Structure of the Week: Georgia-Pacific Center
Earlier this week, when members of Occupy Atlanta announced their intention to, Abbie Hoffman style, levitate the Georgia-Pacific Center, the notion struck me as charming — and not just because of its sixties-influenced kookiness. The sheer massiveness of the targeted building somehow made the notion even nuttier. Levitate the elegantly spired Bank of America Plaza? Maybe. Perform psychokinesis on the torpedo-smooth cylinder of the Westin Tower? Yeah, I could see that. But elevating the colossal modern ziggurat that dominates Atlanta's skyline? Even George Lucas would have a hard time with that particular special effect.
Before the Occupiers start griping at me again for not taking them seriously, yes, I realize that the tower was not selected as a target because of the unique challenges it presents to the laws of physics. The protestors' beef is that it houses Georgia-Pacific, the Atlanta-based wood and paper multinational that became a subsidiary of Koch Industries in 2005. Based in Kansas, Koch is owned by brothers Charles and David, zillionaire siblings known for Salinger-scale secretiveness — and for funding right-wing causes. Their dad, Fred, was a founder of the hyper-conservative John Birch Society. If you’re looking for a family to serve as the face of the 1% - the Kochs do quite nicely.
But if you’re looking for a building to relocate, whether by spiritual energy, earthquake, or earth-moving equipment, the Georgia-Pacific Center presents a challenge. Erected in 1982, the fifty-two story tower was designed by Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill and occupies more than 1.4 million square feet. It's sheathed in distinctively pink marble, quarried in Tate, Georgia, named for another corporate dynasty. Georgia marble baron Samuel Tate moved to the state in the 1830s and snatched up swaths of land in Pickens County and environs that turned out to contain rich veins of marble. After the Civil War, his sons Stephen and William expanded the family holdings. The pink Georgia marble was first discovered in the 1890s, and as it was quarried, the Tates set aside the finest specimens for themselves. They finally got around to using it in the 1920s, construction a 19,000 square-foot pink mansion, known as the Tate House. (Like Donald Trump, the Tates apparently lacked originality when it came to naming things.)
The Georgia-Pacific building was erected at the corner of Peachtree and Forsyth streets, the location of the old Loew’s Grand Theater, famously the venue for the 1939 Gone with the Wind premiere (not, as too many people mistakenly think, the fabulous Fox). Originally called the DeGive Opera House, the theater opened in 1893 and was remodeled in the 1930s to allow for better movie viewing. The theater went out of business in 1977, and the building was shuttered and designated a landmark, only to be destroyed by fire a year later. Construction on the Georgia-Pacific tower started in 1979. I've run across speculation that the short turn-around between the fire and groundbreaking on the corporate HQ was not coincidental, but have found nothing to substantiate those particular rumors. But wouldn't it be marvelous to learn that pyrokinesis was somehow involved?
The DeGive Opera House, early 1900s (note the brick paving on Peachtree Street), and in its waning days, 1967. Both photographs courtesy Special Collections, Georgia State University Library.
133 Peachtree Street, N.E., Atlanta 30303