Vernacular Modernism

Good buildings are adaptable

Ben Marcin, Untitled (Twenty Office Buildings). 2010–14, archival pigment print. 75 × 87". Courtesy of C. Grimaldis Gallery.

25 Park Place. Atlanta, GA.
56 Norfield Road. Weston, CT.
378 Sixth Avenue. New York, NY.

25 Park Place is a twenty-eight-story skyscraper in downtown Atlanta, constructed in 1971 by an architecture firm named Carson, Lundin & Shaw. It’s the kind of building that might flash on an early-’80s cop show, during the montage that lets you know that the cops are headed downtown.

The color of its cast concrete echoes the gray Southern limestone of Atlanta’s oldest standing skyscraper, an 1897 building a few blocks away, which indicates that 25 Park Place knows where it is. But because it doesn’t imitate that precursor beyond its colorbecause it’s not itself made of limestone or styled with the neoclassical columns and entablatures of its neighborit knows when it is, too.

The cast-concrete panels that serve as mullions between 25 Park Place’s floor-to-ceiling windows form deep vertical finsalmost as deep as the windows are wide. These fins and panels help hold the building up, shade the glass from the sun, and frame the views from inside. For those walking or driving past, the fins offer another kind of reward: when you see the building from an angle, it looks solid and opaque; when you see it straight on, it looks surprisingly transparent. This visual effect is a gift to the streetscape, to every moving eye.

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