Atlanta Has Another Gifford Lecturer!

For the third time in 130 years, the Gifford Lecture will be given by an Atlantan. Emory philosopy professor Robert McCauley will give the lectures in 2020-2021 at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. He is the founding directory of Emory’s Center for Mind, Brain and Culture.

Previously, Atlanta was represented by Jürgen Moltmann in the mid-1980’s and by Lynne Rudder Baker in 2001.

This lecture series has produced some amazing work over the years. Standouts include

  • Hannah Arendt 1974 Life of the Mind (Willing is her masterpiece, in my opinion)
  • Karl Barth 1938 Knowledge and Service of God
  • Henri Bergson 1914 The Problem of Personality
  • William James 1902 Varieties of Religious Experience
  • Iris Murdoch 1982 Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals
  • Karl Niebuhr 1940 Nature and Destiny of Man
  • Martha Nussbaum 1992 A Theory of the Emotions
  • Carl Sagan 1985 Varieties of Scientific Experienc (a nice play on the William James classic)
  • Richard Sorabji 1996 Emotion and Peace of Mind
  • Arnold Toynbee 1953 An Historian’s Approach to Religion
  • Clement C.J. Webb 1918 God and Personality (a forgotten gem, you can find on )
  • Alfred North Whitehead 1928 Process and Reality

Looking forward to what he presents.
Here’s the official notice

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HENSE is so legit now

Oh, he had so many death-defying tags around town: rail bridges over The Connector, old warehouse roofs you could see from MARTA, etc. But now that he’s a “Real Artist” including the huge mural at 14th and Spring, he’s graduated to even doing work you can walk on…. if you happen to be in Sicily!

Looks very similar to the piece on 14th but that one had large sculptural elements for the black circles and one of them came off this summer landing in front of the Starbucks — luckily no one was injured! A nice write-up in ArtsATL today. Keep on truckin’, brother.

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The Atlanta Sound, circa 1969

I love this Billy Joe Royal album from right in the middle of the string of hits he recorded from fellow-Atlantan Joe South’s songwriting. Undisputed classics like “Hush, hush, thought I heard you callin’ my name”, “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden”, “Games People Play” and of course “Down in the Boondocks”. These were some strong tracks and the talent pool fed right into Atlanta Rhythm Section (detailed in the excellent new authorized band history ) and all the work Al Kooper did when he came down here from NYC (detailed in his autobiography ).

This is the back side of “Cherry Hill Park” (not a Joe South tune)

I like the little description

To be a part of the “Atlanta Sound” is to feel the warmth and sensitivity that’s always around you…. He has it and he shares it with you. He loves love, he loves life, and you come to believe it…. I think you’ll understand

Keep in mind, they only had another year or two before South spent 5 years in Maui getting his life back together. Anyways, there’s one definition of the “Atlanta Sound”.

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Ann Taylor Boutwell, a remembrance

One of my favorite local historians died in August. I first noticed Ann when the Intown Paper still was going by zip-code editions and I think I saw her first in 30308. Each month, she would do a run down of things that had happened that month throughout Atlanta’s history. She always dug up new things to share every year. I found out about all kinds of nooks and crannies from her writing.

Here’s a nice piece by the editor of the current version of Intown Paper

I don’t see a canonical way to find all of her articles on their site, hopefully they are not all “gone with the wind”. They would make a terrific source for a day-by-day desk calendar!

I took the liberty of copying a picture from there in case it disappears sometime

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Atlanta Airport keeps growing

Got to tour the airport grounds with Hannah Palmer, who’s new book Flight Path details the absorption of small towns like Mountain View. The house-by-house buyout through the early 1970’s cost some $350 million.

The town would be to the far right of this photo, the hotel over the gap in the fences is where the 1960’s space-age terminal sat and the Delta technical control building to the left might be future domestic gates.

