Box 18, Folder 24, Document 1

http://allenarchive.iac.gatech.edu/originals/ahc_CAR_015_018_024_001.pdf

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Box 18, Folder 24, Document 1

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Official monthly publication of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce · Seventy-five cents
�Reprinted from Atlanta Magazine, March, 1967
�ATLANTA• VOLUME 6, NUMBER 11
ANATOMY OF A SUPERSCHOOL
The master plan for the stunning, split-level Georgia State CoJl ege of the
future is still largely o n the draw ing board, but n eed , logic, and vision are
solidl y in its corne r , a nd th e first steps have already b een taken.
Bv BRUCE GALPHIN
. \N ATLANTA ALDERMAN looked with a mixture of admiration
and doubt at the plans for the Georgia State Coll ege of the
futu re, sprawling over ten blocks in the heart of the city, handso me buildings connected by tree-lined p edestrian plazas
straddling the busy streets below. "Mr. Steiner," he asked, " do
yo u believe a ll this will ever be?"
His skepticism was appropriate. A few yea rs ago the school's
home was a converted six-story garage, and before that it
had occupied at least eight other sites in Atlanta under eight
different nam es. But to And rew Steiner, the Robert & Company
architect who has spent two years developing the handsome
and ambitious plan, th e answe r about its fulfi llment is an emphati c "yes."
I n fac t, to a degree few Atlantans realize, the transformat ion is well under way. Georgia State already occupies four
buildings; another is nearing completion ; three more already
have been fund ed and let to design contract. The Board of
Rege nts has endorsed the entire master pl an, and the city has
approved th e first two p edestrian bridges across D ecatur
S treet th at tangibly mark it as a sp li t-level ca mpus.
Th e multi-level, or "platform city," feature of State 's 1112.ster
is o! g r e at si g nifican ce iunc ti.o n a lly, a esth e t i c ally , a nd
svmholically.
Fu nctionall y, it's the devi ce that makes the whole scheme
"·o rk : how to transform a few city blocks criss-crossed by
hea\·il y trave lled streets into a campus for 25 ,000 students by
'lJ7'i · By confining through traffic, deliveries, service, uti li ties,
~nd parking to lower levels, the plan will permit a vehicl e-fr ee
upper level connecting fort y-four acres of campus.
T he aesthetics of the future campus depends heavily on the
platfo rm concept. Principall y, rising above city traffic will
, rrate a fee ling of unity. This will be emphasized by land" aping, notably a tree-lined prom enade above D eca tur Street
fro m the expressway to C ourtland. But the platform, combined with landscaping and judicious placement of th e bui ldings, will also allow di viding the campus into more intimate
areas : smaller plazas, places for sitting to read on a wa rm day
0r informa l gatherings, sites to display sculpture and other
wo rks of a rt.
As a sym bol, a platform campus is peculiarly appropr iate
IIJ Atl a nta , for downtown Atlanta itself is largely sp lit-level.
Ma ny newcomers ( and quite a few older hands) don 't realp\an
ize how much of wha t appears to be "street level" in the central city is really viaduct level. Few have explored the dusty
old Atlanta beneath today's busy streets, though recently there
have been suggestions of making it a tourist attraction. Even
before the turn of the century, Atlantans had been forc ed to
grapple with the fact of the city's sharp gradi ents and had
come to a solution similar to the one now proposed for
Georgia State. There are two main distinctions : Old Atlanta
sealed off its earl ier level from the light, whereas the Geo rgia State platform will be pierced to provide light and beauty of sight below; and ..even more important, older Atlanta
made the mistake of letting cars come upstairs.
Though in a sense Atlanta already is one, the platform
city is a hot item of innovation among civic designers around
the country. If implemented on schedule, the Georgi a State
complex would be a trai l-blazer. It's doubtful whether the
exam ple could be widely imitated on such a scale. For a fl at
city, th e cost could be staggering. But Atlanta's topography
is especiall y suitable. In the ·six or so blocks from Five Points
eastward to th e expressway, the altitude drops more than fifty
feet . Th e original ga rage building of Georgia State sits on
ground at l eas t t hi rty feet higher than the lowe r e nd of t h e
proposed camp us.
· Thus an artificially raised main cam pus level wou ld be consistent with what Atlanta already has don e to conquer its rolling terrain. It also wou ld complement the recently announced
com mercial p latform city planned to span th e rail road complex north and east of the State Capitol.
