the only one, because I worked with a woman from New York city, and all she could tell me was "you know Atlanta was pretty." She spoke about it as a black woman, and that it was something akin to Heaven or something. All of my friends and people I know think it is a fun, hopping place, and my best friend is as in love with it's history as I am. The real Atlanta doesn't reside in those big office towers, however impressive they are visually, and they are. Keep your history alive, Atlanta, but don't stop trying to be more modern and cultured either.

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Fairlie Poplar and Auburn Ave. certainly bring back the past to me in Atlanta. One positive change that I've seen from past photos is the increase in tree cover and wider sidewalks on a number of streets. Atlanta really needs a less car centric core, for sure, but remember Atlanta grew up during the age of the automobile. At the time, that was considered the "way" it was going to be from now on, so Atlanta had to develop with it, and I don't think the car was all bad, but it's time for towns and cities to adapt to them in a positive way. I don't think the walking city will ever be back, but cities don't have to completely surrender every identifiable trait to an auto.

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Nice pics, I used to be in that area daily when I went to GSU (I had lots of classes in the Aderhold building when it first opened up).

Some pics from SSP w/ street level activity:

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Great photos, Labtec! I know people say Peachtree Center sucks for pedestrians, and it sort of does, but I always thought it had a pretty active street life.

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Great pics indeed, Labtec. Some awesome streetlife in them. This is what it looked like when I first arrived in the district. By the time I had gotten out to take pictures, the streets were much emptier. My guess is tht they all went back to work or something.

This is, by far, the most tangent filled photo thread I have ever posted! :wacko:

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