As far as the business of the airport, concessions bring in about $600 million a year and parking $150. Parking decks are about to be drastically changed, but I didn’t realize a sizable chunk of them almost became the hold baggage screening facility until they realized they could just put it up against the main terminal where the long berm was just acting as a wearing surface. Constructed from 2004-2008, it’s just to the right of this shot that also shows the new canopy under construction

Innovations that fly under the radar (hah) like the lighting in the parking decks: You can imagine the maintenance of 5,000 light fixtures, a few years ago they had lighting companies fight it out for the longest lasting, brightest technology and ended up with the current LED system that only need to be touched every 5 years.

The Fifth Runway crossing I-285 is just a massive piece of infrastructure

As they reconstruct other runways and taxiways, they cut up the old surface like biscuits in a pan, and run the chunks over to temporary onsite cement plants to be broken up and reconstituted for the new surfaces. They finished one entire runway in 30 days a few years ago! Nothing goes to waste and they make the most of the space. To compare, DFW sits on 18,000 acres and ATL has less than 5,000 and operationally exceeds all of these physically larger airports.

Ms. Palmer also talked about a project to rejuvenate the headwaters of the Flint River with about 2 miles of its course in pipes. This granite outcroping is part of one basin

And to the left is a pipe where potentially the river could be restored to more of its natural course

More about this plan here but it could be something like the new Old Fourth Ward Park combined with the Clear Creek restoration north of Piedmont Park. Pretty exciting stuff!

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A bill from Olmsted for Druid Hills

The Library of Congress just released a clutch of Olmsted documents and there was a nice little Atlanta bit in there. I hoped for more, but this was nice.

LOC link

Joel Hurt had begun the buildout of Inman Park and was ready to start on his next project on a big chunk of land to the east, in what he was calling the Kirkwood Land Company.

While Olmsted was transforming the massive grounds of the Biltmore in North Carolina, he had made a first visit and in June 1892, before making a second visit requested a topographic map with five foot contours.

Obviously, Hurt wasn’t ready to begin development so soon, and the next year Olmsted provided a design bill which was promptly paid

Aparently “sun prints” are a way to transfer an image to a cloth-based medium. Then came a national economic crisis which jeopardized both projects, but Inman Park still slowly progressed. The next ten years saw little progress on Druid Hills and Hurt eventually sold the whole enterprise to Asa Candler who developed it with George Washington Adair and captured the high-end Atlanta housing market from Inman Park before it progressed north to Ansley Park and Buckhead. Olmsted’s designs have remained the basis of the Druid Hills neighborhood and the recently restored linear park along Ponce de Leon Avenue.

Thanks LOC and thanks to CityLab for the heads up

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Atlanta Tornado of 1975

March is a bad month for tornadoes in Atlanta and 1975 had one I’d never heard of. Sunday morning, March 24th a wicked little storm blew in from Alabama. Here are the spots it hit in Georgia

A funnel cloud touched down starting in Perry Homes and worked it’s way up near Georgia Tech touching down again south of Buford. Overall it did $56 million in damage and uprooted over 30,000 trees (I have been unable to find how many trees were impacted by the 2008 tornado). Three were killed, 152 injured. The governer’s mansion had moved from Ansley Park to Buckhead in 1967 and the new structure was heavily damaged which led to this storm being called the “Governor’s Tornado”.

Look who the city was trying to enlist to remediate the tree situation back in those days:

Greater Atlanta Nurserymen’s Association (no longer exists) and the American Society of Landscape Architects were both asked to help the city park department. Trees Atlanta certainly fits the bill better today!

Here’s a cool meteorological paper describing the storm and the science available at the time

From AMS August 1976

Be careful in Atlanta during March!

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Cool Ivan Allen archive

Just found a nice little archive of Ivan Allen related material at Georgia Tech. You can start here

Inside is a large PDF scan of a newsclipping scrapbook he kept in the 1970’s with all kinds of urban space related articles.

