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Re: “Atlanta needs a design director

Thanks for your comments Mason Hicks. Its nice to hear from someone in the business and it brings up the point that its developer's vision that ultimately drives the design of these projects.

Posted by Atlately on 07/07/2014 at 5:34 PM

Re: “Atlanta needs a design director

Maybe those Novare towers are an architectural let down but they are much better than the parking lots or empty fields full of weeds and broken asphalt that they used to be.

We're really just beginning the rebuilding of Atlanta and it is understandable that the first efforts will be timid and conformist like the Novare towers. They're not even that bad anyway. And besides that, Atlately is right that street level is what matters for a good city. The design of Viewpoint's street level was unforgivable and is a case study in how to kill a city block. Now they're rebuilding that part of the building.

And 13th-Streeter is right about San Francisco it is full of really ugly identical housing. That doesn't mean it isn't a great city. I challenge you to find any great city where every single building is a unique gem.

2 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by wss on 07/07/2014 at 5:29 PM

Re: “Atlanta needs a design director

Someone actually said, Atlanta could have world-class architecture and design?

Please. This is the same city that thought dancing pickup trucks would make for great Olympic theater.

Next thing you know, someone is going to be saying Atlanta could have a world class school system.

1 like, 0 dislikes
Posted by Just STOP. Just d@mn STOP! on 07/07/2014 at 5:24 PM

Re: “Atlanta needs a design director

Downtown Atlanta is bland as hell on many levels, and getting the city to get out of that mode of 70s modern construction OR complete corporate utilitarian design has been a problem. Like the article said, there is very little pre-WWII architecture left in the heart of the city, so charm and organic feeling will remain in short supply. Such a tragedy too, as there is a ton of exciting creative energy here.

LOVE the shout-out to ADAC by the way!

Posted by Kareem R on 07/07/2014 at 3:54 PM

Re: “Atlanta needs a design director

While I agree Atlanta could most certainly use guidance in it's overall design and architecture, I'm afraid we will never see piazzas and squares like they have in Europe. People like their cars way too much and so any available space becomes PARKING.

1 like, 0 dislikes
Posted by texhorns98 on 07/07/2014 at 10:51 AM

Re: “Atlanta needs a design director

The answer is simple - hand out copies of "A Pattern Language" to developers, apply their project to the text and check off where they are getting it right and where they are not. Create a score based on that and approval based on score threshold. Done.

2 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Ignatius J Reilly on 07/07/2014 at 10:42 AM

Re: “Atlanta needs a design director

"I thought that Fuqua guy was our deign director."

* rimshot *

1 like, 0 dislikes
Posted by oydave on 07/07/2014 at 10:06 AM

Re: “Atlanta needs a design director

I thought that Fuqua guy was our deign director.

3 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by chillax on 07/07/2014 at 9:54 AM

Re: “Atlanta needs a design director

Nice column Thomas,
Having worked as an architect in Atlanta for thirteen years, and having sometimes participated as a part of the problem, I can relate to this. That is because most of the follow-up comments from the readers are absolutely correct. However, I cannot say with any confidence that a Design Director would solve anything. What would be his mandate, who would select this individual or group; under what legal authority would they make decisions, and most importantly, how would these decisions stand up to legal challenge once someone doesn't like a handed down decision.
In the early nineties, Charlotte revised its zoning ordinance to create an overlay district for its CBD called UMUD, spoken "U-Mud" for Uptown Mixed-Use District. This overlay district was given its own approval staff and governing body for approving new development. The design requirements were quite prescriptive, and while some of my collegues were appauled by what they viewed as city intrusions in the design process, I applauded what they were trying to do. They were trying to make the place more liveable, walkable, and more street friendly with provisions which, among many other things, regulating the amount of and maximum length of blank wall could face the street, required that a certain percentage of street-level space be devoted to street-access retail, regardless if a market for such had been established; requiring that the architecture of the first three levels of the building be distinguishable from the rest of the building; sidewalk uniformity design and street tree requirements to encourage walkability and comfort, and provisions for a certain amont of seating be provided for a given square-footage of open spaces and that they be fronted with retail. I would later learn of these items as elements of New Urbanism.
However, Charlotte still suffers from bad architecture. I watched "Trademark" go up at 333 West trade Street, while I was responsible (partially holding my nose...) for the design of "Catalyst", a Novare project, a few block away. Its not that the developers do not know good design, their background on the subject is as astute as ours, but these buildings were, and I hear that they are again (I am no longer operating in the US...) being cranked out as fast as they can. Certain construction processes can save millions of dollars, and streamlined (cookie-cutter) designs can save months on a project. They know how to accomodate and meet to the letter of the sometimes seemingly arbitrary requirements of a Design Director and/or a zoning overlay district and still produce what they want to produce. And if a "starchitect" was brought in, the developers are quite adept at being able to wrap their hands around his pencil so that he designs what they want to build... Because, in the end, design is subjective, everyone has an opinion. I hope this doesn't come across as cynical, but their is no easy answer;
Cheers, Mason Hicks

