Bruce McEvoy, AIA
Peachtree Station designed by architect Neel Reid / Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
The Fox Theater / Photo courtesy of Scott Ehardt/Wikipedia
The Atlanta Beltline / Photo courtesy of Onehiroki/Wikipedia
Clermont Hotel / Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Dining Room at Kevin Rathbun Steak / Photo courtesy of Rathbun's Restaurants
The Museum of Design / Photo credit Joeff Davis/CL Atlanta
Bruce McEvoy is a principal at the Atlanta office of Perkins+Will. Bruce served as President of the Atlanta Chapter of the AIA and currently serves as Board Chair for the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA), Atlanta's only design-focused museum.
Best Historic Architecture
Atlanta has a challenging history. The fire of 1864 and constant development have claimed their share of historic fabric. Frederick Law Olmsted’s 1890 linear parks in Druid Hills is a great place to take a walk. For historic residential structures, Atlanta was home to architect Neel Reid, who did several great classical homes. If you are into Victorian Houses, head to Inman Park and Grant Park and see some monuments. The fabulous Fox Theater offers tours and is also a wonderful old building that was saved in the 1970s and has been a vibrant venue ever since.
Best Off-the-Beaten Path Architecture
I think the best of this category is actually a path. The Atlanta Beltline is an amazing 22-mile loop of reclaimed rail around the city. Get on at Piedmont Park and walk over to Krog Street Market. Along the way you will pass the old Sears Roebuck building at Ponce De Leon, which is having a rebirth as a huge mixed use project.
Best Museums and Galleries
Atlanta is a culturally rich city. If you head to the heart of Midtown, you can see the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA) and Woodruff Campus, which includes the High Museum at the corner of 16th and Peachtree Street. It is one of my favorite intersections where you can see the historic First Presbyterian Church, Richard Meier’s original High Museum along with Renzo Piano’s wonderful addition, the Neel Reid House, and Perkins+Will’s Atlanta office. There are always great events going on at Atlanta galleries. The Bill Lowe Gallery is a great choice a few blocks from the High. White Space is another small gallery with a lot of charm, and Mason Fine Art just moved a few blocks to its new space. Another museum option is the Fernbank Museum, home to martini and imax nights. A daytime option might be the Atlanta Botanical Gardens off Piedmont Park.
Atlanta is a foodie’s dream. We have all types of restaurants and each has its unique perspective coupled with amazing food. If you would like a top tier dinner, I would recommend Rathbun Steaks. It is a great spot in a cool part of town, and the food is great. Ask to sit on the back patio, which backs up to the Beltline. The Optimist is a great seafood restaurant on Atlanta’s west side that is having a great urban revival. Two great dives are not far apart from each other on Memorial Drive near Grant Park. The first is Ria’s Bluebird, a wonderful place for weekend brunch. The food is sensational and the people are wonderful. The second is a great night spot called Daddy D’z, a great Blues and BBQ joint. Make sure to try the Q-Wraps—a pinch of BBQ served up in a single bite egg roll.
There’s no shortage of great watering holes in Atlanta. Apres Diem is not far from Piedmont Park and is home to an international crowd. I love having a glass of wine here in the afternoon after a day at the park. The Porter is a great place to explore the Little 5 neighborhood. This has been the bohemian epicenter of Atlanta for years. Just down Moreland Avenue across I-20 is East Atlanta, home of the Earl. If you want to see a good show for a good price, this is your destination. If you want to see great Blues, I recommend Northside Tavern. This is no doubt, the best blues dive in Atlanta. The rooftop at the Glenn Hotel downtown is great for taking in the view, and there’s usually a fun crowd. If you want some throwback Atlanta, head to Polaris at the top of the recently renovated Hyatt by Atlanta’s John Portman.
I’m not much of a shopper but a great experience is walking through the shops of Little 5 Points. It is an eclectic neighborhood offering everything from record stores, a crystal shop, frisbee and golf supply, clothes, art, and shoes. The people-watching is a treat as you can see all walks of life sharing the city.
The North Georgia Mountains are just up 400 from Atlanta and it is amazing how quick you can get to the middle of nowhere when you leave the city. Although it is 3 hours away, Savannah is a great overnight trip where you can explore one of the best urban models I have seen and experience true southern charm. Take a walk down in the historic district and see the squares.
I call Midtown Atlanta home and also work in the neighborhood. The change it has gone through over the past 20 years is amazing. Many of the things I have mentioned on this list are located in the neighborhood. If you have more time, I would recommend Virginia Highlands. It is a linear neighborhood that is mix of wonderful shops and bars.
If you make it to Atlanta, you should really see some of John Portman’s work. A good deal of downtown embodies his ability to play the part of architect, developer, and artist simultaneously. Regardless of your opinion about his work, one can’t deny the power of the Marriott atrium. If you are really feeling it, head over to the SunDial at Westin afterwards for a drink and view of downtown.
Best Atlanta Dare
For those who are truly brave and want to experience the most sweaty, gritty underbelly of Atlanta, I would recommend the Clermont Lounge. There is really no describing it, just a warning that you can never un-see what you will see. It is a rite of passage and always has the most amazing cross section of Atlanta society mixed with a sprinkling of celebrities.
This is the last season of the Atlanta Braves. They will be moving north of the city to Cobb County. Catch a game while they are still in town and ponder what might be Atlanta’s next giant redevelopment project.