Wholly uninspiring

  • Follow Editorials

The Augusta-Richmond County Historical Preservation Commission rightly put its foot down last Tuesday on the proposed design for the badly needed new library.

Then on Thursday the commission inexplicably lifted that foot up and backed off -- much too far, much too easily.

What a horrible shame. The historic preservation commission failed to live up to its duty to be a guardian of the city's invaluable historic trademark. They let us all down.

And after one preservation commission member had called the library's modern design "severe and brutal."

In its mediated compromise with the library's architects, the commission has allowed a wholly uninspiring modern-style building that eschews the classical architecture that makes this such a beautiful and timeless city on the old Savannah. Instead, it was enough for the commission that the bricks on the new library be closer in hue to those of surrounding buildings.

A change of color? That's it? Hardly a legacy to leave to future generations.

In going with the latest fashion, officials will find that fashions fade rather quickly. In not too many years, the library won't seem modern; it will appear hopelessly dated.

How can a historic preservation commission worth its salt be content to just get by with having the library look a little more like surrounding buildings? Libraries are special institutions, and Augusta is a special city, and people ought to be able to walk into a library in this venerable old city feeling that they've just entered a building where something extraordinary takes place. Not a building that looks somewhat like the place next door.

Look no farther than the next county over. When Columbia County built its new library, it borrowed splendid Georgian and Greek Revival architectural features from the Columbia County Judicial Center. With its white columns and brick exteriors, both buildings complement each other, and the interiors are thoroughly modern and efficient. And Columbia County residents still have not stopped raving about their new library.

So why can't that be done in Augusta? Georgian and Greek Revival are among the 10 architectural styles found near the library. Victorian and Second Empire styles look to be present, too. There are so many creative approaches designers can take with this project -- giving the city a library with a striking, historically reverent exterior, and an inviting, comfortable and modern interior.

The quick mediation likely was prompted by the circumstances surrounding a $2 million state grant. The deal was that the state would bestow the grant on the library if the building is operating by June 2010.

That's letting the tail wag the dog. Forty years from now, folks won't care about a $2 million grant, but will wish their library weren't so dated and out of place.

Junk this design and start over.

Comments (25) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
christian134
1
Points
christian134 05/05/08 - 06:00 am
0
0
It reminds me of a really

It reminds me of a really ugly prison of sorts....cold and severe...Augusta really sometimes I wish you could surprise me with your decisions...It would be a departure from the usual...:-)

justus4
101
Points
justus4 05/05/08 - 06:30 am
0
0
Quoting the article, "Augusta
Unpublished

Quoting the article, "Augusta is a special city" well, that is certainly true in more ways than one. Ha! This project has been a total failure, so who is the project manager? Where is the money already spent? Who got it? Those questions need answering, then get rid of those individuals & agencies and then get a competent manager, and not someone who is special.

patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 05/05/08 - 07:08 am
0
0
No matter the design, it'll

No matter the design, it'll be dated 40 years down the road. My question is "Will it have a flat roof that will leak from day one until the building is torn down?"

dashiel
176
Points
dashiel 05/05/08 - 07:11 am
0
0
Mediocrity in, mediocrity

Mediocrity in, mediocrity out.

Riverman1
84249
Points
Riverman1 05/05/08 - 07:21 am
0
0
City buildings should set the

City buildings should set the architectural theme of a city. Augusta is original with its centuries old southern houses. What if Charleston had decided to go modern instead of preserving its heritage? Would it be the world class tourist destination it is today? That building is a disgrace to thinking people.

paulwheeler
124
Points
paulwheeler 05/05/08 - 07:29 am
0
0
You are correct. The new

You are correct. The new library is so uninspiring it looks like one of the buidings downtown that Billy Morris built, such as the Morris Museum of Art. What does that ugly thing match? For this paper to ridicule the architectural designs of someone else? That is truly comical.
It is not an unattractive building. Whiners such as the Chronicle need to just be quiet and let something finally happen in this town.

Riverman1
84249
Points
Riverman1 05/05/08 - 07:42 am
0
0
If I were going to criticize

If I were going to criticize a building, I don't think I would pick a nonprofit one that tens of thousands of visitors enjoy such as the Morris Museum of Art. That building didn't cost the county anything. It is a magnanimous gift to the people.

paulwheeler
124
Points
paulwheeler 05/05/08 - 08:02 am
0
0
Riverman1, The Morris Museum

Riverman1, The Morris Museum of Art didn't cost the taxpayers anything? I guess I'm thinking of another buidling, I thought the Morris Museum of Art didn't cost Billy Morris anything.

