A NEW OPERA HALL FOR ATLANTA

Project on the renovation of Marcel Breuer's Fulton Library

Atlanta, 2009

Student work, Georgia Tech Master 2

PROGRAM

In 2009, the question of the Fulton Library’s future was raised. Judged inadequate for the library’s needs, the city of Atlanta was considering demolishing it. In this studio, the choice was given to either keep the library giving it a new program,

or to demolish it and to plan a new library in its place.

A wooden model at the scale 1’=3/32’’ (1/128) of the existing library was created as a group work and later exposed at the Georgia Tech College of Architecture.

The rest of the work was individual : precedent studies on parts of Marcel Breuer’s work, individual observational thesis on the
existing library and final project.

INDIVIDUAL OBSERVATIONAL THESIS

My first approach to the building has been through the redrawing of its elevations. I have been sensitive to the outside of the building, the play on light and shadows, full and voids. But the richness of this building was lost in the inside. It looked like one of Eduardo Chillida’s sculptures from the outside, but none of its volumetric richness could be seen from the inside.

The play on full and voids, appearing in terms of light and shadow made me think of Anish Kapoor and his work on void, appearing as full: a hole seen from a certain point of view can appear as a full volume. Therefore my individual observational thesis consisted of making a mold of the building, and pouring plaster between that box and the building as to caster the outside form of it. What resulted was the void inside the building, and all the volumetric richness of the building could be seen from that void.

I then recreated drawings following the same principles.

Starting from my individual analysis thesis, only a public program could honor the building and take advantage of the newly created space: a museum or a theater. Atlanta only owns a few auditoriums or theaters. The city decided a few years ago to create one in Mid Town designed by Calatrava. Lacking a large enough budget, the project was aborted. On the other hand, Atlanta’s Opera is no longer in Atlanta but in Cobb, thirty minutes away from the city center. Therefore it seemed possible to use an existing building such as the Fulton Library located down-town Altanta, to make an urban opera hall.

 

A benefit of using an existing building is the ability to make use of the existing space, thus, the opera hall could not be like anyother one, it had to belong to Breuer’s building; to exist because of it.
The exercise was then to create a void within that void, while giving the opera hall all of its functionnal use.
The building is spread into two major spaces: the opera hall and the foyer. The wall that separates and links these two spaces uses the same volumetric vocabulary as the outside walls, yet it is used on both parts: on one hand, it is a circulation space which has views onto the lobby, and on the other hand, it forms balconies in the opera hall. All the technical spaces, storage, backstage, rehearsal rooms, dressing rooms etc. are located in the remaining spaces outside the two major empty spaces, with a respect to Breuer’s vocabulary, and on the two upper floors
which are lighted with roof courtyards.

 

Since the approach was to celebrate Breuer’s work on volume and facade composition, all exterior facades are preserved in their original form. From the constructive point of view, the original structure of steel columns and beams have been preserved except for inside the opera hall where the central columns have been removed. On top of the opera hall, major beams have been added to reinforce the two last floors.

Ground floor plan

Section on Foyer

Second floor plan

Section on Opera Hall

View on the Foyer