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Atlanta, Georgia, United States

In the sprawling urban metropolis of Atlanta, Georgia, the Atlanta-Fulton Central Public Library rises eight stories. The cube-shaped, neutral-toned cement façade embodies the modern style of the library’s architect, Marcel Breuer. Completed in 1980, 11 years after having been originally commissioned, Atlanta-Fulton exhibits the modernist tendencies of Bauhaus design, eschewing excessive ornamentation while promoting asymmetrical designs that offer plentiful and unique interior space. It is designed in what is colloquially known as the Brutalist style, derived from the French term “betón brut,” meaning “raw concrete.”

Inside the steel-framed modernist monolith, enormous staircases wind their way up the central corridor, expanding the open floor plan and flooding the library with natural light from above. Outside, the weighty composition of Richard Hunt’s 1991 stainless steel sculpture, The Wisdom Bridge, reflects many of the architectural characteristics Breuer employed in the library.

In November 2008, legislation was passed to direct public funds to the construction of a more contemporary library space, a decision that would likely see the destruction of Breuer’s final work. The potential plight of this building echoes that of many modern structures, particularly those of the Brutalist period, as preservationists and planners seek to ensure their functionality and relevance in the changing urban context.