2 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Mason Hicks on 07/06/2014 at 5:12 PM

Re: “Atlanta needs a design director

Nice column Thomas,
Having worked as an architect in Atlanta for thirteen years, and having sometimes participated as a part of the problem, I can relate to this. That is because most of the follow-up comments from the readers are absolutely correct. However, I cannot say with any confidence that a Design Director would solve anything. What would be his mandate, who would select this individual or group; under what legal authority would they make decisions, and most importantly, how would these decisions stand up to legal challenge once someone doesn't like a handed down decision.
In the early nineties, Charlotte revised its zoning ordinance to create an overlay district for its CBD called UMUD, spoken "U-Mud" for Uptown Mixed-Use District. This overlay district was given its own approval staff and governing body for approving new development. The design requirements were quite prescriptive, and while some of my collegues were appauled by what they viewed as city intrusions in the design process, I applauded what they were trying to do. They were trying to make the place more liveable, walkable, and more street friendly with provisions which, among many other things, regulating the amount of and maximum length of blank wall could face the street, required that a certain percentage of street-level space be devoted to street-access retail, regardless if a market for such had been established; requiring that the architecture of the first three levels of the building be distinguishable from the rest of the building; sidewalk uniformity design and street tree requirements to encourage walkability and comfort, and provisions for a certain amont of seating be provided for a given square-footage of open spaces and that they be fronted with retail. I would later learn of these items as elements of New Urbanism.
However, Charlotte still suffers from bad architecture. I watched "Trademark" go up at 333 West trade Street, while I was responsible (partially holding my nose...) for the design of "Catalyst", a Novare project, a few block away. Its not that the developers do not know good design, their background on the subject is as astute as ours, but these buildings were, and I hear that they are again (I am no longer operating in the US...) being cranked out as fast as they can. Certain construction processes can save millions of dollars, and streamlined (cookie-cutter) designs can save months on a project. They know how to accomodate and meet to the letter of the sometimes seemingly arbitrary requirements of a Design Director and/or a zoning overlay district and still produce what they want to produce. And if a "starchitect" was brought in, the developers are quite adept at being able to wrap their hands around his pencil so that he designs what they want to build... Because, in the end, design is subjective, everyone has an opinion. I hope this doesn't come across as cynical, but their is no easy answer.

7 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Mason Hicks on 07/06/2014 at 5:10 PM

Re: “Atlanta needs a design director

Arctk2011,

We've written about the ADC before. I think we might have been the first local outlet to do so.

http://clatl.com/atlanta/a-center-to-make-…

I know the development process can be complicated, burdensome, and risky. And a design director isn't the silver bullet to solving all the design problems or making developers' lives any easier. But it's one approach. And at least it got people discussing this issue.

3 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by ThomasWheatley on 07/05/2014 at 1:38 PM

Re: “Atlanta needs a design director

@allison: The architecture in San Francisco is not much better than Atlanta. Most of the high-rises look like they belong in Bogota or Mexico City and there are blocks and blocks of nothing but garage doors, due to the city's odd requirement for off-street parking spaces for homes in urban neighborhoods. Granted, the natural environment makes the bad architecture much easier to ignore.

7 likes, 2 dislikes
Posted by 13th-Streeter on 07/05/2014 at 12:01 AM

Re: “Atlanta needs a design director

Atlanta surely has its share of bland, repetitive buildings but does Atlanta really need a "Starchitect" to design every 20-story residential tower? Of course not! In the grand scheme of things these are background buildings and EVERY city has them. There will be (and already are) stand-outs within the cityscape. And we cannot so easily dismiss the increased cost of some architecture which may not be supported by the $price/SF of the local housing market.

The true failing of this recent wave of development is at the street-level. A perfect example is at Viewpoint (855 Peachtree). It is completely absurd to me that an extensive renovation had to be done on a building less than 10 years old. Even 12th & Midtown, IMO the best so far with regard the street level, is just OK as their architects seem to lack skill at designing engaging street levels of their buildings.

