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Archive for Sunday, February 13, 2005

Architect, developers want orchestra hall to stand out

February 13, 2005

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— An 18-story structure with moveable wings fashioned like an angel would make the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's new hall a heavenly standout among the boxy skyscrapers that make up Atlanta's skyline.

The proposed design by world-renown architect Santiago Calatrava would outshine the Georgia Capitol's gold dome, a giant Coca-Cola sign, and the twinkling lights of the city's office buildings at night, developers say. They want it to draw tourists as well as concertgoers, and serve as an architectural landmark and a postcard image.

Civic officials hope the symphony center will become Atlanta's signature, much like the Space Needle in Seattle, Sydney's Opera House or the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

"The potential to become ... a symbol of the city is for sure there," Calatrava said. "It appears like a small jewel in my mind, surrounded by those very tall buildings."

Calatrava, who creates sculptural surfaces and unusual spaces, designed the steel-and-glass-roofed Olympic Stadium in Greece, the site of the 2004 Games' opening and closing ceremonies and gold-medal soccer match. He also is designing the new World Trade Center transportation hub in New York.

The Spanish-born architect and engineer planned to formally unveil his design for the Atlanta hall to Gov. Sonny Perdue and others at a reception Wednesday.

An artist rendering of his preliminary designs show the hall rising from the base of skyscrapers with sweeping vertical lines in the city's Midtown neighborhood, just north of the downtown district. Curving arches fly over the top of the center, which is capped with delicate wings. Calatrava has likened the design to a phoenix -- a longheld symbol of the city relating to its rise after the destruction of the Civil War.

The building easily could become a trademark for the city, said Robert Craig, professor of architecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

"I'm sure it will be.

When you are dealing with forms that are that distinctive and idiosyncratic, it tends to take on a kind of signature quality," Craig said. "Atlanta is literally the same age as the city of Chicago, but if you compare the two cities architecturally, we don't compare. But we will start to take on an increasing international character by continuing to raise the level of excellence in terms of the city's architecture."

The $300 million Symphony Center project will redevelop a 6.5-acre section in the heart of Atlanta. Besides a 2,000-seat concert hall, it will include a plaza for festivals, similar to urban spaces such as Rockefeller Center in New York, Calatrava said. Construction is expected to begin in 2008 and take up to five years.

"We're working not just on the symphony center but also on an urban project," said Allison Vulgamore, president and managing director of the orchestra. "It makes a larger, more gracious statement for Atlanta."

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