Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Dr. Benjamin Flowers Reviews SITE UNSEEN for Burn Away

Site Unseen at Spruill: Exploring Atlanta’s Unbuilt Architecture

July 13, 2011
By Benjamin Flowers

Tim Frank, Cloudland Residence.
Photo by Dr. Benjamin Flowers.

The organizing premise behind Spruill Gallery's Site Unseen is straightforward enough: a show of unbuilt work from the last decade by 10 Atlanta-based firms and designers. What is less obvious is whether, on the whole or in part, you will leave the show lamenting the demise of these projects or relived that they were never built. I suspect most visitors will be both saddened and pleased after surveying the work on hand.

It is a truism, as the literature accompanying the show points out, that the victors write architectural history. City skylines, for better and often for worse, are defined by the built rather than the absent. Nevertheless, unbuilt projects occupy a special niche in architecture. Some fall into the category of “paper architecture”—projects never destined for construction due to various economic constraints, technological limitations, or social conventions. Then there are competition entries, fairly detailed projects that either just missed out on first place or came in dead last, you’ll never know just by looking. These are plentiful thanks to the seeming inability of some clients (particularly museums and other institutions) to pick an architect without first having a beauty contest. Finally, there are those buildings that client and architect both wished to see to completion, but, alas, a global financial meltdown intervened and cleaned everyone’s clock. You might consider this last sub-category paper architecture against its will.

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