The street level is where the city really lives and there needs to be much more effort from developers and much more stringent design standards put into that facet of these projects without adding significant cost to the development. In many cases it may not add any cost at all. It just needs to be designed better.

And for goodness sake no more Novare BARE CONCRETE! That should be outlawed, punishable by public lashing.

6 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Atlately on 07/04/2014 at 4:09 PM

Re: “Atlanta needs a design director

"http://www.kunstler.com/Grunt_Atlanta%20To… This is one of my favorite critiques of Atlanta's failure to regulate design to any degree"

Ignatious J Reilly, you absolutely NAILED it with this, thanks!

1 like, 1 dislike
Posted by Alison R Schmitt on 07/04/2014 at 1:56 PM

Re: “Being transgender in Atlanta

Q is mising......................... What has happened to Q

LGBT ........... Questioning

The world wonders. Nimitz to Halsey, Jun 4-6 1942

Posted by GEORGE_BURDELL on 07/04/2014 at 12:09 PM

Re: “Atlanta needs a design director

Part of the problem is that we DO have design directors here in Atlanta. Ask any architect or developer about the gauntlet that must be run to actually get a project to the point where it is ready to build. Every random person that shows up for NPU review meetings gets to comment, the zoning review board gets to comment, and city off Atlanta planning department get to comment. To get these groups approval, you have to bow to their suggestions ...and their suggestions aren't "make it better, more creative" it's actually the opposite. Another layer of red tape with someone else's subjective opinion regarding aesthetics is not what Atlanta needs to make it better. It needs developers (with money) that have a real vision and the guts to give architects the freedom to do great work. There are several office here capable of doing astounding work, but they are typically seen as not much more than draftsmen hired to meet a developer's proforma and a bank's tally sheet.

2 likes, 2 dislikes
Posted by jjjfffmmm on 07/04/2014 at 12:55 AM

Re: “Atlanta needs a design director

I agree with Nathan Koskovich as he pointed out: it has to do a lot with planning. Until Atlanta amends it's archaic, obsolete, and tired planning and zoning requirements not much can be done to catalyze the market for better projects. And that is what needs to happen - the market needs to change and developers simply cannot make/force the market change.

Financing is challenging when it comes to developments - don't believe some yahoo (on here or other forums) who will probably rebut that banks are handing out money left and right- because in the real estate industry that's simply false. Novare has banked his developments on a product that can be multiplied to efficiency - it works for the financers, it works for the developers, it works for the demand- but that's just in today's market/economy. It might take a couple more years and a couple more Skyhouses before the market starts to push back but the course that's been going isn't going to last forever.

There are a ton of factors that also are involved in how things can/should change in Atlanta, but to bring it down to the basics of needing a design director speaks volumes of how uninformed Creative Loafing is on how projects are developed. It's also a scary thought because more bureaucracy is the last thing we need in this city-especially one that is charged with overseeing a very subjective field.

Yes - we enjoy the dialogue being opened and challenged in a more public way, but it's not as simple as hiring a design director to become the "Deus_ex_machina" for Atlanta development.

Nathan Koskovich is doing a great job with leading the Architecture and Design Center - (notice that it's not solely branded to Atlanta). I hope to see Creative Loafing as a positive outlet and champion for how the ADC can become a staple for Atlanta's future.

3 likes, 3 dislikes
Posted by arctk2011 on 07/03/2014 at 8:27 PM

Re: “Atlanta needs a design director

BTW-- Atlanta's UDC districts-- while preserving historical fabric-- serve to discourage and prevent good contemporary or creative design-- This kind of regulation is not the answer--

1 like, 1 dislike
Posted by vx on 07/03/2014 at 5:39 PM

Re: “Atlanta needs a design director

Excellent Article-- Thanks--
But a 'design' committee is probably not a very good answer (who would serve on it?)-- raising awareness is a better route to take-- As uneven as this new generation of buildings is-- it's better than the last-- 811 Peachtree is very good, for instance (lets hope it gets build and its example followed) and the Mack Scogin, Merrill Elam designed development across from the High is quite alright. Midtown's retail requirements have made for a greatly improved pedestrian environment-- We really are moving in a better direction-- however slowly and haltingly--

3 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by vx on 07/03/2014 at 5:35 PM

Re: “Atlanta needs a design director

I truly loathe bad architecture...and we are up to our armpits in it.

But in no way do I want some design commissar or czar or board or anything like that that you have to pass muster with.

And "truth to power?" Oh please....

2 likes, 4 dislikes
Posted by oydave on 07/03/2014 at 5:18 PM

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