The Steiner p lan explai ns how the new pedestrian plaza
could be woven into the fabric of the surrounding city without any rough seams or sharp edges. The reason that so few
Atlantans rea lize how much of thei r downtown is artifi cially
raised is that there are comparatively few visible seams. They
can be seen from Central Avenue or Courtland Street, for
these streets cross the rai lroad gulch. And an even more dramati c view of how Atlanta raised itself up off its tracks can
be seen from the T echwood and Hunter Street viaducts, which
span the vast rail yards that probably wi ll be platformed
ove r in fu ture development of the city.
But for the most part, since buildings have been constructed
right up against the downtown viaducts with few openings to
th e old city below, the viaducting is not so obvious. Under
�• Georgia State College had occupied eight different homes before it moved to an old garage on I vy Street. No w it's permanently rooted in one of the m ost advantageous lo cations of any
urban university in America. The site photograph belo w suggests
State's future role: at the center of Atlanta's transportation (expressway at the left and bottom, rapid transit main station to be
nearby) , close to its financial he·art ( Five Points at upper right ) ,
adjacent to a major medical center (Grady Hospital at left center), and near Atlanta's government centers ( Capitol, County
Courthouse, and City Hall at top center) . Th e remarkable location adds validity to Andre w Steiner's proposal for an " urb an
extension" to hel/1 solve problems of cities of the futur e.
�,
th e Steiner plan, one wou ld not lose all sense of the natural
g rou nd level at Georgia State. The present streets would continu e to p rovide vehicular access to the campus, and th e
spans above would be pierced to admit light and views of
the ca mpus. T o avoid abrupt drops around the periphery of
the ca mpus, Mr. Steiner p roposes grad ual d ropping of the pedestria n level and extensive use of landscap ing. Further, he
suggests that the fut ure cam pus' high-rise buildi ngs - except
for the adm inistrative center which is the foca l point of the
entire plan - be placed on the outer edges, thus blending
in wi th the city's other tall structures, priva te a nd public.
High-rise buildings a re not ideal fo r heavily used classes.
Either an unreasonable a mount of space must be devoted to
elevators, or there is an intolerable delay fo r students rushing to class. Since the entire 1975 campus is designed so th at
th ere will be no more th an a ten-minute wa lk from a ny one
class to a ny other, the qu estion of bui lding heights raises a
problem . F or accommodating as many as 3 2 , 0 0 0 people (including fa culty and staff ) on a campus of less than fi fty acres
necessarily mea ns ve rti ca l expansion . Mr. Steiner solves
th e prob le m by keeping heavil y used classroom bui ldings relatively low; th e tall er stru ctu res wo uld be used for such ac tivities as adrninistration, research , a nd housing.
Georgia State President Noah L angd ale, Jr., with customary
enthusiasm an d verbal color declares tha t " the pla tform complex resembles th e raised plazas of th e classic city of Veni ce."
There is indeed , in addi tion to the modern elements, a fl avo r
of old E uropean capitals when monarchs had the power a nd
the money to raze the old and ugly and build whole new cities
in a centuri es-long riva lry to create th e j ewel of th e continent.
The p latfo rm ed Geo rgia State would have a uni ty and a sweep
tha t evokes well, maybe V eni ce or maybe Mr. Steiner's
na tive Vienn a .
Th e p la t form wo uld begin to the west of Courtla nd ; drop
slirrht ly below Courtland, wh ich itself is a viaduct ; rise bac k
up ; a nd then begin an uninterrupted sweep almost all the
way to the expressway. Thi s would be th e ma in axis of th e
new ca mpus. The minor axis, crossing at th e ad ministration
buildi ng, wo uld be a small er spine extending northeastwa rd
a long Piedmont to a point beyond the rear of the old Municipal Auditorium . D ecatu r, Piedm ont, and Butler all would
be bridged .
Beca use the nat ural g round level d ro ps ra pid ly towa rd
the east, there would be room fo r as ma ny as fou r laye rs of
pa rking below the plaza, an importa nt consideratio n, since
estim a tes fo r the 1975 demand run from a bout 4 ,400 to
8,750 spaces, dependin g on th e ava ilabil ity of ra pid tra nsit
and other public transporta tion .
On tb."' ~, lutt.ercd platform above, accord ing to the Steiner
phm,--'-'--\,a-ndscaped plazas are one of the most important uni fying elements of the campus and shou ld be designed to create
a ri ch and va ried environm ent, including intimate sea ting an d
rea ding a reas. Other imp orta nt pa rts of the la ndscape trea tment a re such elements as street furniture and the many
small details which can ma ke life on the ca mpus p leasant
and exciting. By street furniture we mean a ll th e obj ects tha t
furn ish our sidewalks, such as lighting sta nda rds, signs, baskets, benches, fl ower boxes and containers, vend ing m achines,
kiosks, a nd shelters fr om wind and rain. In som e of the open
spaces, book stalls, fl ower stalls, and even outdoor cafes a nd
small structures for sa le of so ft d rinks a nd sandwiches could
be an importa nt p art of the overall d esign." Hurt Park, the
only ma jor greenery that relieves the sta rkn ess of the present complex, would be drawn even more intim a tely to the
future ca mpus when the bl ock of Gilmer Street between the
park an d the college is closed.
