The Atlanta History Center has an inherent responsibility to preserve and re-present Atlanta’s past, while anticipating the unknowable events and artifacts of the future. Atlanta is a work in progress, a relatively young city in the midst of forming itself. So it is with the current AHC: an amalgam of relatively new parts, also a “work in progress”.

We propose to reorganize the current plan, develop a new entry, and add new exhibition space on the north side. The intent of our project is to spatially unify the museum, anticipate future needs, and to strengthen its identity as a key civic institution of Atlanta.

Three new unifying architectural elements are proposed to transform the existing AHC: A monumental roof and undulating ceiling amalgamates the disparate interior spaces; a long transparent façade presents a new civic image of the museum; and a new addition fills in the western corner, “completing” and consolidating the various existing parts of the museum.

The roof is conceived as a city scaled, welcoming gesture, its broad overhang providing shade and shelter to the arriving visitor and blurring the boundary between inside and outside. The gently suspended, undulating underside forms a continuous sequence of fluid spaces from entry to overlook, choreographing the visitor’s movement through the museum. It floats above the existing roofs, allowing new light to enter through transoms and edge skylights.

The new façade presents an inviting transparency to the city. It touches the ground lightly, hovering under the roof overhang. The façade’s varying and layered transparency mediates the needs of the new exhibition space with the public exterior and nearby street traffic. The façade performs as a screen, partially overlapping the Olympic addition, drawing it into the composition, and masking the existing kitchen service entrance.

A new tall glazed entry punctuates the western end of the new AHC façade. To its right, the façade continues as a stone clad corner anchor, enclosing a double height lobby and open stair, leading to the lower educational wing. A stone plinth and exterior stair grounds the AHC and connects the visitor to the lower level entry terrace. An adjacent, verdant, canopied garden court is intended to flexibly serve as a pre-function space, education area and as part of the continuum between museum and gardens.”

The existing museum has its history and despite the temptation to “clean the slate” we approached the transformation with preservation in mind. We propose to keep the signature element of the original AHC, the Allen atrium, and given its ideal location and size, to transform it into the new bookstore and café. The problematic obstructed passage to the overlook is solved by moving the southwest stair. The moved stair also allows us to re-organize and enlarge the south foyer adding a new bar. With the new plan, pre-function activities can flow from the new grand entry lobby, down to the new lower lobby and south past the Allen atrium to the overlook.

The existing Story of Atlanta gallery is made more accessible and open with the addition of monumental transparent sliding panels. A new north gallery can be divided for rotating exhibits and acts as kind of showcase for the AHC. The existing rotating gallery is replaced by a 2,000 sq. ft. transparent gallery—either to extend the story of Atlanta Gallery or for a new exhibition. A new lower level education wing lobby and entry connects to the upper lobby by a grand stair and double height space. The education area itself consolidates the existing classrooms and entry area into 3 new classrooms. As an option for the future, a new 250 seat auditorium is proposed to enhance and centralize the educational facilities of the AHC.
Designed by Studio Providence, LLC., a partnership between 3sixØ Architecture and Friedrich St.Florian Architects.