Ryan Roark - Mechanicsville 2030: The Past, Present, and Possible Future of One of Atlanta's Oldest Neighborhoods
From Katie Gentilello
This lecture is an introduction to her upcoming exhibition of the same name at the Atlanta Preservation Center, opening September 24. The exhibition will feature a series of proposals—some by her Spring 2021 senior studio and some of her own—for both renovation and new construction along Whitehall Street, a two-block stretch adjacent to South Downtown Atlanta and straddling the neighborhoods of Castleberry Hill and Mechanicsville. Bounded by railroad tracks to the north and I-20 to the south, the area is currently comprised of many empty lots and a variety of formerly industrial buildings—some disused, some partially used, and some functioning as residential lofts and warehouses. Whitehall’s development has been speculated for decades but has not yet begun.
The work shown examines the role of history in architecture and blurs the lines between renovation and “ground-up” construction: even what appears to be an empty site has history, often still evidenced in foundations, material fragments, or even the soil. Reuse, especially in formerly industrial districts, all too often goes hand in hand with replacement of culture and displacement of residents; mitigating this relationship is not simple but was central to the development of the proposals in Mechanicsville 2030, which began with an in-depth study of the neighborhood and interviews with residents.