Bizarro
13
Points
Bizarro 05/05/08 - 08:09 am
0
0
Augusta has never taken

Augusta has never taken advantage of its historic heritage nor ever had an architectural theme. Even Valdosta Georgia has an hispanic-italian like theme with many terracotta tile roofs, etc. Augusta is an ugly city-reminds me of Albany or Macon.

NotyourDadsBuick
1
Points
NotyourDadsBuick 05/05/08 - 09:53 am
0
0
Most of Augusta is a dump.

Most of Augusta is a dump. Why worry about the facade of the library when the rest of downtown looks the way it does. It'll fit in better. Nevermind the fact that most Augustans read and think at a third grade level so I doubt there will be many visitors to the library anyway.

Vitruvius
0
Points
Vitruvius 05/05/08 - 11:03 am
0
0
I agree that the historical

I agree that the historical preservation commission must "be a guardian of the city's invaluable historic trademark." But to suggest that the only way to do this is by replicating history with new buildings is simply short sighted. I encourage the Chronicle to examine the manner in which European cities build in their old city centers, the way most American cities respect their past while building for its unique present and future, and specifically for the manner in which Charleston, SC has begun to view new construction in the "Old City." It is enlightening to study the manner in which contemporary (current) architecture responds to its context in a sensitive, progressive way rather than simply applying historical tricks in hopes that it looks old. As American society continues to evolve, current architecture is also a part of "history." It is far better that a design accurately respond to its unique restraints (site, budget, use, context) than to use gimmickry to recall another era. Building in an older style requires a serious budgetary premium and a commitment to fully respect the style in order to prevent what happened next to the beautiful old federal court building.

johnsmith
9
Points
johnsmith 05/05/08 - 11:34 am
0
0
patty, I'm with you. How

patty, I'm with you. How about we get a new building that doesn't leak, does look like it belongs in Augusta, and STILL meets the grant deadline???

Riverman1
84249
Points
Riverman1 05/05/08 - 11:49 am
0
0
I know Charleston very well.

I know Charleston very well. The Historic Preservation Society working with the Charleston Architectural Review Board protect the character of historic Charleston beyond anything we can imagine. They will not allow buildings that are too big or in anyway don't fit in with the historic character of the city. A new hotel is being considered for King St and it will look like it was built centuries previously. I can also tell you that until the mid 70's, Charleston's downtown area was very bad. The popularity in Charleston is a relatively recent occurrence and the preservation of the historic buildings and character is greatly responsible.

imdstuf
10
Points
imdstuf 05/05/08 - 01:13 pm
0
0
The editorial just show that

The editorial just show that old people want to run this city, and keep the city itself old. Augusta will not get bigger, better businesses, attract young people to live here, etc if it looks like its stuck in a time warp. Some historical buildings are nice for ambiance, but everything should not be old fashioned looking. That is just silly thinking. Ask young up and comers is that what they want.

JohnnyYuma
0
Points
JohnnyYuma 05/05/08 - 01:39 pm
0
0
The library is a non-profit

The library is a non-profit organization that most of you writing in never visit. There are hundreds of buildings downtown with flat roofs that don't leak and that is where all the HVAC equipment goes.Doesn't match with what: Port Royal,the Marriott or the Federal Bankruptcy Courthouse. Yeah Augusta's architecture would be great had we not burned it down too many times.I think they are just tring to build something, after all its what on the inside that counts and thats why they want the 2 million from the state so they can furnish the inside.Hurry before the Commissioners wake up.After all it's ayear behind already and everybody wants to start all over and spent even more taxpayers money.And by the way how much money has the newspaper or Biily nonated to the Library.

MartinezWest Augusta
2
Points
MartinezWest Augusta 05/05/08 - 02:22 pm
0
0
The evans chronicle always

The evans chronicle always wants to bash augusta. Just because billy morris isn't making any money off the library. Evans chronicle just worry about columbia county. Leave augusta out of your mouth. You always have to have stupid articles like this. Augusta should be proud we just got more grant money. Which means atlanta is not getting everything. There are alot of new projects going up downtown. Library, watermark condos, new hotel, whites building, tee center, judicial center, and multi-use stadium facility. We have gotten 30 million for the st. sebastian way downtown. And 2 million for the library in state grants. But yet a negative article. I hope the metro spirit knocks this old republican newspaper from its monopoly. And its funny davidson ,and ar johnson are in richmond county. But someone said people in RC read on a third grade level. Columbia and aiken county have 4 times as many trailer parks as richmond. So if richmond has a third grade reading level. Those counties must have pre-k or 1st grade reading level.

cutty101
0
Points
cutty101 05/05/08 - 02:37 pm
0
0
The Historical Society steps

The Historical Society steps in at the last minute to voice their complaints. What were they waiting for a personal invitation to the planning meetings? I guess they were offended and pouting and refused to call the library director or just show up at a damn meeting. Everyone else in the community knew that a new library was being built. Next time someone needs to remind Swint to send out invitations and make sure finger sandwiches are served.

