Monday, May 19, 2008

The Importance of Saving the Crum & Forster

Contributed by Jonathan LaCrosse

Educational values

Routinely Georgia Tech Professors from the College of Architecture and members of the Institute of Classical Architecture and Classical America ask their students to study the building. As recently as May 17th Georgia Tech students, aspiring young architects, and Georgia Tech Alums conducted a sketching tour of the building. Conversely SCAD, which has a competing Architecture Program, has made great strides in the City of Atlanta, especially with their renovation of the Peters Mansion. As a GA Tech alum I find it hard to accept that a competing Architecture program was given the opportunity to renovate and restore the house of the very man who donated the land to create Georgia Tech. In other words, Georgia Tech should have been given the opportunity. If the Crum & Forster building were given over to the College of Architecture, it could then develop a viable alternative for the site, the College would thus gain some ground with its competition. Competition I might add, that is now in our very backyard.

Architectural and Historical Value

Inspired by Italian Renaissance details, the building combines such rare elements as a pulvinated brick frieze, monolithic limestone columns, and wrought iron grillage. The building is unique, eccentric and one of a kind. Architects, TVS & Associates incorporated references to this building when making material choices and height/scale decisions. While not protected it has for years been considered a contributing landmark by the City of Atlanta, the AIA, the Midtown Alliance, and the Atlanta Preservation Center, just to name a few. The Crum & Forster Building's architectural significance have been documented in significant publications: Atlanta Urban Design Commission's Atlanta Historic Resources Workbook (1981), Atlanta's Lasting Landmarks (1987), Lewis Edmund Crook, Jr. "A Twentieth-Century Traditionalist In The Deep South" (1984) and The American Institute of Architects Guide to Atlanta (1992).

The building was designed by Helme, Corbett, and Harrison Architects from New York, associated with Ivey and Crook Architects from Atlanta. It is an excellent example of a renowned world-class Architectural firm partnering with an Atlanta Architectural firm.

Ivey and Crook Architects of Atlanta:
Both Ivey and Crook were educated at Georgia Tech, and studied under the tutelage of premier architect and academic Francis Palmer Smith. This building is considered to be representative of the type of Beaux-Arts projects and student exercises of Francis Smith's architecture program. Ivey was instrumental in establishing Georgia Tech's College of Architecture and is credited as a "student founder" of the program. A program which celebrates its 100 year anniversary this year. Crook was equally renowned. The firm did such notable work as the Emory President's House, The Candler Library at Emory, the Olympia Building, the Andrews-Dunn House, as well as many
notable buildings across Atlanta and the Southeast.

Helme, Corbett, and Harrison Architects from New York
The firm is highly regarded and renowned, having produced many signature buildings in New York City. They were responsible for the Design of Rockefeller Center, one of the first urban mixed use projects in the country. Wallace Harrison is considered one the great American architects of the twentieth century. He would later go on to design such infamous buildings as the Trylon and Perisphere at the 1939 World's fair, LaGuardia Airport, the United Nations Headquarters, Lincoln Center, and the Nelson Rockefeller Empire State Plaza.

The Crum and Forster Building may be the only building in the South remaining from this firm.

It was constructed by Carr Construction Company. The formwork used for the concrete frame was well advanced and way before its time.

Urbanistic and Neighborhood value

To demolish the building would not be in keeping with the urbanistic values that have made Technology Square such a success. Doing so would also be a huge step backwards from all the progress that has been made on the 5th street improvements, and would be an embarrassment to the Institute and the College of Architecture.

The Original Blueprint Midtown/Midtown Alliance survey teams in partnership with the Georgia Tech College of Architecture, the Atlanta Preservation Center, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation and the City Atlanta Urban Design Commission surveyed the buildings in Midtown. The net results of that survey identified the Crum & Forster Building as one of 15 buildings recommended for local designation as a Landmark Building.

The Blueprint Midtown survey stated that retaining Midtown's unique "sense of place" was among their highest priorities, of which this building contributes to heavily. Demolition of existing resources for development of surface parking and/or land banking was a strategy that new Midtown zoning strongly aspired to avoid.

Sustainable and Environmental Value

To tear down a building of this quality and soundness subverts its potential for reuse or redevelopment at a time when heightened environmental consciousness and sustainability issues point to reuse not demolition. The implications of destroying and disposing of usable materials into a landfill is at complete odds with the sustainable movement. Furthermore, considering that Georgia Tech, through its programs and Colleges espouses and fosters concepts of sustainability, urbanism, and architecture it would be hypocritical for the Institute to warrant demolition over re-use.

Economic Value

Considering the level of refined details, quality of construction, hand-carved limestone trim, finely executed brick-work, custom-made bricks, custom wrought copper fascia and cornice, monolithic limestone columns, overscaled wrought iron grillage entryway and lantern, overscaled double hung sash windows, concrete frame, exterior load bearing masonry walls, clay tiled roof, etc. etc. One could easily attach a price of between 300 to 400 dollars a square foot. With reportedly 35,000 square feet of space the building would thus cost around $10,500,000 to $14,000,000 to completely rebuild from scratch. Aside from the stolen copper flashing (which could be claimed on an insurance policy and replaced).the building is in sound shape. Anyone who remembers the Biltmore or Georgian Terrace before they were renovated would consider this a dream building to renovate. Incidentally the time, energy, and money devoted to demolition costs could easily be diverted to upgrade the building, if even required (if kept as its original use, little upgrades per code would be necessary.) Numerous examples of appropriate adaptive re-use could be considered. In Washington D.C., for example, historic street facades are required to remain. Developers preserve the existing street presence while building completely new structures behind.

It is a win, win situation for all.


Anonymous said...

I see that my reasoned and logical comment against the demo of the building has been removed. I guess a logical and reasoned debate/commentary is not welcome here.

Bottom line, those that own the property should decide its fate. If you want to save it, raise some money and buy it. Seems like you should have enough people for that.

Anonymous said...

If the building is not for sale, which it is clearly not, then no amount of money offered will be enough to buy it from the owners. This blog is obviously for people who care about the building, so why don't you go post your opinion somewhere else.