Daily thoughts by a guy that doesn't like to think deeply too often!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Another Atlanta Landmark Reduced to Rubble

The building at 615 Peachtree Street was imploded yesterday morning. It's hard to believe that it's gone. I was just in that building last month- delivering a catered breakfast to the staff of one of the offices.

Below is some info and history of the building:

Originally commissioned by First National Bank of Atlanta (later purchased by Wachovia), the building was designed by Smith & Smith Architects of Atlanta. Francis P. Smith, a student of the noted American architect Paul Cret (1876-1945), moved to Atlanta in 1909 to become the first chairman of Georgia Tech's newly established architecture department. He worked in that capacity until 1922 when he returned to private practice.
The next year he formed a partnership with established Atlanta architect R. S. Pringle. The partnership lasted until 1934, during which time Pringle & Smith designed several important buildings in Atlanta, including the Rhodes-Haverty Building (1928) and the William-Oliver Building (1930). Pringle retired in the 1930s, but Smith continued to practice independently. Smith's son, Henry H., followed his father's footsteps to the University of Pennsylvania, and after ending his military service in the 1950s, joined his father in practice.
Prior to 615 Peachtree, Francis had served as an architect to First National on numerous projects. The city’s widening of North Avenue, and subsequent narrowing of First National’s property at the intersection of Peachtree prompted the new commission. The client decided to raze an existing branch bank on site and develop the property for commercial office space.
According to Henry H. Smith, the design proposed by he and his father attempted to maximize rental space on the narrow site resulting from the roadwork. Their concept also utilized a passive solar design. The slab-like building's monumental east and west elevations are noticeably without windows. This design avoided the intense solar heat gain at those exposures, and instead provided glazing at only the south and north elevations. The majority of the office spaces were ideally configured for southern exposure.
The building was constructed by Daniel Construction Company and was reportedly mostly rented by the time of its opening. In interview, Henry recalled the circumstances influencing the unique choice of materials for the building's exterior.
Georgia Marble was chosen for the solid facades and other accents to complement First National Chairman Jim Robinson's stock holdings in the industry. But apparently Robinson never demanded the choice.
The curtain-wall for the south elevation was a natural choice in satisfying the space demands of the office market. Henry traveled to Canada to tour new installations of the still experimental building system. During this trip he witnessed the use of decorative metal panels within curtain-wall designs. Following the determination of a weather-resistant finish, Henry specified red panels within the building's facade design to contrast the uniform white marble panels on east and west elevations (the panels are currently painted grey). At the building's base, non-domestic blue-grey granite was used in conjunction with an elaborate installation of decorative metal sun screens.
The ground floor banking hall was finished with travertine floors, accented with a red grout. The building also included a radiant heat and cooling system that was novel for the time.
Today, Henry Smith regards the building as the most significant in his career. It was the last major project designed with his father before his death in 1970.
Calls to Cousins Office concerning plans for redevelopment plans for redevelopment of the site were not answered.
From the December 16-22 Atlanta Business Chronicle:
"Peachtree block to get face-lift" details Cousins Properties Inc. plans to "soon demolish the building [12-story Wachovia building] and neighboring garage to make way for a mixed-use project." Unfortunately the next paragraph describes the plans: "Exactly what the mix of uses will be, however, has not been decided."


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