chetongueek
0
Points
chetongueek 05/05/08 - 02:47 pm
0
0
Across the street from the

Across the street from the proposed new library sits the Federal Courthouse, one of the most beautiful buildings in Augusta, and guess what? It has a pitched roof. News flash! The Greeks discovered that water runs down hill several thousand years ago. Are pitched roofs one of the "historical tricks" that Vitruvius is referring to? Great contemporary buildings don't aspire to "look old", but they aren't afraid to embrace lessons learned over the centuries either. Perhaps it is easier for architects to get noticed and feed their egos with flat-roofed modernist regurgitation, but cities who aspire to greatness hold their public buildings to higher standards. Was it out of arrogance or ignorance that the Library waited until the drawings were complete to ask for design approval while holding the threat of losing $2 million over the HPC's heads?

feralboy
0
Points
feralboy 05/05/08 - 03:09 pm
0
0
Yes, the problem with Augusta

Yes, the problem with Augusta is that the library will look dated in 40 years. Nicely done, Chronicle. It look some pretty potent blinders to look past so many actual problems and come up with such an inveterately snot-nosed concern to yap about. Inconsistant with downtown's "classical" architecture? Might you mean the super-villain's fortress atop the Southern Finance building? Or should we more appropriately mimic the architecture of the tattoo parlors and girlie bars? Exactly WHAT tradition is it that we're stepping on? Augusta has got to be the most assiduously mongrelized amalgam of nothing special ever put together, and I'm not just talking about the appearance of the place. You know what - this editorial is like the proprieter of a junkyard who thinks that if he rejects a particular piece of junk he's not a junkman; he's an antiques dealer.

Vitruvius
0
Points
Vitruvius 05/05/08 - 03:39 pm
0
0
Certainly, the federal

Certainly, the federal courthouse is one of the most beautiful buildings in America. What is applicable to this discussion, I believe, is the incredibly poor building nearby that attempted to incorporate similar historical components and did not have the budgetary freedom nor the design commitment to develop the necessary detailing to make it an appropriate neighbor. A pitched roof is certainly there, perhaps to tie in to the historical context, perhaps so that it leaked less, but it is wholly inappropriate. It takes an incredible amount of money to build buildings of the caliber of the Federal Courthouse. Rarely, in the modern world, is a construction budget for a municipal building capable of accomodating this level of detail (because tax dollars are the primary funding mechanism). The courthouse speaks to a time in "history" in which this building was appropriate for the city of Augusta. Every building represents the response to balance cost, functionality and aesthetics. The library is no exception.

gnx
7
Points
gnx 05/05/08 - 05:01 pm
0
0
I don't know where everyone

I don't know where everyone is getting the idea that the new library will look dated in 40 years - the design looks dated NOW. It's butt ugly and reminds me of something my children would have built with their Star Wars Lego set. There's nothing inspiring about this design and it doesn't matter if the Historical Preservation Society waited until the last minute or not to put in their two cents. Whoever approved this for construction needs a seriously large boot in the kiester.

Riverman1
84249
Points
Riverman1 05/05/08 - 05:08 pm
0
0
If nothing else, we have

If nothing else, we have learned that the Historic Preservation Committee should become involved from the very beginning when designs are solicited.

JohnnyYuma
0
Points
JohnnyYuma 05/05/08 - 05:12 pm
0
0
If you actually go look at

If you actually go look at the old Post Office building(Federal Courthouse not the new plain Bankruptcy Building)it has a flat roof with its HVAC equipment on top.

dani
12
Points
dani 05/05/08 - 09:34 pm
0
0
What has happened to

What has happened to originality?

Bizarro
13
Points
Bizarro 05/05/08 - 10:39 pm
0
0
Remember when people had

Remember when people had taste, and remember when you had craftsmen instead of talking to Pedro the foreman and boss for building your new home-he just started yesterday before that he was pickin peaches but he speaks a little english. No offense to any hispanics-like Clint Eastwood says "even worms gotta eat".

toppergem
125
Points
toppergem 05/06/08 - 03:46 am
0
0
Leave it to you Bizarro, if

Leave it to you Bizarro, if you aren't being negative about blacks, you are riding the backs of some other minority. Now it's snide comments about hispanics. When will it end? Oh, I forgot, you are what you are!

Back to Top

Top headlines

Former Augusta VA director paid $76k to retire after death investigation launched

Under the terms of the contract, Rebecca Wiley agreed to dismiss any allegations against the VA of wrongful or unlawful conduct on the condition the agency pays her $76,006 to retire, restores 238 ...
Search Augusta jobs