Superbowl City: A Guide to Atlanta's Architectural Gems

As Atlanta takes center-stage today for the 2019 Superbowl, we've compiled a list of some of the Southern City's architectural gems. The city, a hotspot for small and innovative practices today, punches well above its weight when it comes to modernist and post-modernist works in the US. Some of the city's most intriguing projects, after the break.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium Atlanta / HOK

Mercedes-Benz Stadium Atlanta / HOK. Image via HOK

The site of the 2019 Superbowl is impressive not just for its retractable roof, but for its environmental credentials. The stadium uses 47 percent less water than baseline standards due to its highly advanced stormwater management system, water-efficient fixtures, and conservation infrastructure. Edible landscaping and an urban garden promote local food production and culinary industry jobs.

Atlanta Central Library / Marcel Breuer

The Atlanta Central Library by Marcel Breuer, currently slated for replacement.. Image via Docomomo. ImageAtlanta Central Library / Marcel Breuer

Like so many of the Breuer's projects in the US, the fate of the Atlanta Central Library's was, for many years, a bit murky. The brutalist project was slated for demolition in 2016; lapses in maintenance had led to the deterioration and even collapse of portions of the building. The building was saved from this fate after efforts by local and national conservationists but is currently undergoing significant renovations that will keep the library closed until 2020.

National Center for Civil and Human Rights / HOK + The Freelon Group (Now part of Perkins+Will)

© Mark Herboth. ImageNational Center for Civil and Human Rights / HOK + The Freelon Group (Now part of Perkins+Will)

The National Center for Civil and Human Rights takes on a weight challenge: representing the turbulent (and often violent) activism of the Civil Rights Movement through built form. The building is full of emotion, rejecting the drily objective approach of many museums in favor of an experience that remains with the visitor. The building, completed in 2014, preceded a spate of civil rights-related projects in the US, including Adjaye Associates' National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC, MASS Design Group's Lynching Memorial in Montgomery AL, and the efforts of Paper Monuments in New Orleans, LA. 

Hyatt Regency / John Portman

Flickr user airbus777. ImageHyatt Regency / John Portman

John Portman sadly passed in 2017, but his legacy and impact on American architecture remain to this day. He is widely credited with popularizing the development of high-rise offices and hotels with multi-story interior atria. Perhaps no project better represents his approach than the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta, Portman's hometown. The soaring interior space of the Atlanta hotel has been repeated in countless hotels worldwide since.

High Museum of Art / Richard Meier with Renzo Piano expansion

High Museum of Art / Richard Meier and Associates. Image

Richard Meier's High Museum of Art is easily recognizable as a work of the most notorious members of the 'New York Five.' The sculptural building has been criticized for having "more brains than beauty": of 135,000 square feet of space, only 52,000 square feet can be used for exhibition. Completed in 1983, the museum was the last work completed by Meier before his Pritzker win in 1984. In 2005, Italian architect Renzo Piano added three new structures to the complex, effectively tripling the size of the museum.

Noguchi Playscape at Piedmont Park/ Isamu Noguchi

Noguchi Playscape at Piedmont Park / Isamu Noguchi. Image © Flickr user Wally Gobetz

The Japanese sculptor and designer Isamu Noguchi turned his eye to playgrounds in 1976, completing his famed playscape at Piedmont Park. The brightly-hued geometries of the play equipment have suffered the ravages of time, but the efforts of a local conservation group promise to return the playscape to its former ebullient glory. 

Cannon Chapel / Paul Rudolph

via Wikimedia. ImageCannon Chapel / Paul Rudolph

Paul Rudolph's Cannon Chapel at Emory University was not just a masterclass in modernist design, but a deeply personal project. Rudolph was the son of one of the Candler School of Theology's first graduates; the project was deeply heartfelt and meaningful. The building was consecrated in 1981 and has been a fixture of Emory campus life since then. 

191 Peachtree Tower / Philip Johnson

image via Wikimedia. Johnson's 191 Peachtree on right. . Image191 Peachtree / Philip Johnson

Completed in 1990, Johnson's Atlanta tower was for years the most desirable business address in the city. Changing tides in the late 90s left large portions of the tower empty; the tower is today nearly full. Topped by an architectural crown, the building is an excellent example of postmodernism in the southern city.

Alliance Theatre Renovation / Trahan Architects

Alliance Theatre Renovation / Trahan Architects. Image

Trahan's renovation of the Alliance Theatre blurs the typical hierarchical level distinction of theatres through the addition of a connecting and undulating wooden form. Seats are linked by cascading staircases and terraces that place the audience closer to the stage. 

College Football Hall of Fame / Tvsdesign

College Football Hall of Fame / Tvsdesign. Image © Shawn Brasfield

We'd be remiss not to mention the College Football Hall of Fame. The building, completed in 2014, includes not just exhibition and event space but also a 45-yard interior football field. Look carefully at the exhibits and you may even recognize the names of some of the players on the field today. 

About this author
Cite: Katherine Allen. "Superbowl City: A Guide to Atlanta's Architectural Gems" 03 Feb 2019. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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