Just starting to dig through, but found these already:

As late as February 1976, they hadn’t decided if MARTA tracks on Peachtree ridge would be cut and cover or a tunnel!

Except for the necessity for very long escalators, I think they made the right choice. Many pages from an April 1976 issue of the short-lived weekly Atlanta Gazette:

Not really sure what Baldy is saying about Mayor Jackson here

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See the old Underground one more time

You have one last chance to see the old Underground before WRS really starts updating it. Deer Bear Wolf is doing a show in the old Dante’s space and parts of the main Underground area around the old Micks

Shows continue through the weekend

Here are some shots from the old Dante’s space

Here’s some shots from the main viaduct space

Don’t think any of that signage will still be around. It’s a fun show, worth your time. Here’s the dramatis personae

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How did Portman do it?

The recent passing of John Portman has led me to a lot of thinking about what parts of Atlanta he saved and what he could be said to have destroyed. Arguably, downtown would have completely turned into cement bunkers, surface lots with no pockets of life left at all. Extremely ambitious projects that dovetailed back and forth, re-inforcing one on the other were his strange gift: he thought the largest wholesaling trade center in the South would be good for business, but you need world-class hotels nearby and the Henry Grady, Piedmont and Dinkler hotels weren’t gonna cut it, so build the enormous Hyatt Regency across the street. Piggy back on that with another block of marts and another full block of a hotel, then another than another. Sure, there were some elevated pedestrian tubes but you could argue those were as much to protect visitors from the summer heat as anything else.

OK, that gives you a bunch of out of towners mingling with the law firms that still called downtown home. By the time those firms started migrating to midtown and Buckhead, downtown was a real place again. A different place, a place dominated by cars and one way streets but still a place.

I have mixed emotions about what he did, but some of the things he did were ambitious in strange and very urban ways. The compact Rockefeller Center that is Peachtree Center had the Midnight Sun theater and restaurant complex and tons of class A office space at a time when most of downtown was at best class B. Sure, the theater and restaurant both folded but they succeeded in just the idea that those things could be tried downtown. Polaris lasted for 40 years.

It still amuses me that his first commercial design ended up as downtown’s Playboy Club in the eighties.

But back to how he did it, he sold magazines from street to street downtown in the 1920’s when downtown was at its pedestrian and streetcar zenith. He knew the store fronts, he knew the owners, the mixes of types of businesses. Not just of any city, this city. That tells me I should accept he did things for as much of the right reasons as are possible. My first thought was that his knowledge of those property owners in the 20’s and 30’s might have helped him assemble all those little properties into entire block spanning behemouths, but by 1949, they were already kind of starting to get assembled on their own:

About the only full structure still standing is the Capital City Club just left of center, but a surprising number of the old buildings were already long-gone by the time he started assembling parcels of land he would need. So he was already looking at a thread-bare rug-of-a-city when he walked these streets in the late fifties. Here are those same four blocks today:

Rationalized, certainly, but the only surface lot left is the one owned by the Capital City Club. Can’t blame him for it! For the record, he was a life-long member of the club and I understand each year he would submit a proposal to purchase the club’s property and each year they would vote to not sell. He was a complicated guy, he was loyal to the city.

You hear people say he ruined Times Square with his Marriott, he ruined San Francisco with the Embarcadero, Detroit with Rennaissance Center. I just don’t know. When he visited the made-from-scratch, completely planned Brazilian capitol in 1960:

At that time in my life I’d never anticipated anything with the kind of excitement I had for this trip. Well, when I got to Brasilia, I was devastated. It was heartless, lifeless, cold. Everything my teachers had told me was crumbling. Over and over, I thought, ‘We don’t need new cities, we need old cities restructured in such a way that they respond to human needs.’ So I started thinking about how different parcels of land up and down Peachtree Street might work when developed on a master plan. I also started thinking about new forms for buildings. The Merchandise Mart was just a simple cube. There had to be something different.

I guess, I’ll take him at his word and be happy for what he was able to do.

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