High Museum of Art by Richard Meier, Atlanta

January 2, 2015

Architect: Richard Meier

Date / Location: 1983 Atlanta Georgia


The building is situated with a focal point directing towards the corner of two streets. Being 2 miles from downtown Atlanta, the building’s size is in accordance to the surrounding shorter buildings. The exterior includes a long ramp that extends to the street. The color is white; a signature style for Richard Meier. The building has an expansion in 2002 that Renzo Piano orchestrated. The addition nearly doubled the square footage. Piano’s addition is clearly different but harmonizes with Meier’s original plans. Piano’s addition is rectangular while the original parts of the building have a curvaceous structure. When approaching the building you enter a bright, airy atrium that is the focal point of the entire building. The general shape is squared with one curved corner that the main entrance is at. The building has a white façade as well as a white interior color throughout. The

Function:  The building functions as an art museum and cultural harbor of the city.

Materials / Methods:  Concrete, Steel

Historical Significance:

In 1926 Harriet Harwell Wilson High donated her family's mansion to be used as an art museum for the city of Atlanta. The space was eventually outgrown. In 1955 the city built a new brick building right beside the original mansion to accommodate the growing collection. As the city was growing, culturally, they needed a bigger, better museum. In 1979 the Coca-Cola Company decided to give a $7.5 million grant to construct a new art museum. The city decided to use Rich Meier’s post-modernist design to show the traditionally progressiveness of the city. In 1980 construction began, and was completed in 1983. In 2005 Renzo Piano was the lead architect for an expansion that nearly doubled the space. Since the initial construction, the building has won numerous awards. “In 1984 the American Institute of Architects (AIA) gave it the Honor Award, architecture's highest recognition for excellence in design. In 1991 the AIA cited the museum building as "one of the ten best works of American architecture of the 1980s," and in 2005 it was honored in a U.S. Postal Service stamp series, "Masterworks of Modern Architecture."” (Thompson)

How does the building reflect the spirit of the time and place for which it was built:

At the time of construction the city of Atlanta was progressing with culture. Being built 2 miles from Downtown, it forces people to expand using public transportation. The building also has a view of the downtown that gives the guests another exhibit in itself to admire. Atlanta was not “known” as a city that admires arts, but since it’s initial construction of the museum the city has steadily only grown in appreciation for art and culture. In 1962, 106 Georgian artist patrons died in an airplane related accident near Europe. This event drew some attention to the arts district of Atlanta that brought some more growth to the art humanity of the city.

Meaning / Ideas:

The entrance ramp extends the entire way to the street appealing as being inviting to the public. With Renzo Piano’s addition he wanted to use light as a material. The style was relatively new to the city. The new take on architecture for the city showed how they were also taking on a new, more apparent culture of the city. The curved glass atrium creates multiple frames, showcasing the city afar. The unique glass domes on the roof of parts of the museum prove his intentions.


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