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Atlanta architects’ ingenious courthouse designs

I happened upon Atlanta architects Merrill Elam and Mack Scogin treating their staff to an al fresco lunch at Table 1280 in the Woodruff Arts Center last week. They were celebrating the completion of the working drawings for their U.S. Courthouse in Austin, Texas, and the federal stimulus money that will fund the construction.

The stimulus money will be well-spent. The building is ingeniously planned — check out the firm’s animation — in a 3-D jigsaw formation to accommodate the high-ceilinged courtrooms, and the anti-ram security measures are integrated unobtrusively as a plinth. Though it occupies a square block (top; click on drawing to expand), it appears to avoid hulkiness through window placement, cuts in the building and the variegated limestone and tinted stainless-steel facade.

Feeling stimulated myself, I walked down to One Midtown Plaza (1360 Peachtree St.) to see the firm’s lobby renovation. You may have noticed it if you’ve driven by at night: The all-white space, which glows like a lantern, features a hovering sculpture that looks like an explosion of white pick-up sticks (photo below, © Timothy Hursley Photography).

By day, the space turns cool but hardly antiseptic. You notice the eccentrically shaped glass globes suspended amid the pick-up sticks, the off-geometry of the floor tiles and the metal screen that hides the neighboring building, cut out in a pattern suggesting a Rorschach doily. The space is a delightful antidote to the ersatz grandeur of most office buildings and typical of the firm’s creativity.

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