In its expans ion, Geo rgia State is perfo rm ing the not-a t-allincidenta l job of urb a n renewa l. Most of th e existing ca mpus
space was acqu ired with federa l urban renewal assistance, a nd
college officia ls hop e to obtain even more of the futur e re-
The 1975 campus is designed
so that no classes are more than a
ten-minute walk apart.
1. Campus Plazas 2. A dministrative Center 3. Communications
Center an d Th eatre Arts 4. Central L ibrary Comp lex 5. Sparks
H all- Classrooms 6. Fine A rts Building- Classrooms 7. A rts
and S ciences - Classrooms 8. Schoo l of Business A dministration
9. Physical Education Building 10. S cience Center - Physical
Sciences 11 . M edical and Nu rsing Center 12. Future E xpansion
Area 13. Grady Hospital E xpansion 14. Stud ent A ctivities Com ,
plex 15. S pecial S tudies 16. Pri vate Development ( possible cooperative use) 17. High R ise S tudent Ho using 18. Grady Hospital
�The proposed expansion plan will
enable community and college to make
immense reciprocal contributions.
quirements through the same method. The college already has
swept aside some of the city's worst slums: rows of pawnshops, cheap hotels, rundown warehouses - areas which contributed heavily to the city's crim e rate.
But a valid question remains whether this is the wisest use
the city could make of the property. Since their conversion
from slums to office buildings, apa rtments, and motels,
other urba n renewal distri cts are now adding millions of dollars to Atlanta's tax base. \ ,Vhy p lace Georgia State in such a
potentially productive location? Few if a ny other major urban
colleges occupy so mu.c h space so close to the city's commercial heart. And Geo rgia Sta te h as moved befo re frequently. Since it was found ed in 19 13, it has occupied space
a t Geo rgia T ech, the Walton Building at Walton and Cone,
the Peachtree Arcade, an attic at Auburn and Pryor, 106¼
Forsyth Street, scattered offices donated by Atlanta businessmen, 223 v\Talton Street, 162 Luckie Street, and fin ally th e
garage on Ivy Street which is the taproot of th e present cam pus. It has been designated the Georgia T ec h Evening Schoo l
of Commerce, University System of Georgia Evening School.
University Extension Center, University System Center, Atlanta Extens ion Center, Georgia Evening College, Atlanta Division of the University of Georgia, a nd Georgia State College
of Business Administration .
In 1962, Atlanta city fathers m ade their basic commitm ent
to th e proposition tha t Georgia State has found a permanent
hom e. They designa ted · a n area of a little more than
two blocks as the " Geo rgia State Urban R edevelopment"
area, thus qua li fyin g it for federal assistance. The \i\1hite H ouse
a nnoun ced approva l fiv e months la ter, in reco rd time.
There is more than ample justification .for the ald erm en's
judgm ent. After all, express1rnys also remove huge tracts of
land from the tax d igest. ( The Memorial Interchange, for exam ple, occupies more ac reage than the Steiner pl an proposes
for the 1975 Georgia State campus. ) Yet expressways are
vital; the expenditures of land a re made. And it can be convincingly a rgued that a vital camp us in the midst of the city
ret urns fa r grea ter intangible va lues to Atlanta.
It is more th an just a question of meeting the growing demand fo r higher edu cation in Atlanta . It is more than a llo\\·ing students to work downtown while also attending college a n unqu es tioned asse t for the city. It is more th an convenience
for the Atlanta businessmen ( with a surprising number of advanced degrees ) who teach part-time. Given the nea r- comp lete
expressway system a nd rapid transit within a few yea rs, a
downtown Georgia State is within an hour's j ourn ey of about
half Georgia's population. It is I immedi ate ly adj acent to centers o f g ove rnm e nt, m edi cin e, comm e r ce, a nd fin a n ce. C o m-
munity a nd college can have im mense recipro cal contributions to make.
