Marcel Breuer’s Last Building Faces Demolition

The last building that architect Marcel Breuer designed before his death—a Brutalist concrete structure that houses the Central Public Library in downtown Atlanta, Georgia—is under threat of demolition, reports Michael Kahn of ArtsATL.

Completed in 1980, the building received rave reviews after it opened its doors. Critics called the building “unique” and “magnificent.” Yet, former Fulton County commissioner Robb Pitts thinks that Breuer’s library looks more like a jail and said that Atlanta needs an “iconic” library that “will attract tourists and conventioneers.”

This is not the first time the building’s future has been in jeopardy. It was threatened in 2008 when a $275 million bond referendum was approved by 65 percent of voters. It included fixing up some libraries while closing others and called for the county to raise $50 million to replace the Breuer library with an updated construction. It was put on hold because of the economic recession, but has recently resurfaced.

The Architecture and Design Center has started a petition that urges the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System board of trustees to protect the historic structure and calls for the building to be renamed in honor of Breuer. One large concern is Atlanta’s history with preservation. Ironically, in order for the Breuer building to be constructed the city tore down the previous structure, which was the Carnegie Library—a classical Beaux-Arts building completed in 1912.

As of now, the building’s future remains uncertain. There have been talks about downsizing, demolishing, or preserving the building but updating it to a state-of-the-art facility. When transforming Breuer’s New York building from the Whitney Museum into the new extension of the Metropolitan Museum, the architect responsible for restoring the iconic structure, John H. Beyer, told the New York Times that he chose to respect Breuer’s original vision while modernizing it. “One of the most important parts of restoration is in deciding what not to do.”