Jvlr. Steiner summarizes the potential as " urban exten ion"
- a highl y sophisti cated cousin of th e agricul tura l extension
• Platf arming is the key to solving space and traffic problems at
the Georgia State of 1975 and later. I t's a solution long used in
Atlanta, w hich has been rising on viaducts abo ve its railroad
tracks for almost a century. But at State there would be a diff erence : Th e platforms would be for people, and the cars would
stay below, where they w ould still receive daylight through perforations in the cover. Th e illustration at left ( abo ve) shows
how the perforations might look at the pedestrian level. The rendering below it shows how plat/ arming would affect t he vista of
a motorist. The overall view (right abo ve) shows such treatment
of Decatur Street. The lo cation's sharp dro poff from I vy S treet
to the expressway would allow increasing layers of parking and
service access, shown in the cross sections at right .
��cooperation of colleges and agribusiness that has achieved
such dramatic results in the past decades. The urban extension concept was suggested in the 1962 annual report of
the Ford Foundation. Says the Steiner master plan:
" There are many fragments of theory, observation, empirical
research, and practical tools cf application, sca ttered through
the rel ated fi elds and disciplines, which could make major
contributions to such a program .... Hum an ecology, physical
planning, and urban design are concerned with different aspects of the geographic-physical environment and its organization into cities and regions. Economics has well developed
macro and micro concepts which are every day proving their
practical value in regulating the American economy and which
are being extended to deal with international problems of finance and economic development.
" Political science, through techniques of interpersonal and
group dynamics, is aiding the constructive understanding and
control of the forces of social change. To all of these, the cultural interpretations of the creative arts and the mass media
of communications are making a vast contribution. The value
of mathematics, science, philosophic logic, and the computer
are too well recognized to bear elaboration, but their critical
and generalizing fun ctions must be built into any total conceptual frame."
Thus Georgia State, which already has established excellent
and reciprocal relationships with Atlanta's business community, in the future can be expected to expand its role to
include th e interests and needs of the entire com munity, viewing them with the integrated eye of all the academic disciplines rather than the narrower vistas of the math ematician,
sociologist, artist, etc., working alone.
What would be the dollar cost of the ambitious Steiner
plan? Obviously, it won 't come at bargain basement rates.
But considering the location of the complex and its scope, th e
estim ate is relatively modest: about $96 million for land and
buildings not already fund ed. And of co urse this does not
mean a cash outlay of that much by the Board of Regents
• The view from Edgewood Avenue, belo w, indicates how existing fa cilities might be utilized and how the j1latf arming could be
tap ered off and landscaped to avoid any shar/1 edges. Hurt Park,
at present the only gree nery around Georgia State, would remain
an important focal point. S f1arks Hall, right center, wo uld tie in
with future classroom buildings, and the old Municipal Auditorium, left center, also is included in th e master plan.
immediately or even over the next eight years. Some or all of
the buildings could be constructed under bond issues, and
many phases of th e expansion would qualify for various federal assistance grants.
Some eyebrows were raised when Mr. Steiner included the
present Atlanta Police Department headquarters in the overall
campus. The plan also includes Georgia State's ownership of
the old Municipal Auditorium. With the cooperation of the
city government, these should prove no major barricades to
the plan. A new auditorium and convention complex.. is being completed now on Piedmont between Forrest and Pine.
When the second phase - extension of the convention facilities across Pine - is accom plished a few years hence, the
city's need for the old auditorium will be at an end. Implementation of the Steiner plan would indeed require building
of new police headquarters elsewhere, but the present building
itself would not be razed . With some interior remodeling, it
would become an integral part of the new campus, surround ed at its second-floor level by the platform which would
be part of the principal pedestrian plaza of the future campus.
An expenditure that might cause greater controversy is the
setting aside of I per cent of the' total building budget for art.
The idea is well established in Europe. In Zurich , the art
allocation is Io per cent. But in the United States, few governm ent units have adopted the scheme for public buildings. Priva te developers have been bolder than the government
in this respect.
The Steiner plan is insistent on the point. And it's not talking merely abo ut paintings hung on interior walls. The unique
plaza campus, the report asserts, offers unusual opportunity
to create beauty, contribute to the status of art in th e
university system, and provide an outstanding example for
civic design. The master plan urges imm ediate developm ent
for a "systematic, comprehensive, and ambitious" plan for art
development and for appointment of an art ists' committee
with full power to pass on acquisitions and acceptance of
don ations.
Experience shows that it's a long trip from the drawing
boards of ambitious master plans to realization. But the
Steiner plan has overwhelming logic as well as beauty on its
side. It accommodates the projected student load . It makes
brilliant use of Atlanta's topography and the man-made delineations of rails and street patterns. Above all, it helps establish a clear definition of Georgia State's role in the future
of Atlanta and the state.
W

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