Abandoned Architecture: Atlanta Underground’s Lack of Visitation

When I mentioned to friends that I was going to Underground Atlanta, the response that I got from every one of my friends was the same: don’t go alone. Don’t go alone, don’t go after dark, and call if you need anything.

This was my first Underground experience, so I didn’t understand why they were all so concerned until I got to the space.

Underground Atlanta is not very well lit. There are nooks and crannies in the walls large enough to hide a person, the cell service inside is abysmal at best, and the understaffed stores and kiosks show an absolute disregard for the small handful of people wandering the mall.

In my hour and a half there, I passed a total of 15 people inside the mall. Outside, however, was another story. Recently an Atlanta music venue called The Masquerade relocated to Underground, and its doors are located outside past the end of the shopping strip.

The day that I went, there was a concert at the venue for someone named Jacob Sartorious, who I later looked up and found was a young teen pop star. This explained the demographic of the people outside of the venue, and why it was so different from the inside demographic.

The people lined up at the venue were mainly white middle aged parents and large groups of mid-aged teenage girls. In direct contrast, most of the people inside of the mall were individuals or very small groups, at max three people, of people of color.

Dark Depths: A Description of Underground Atlanta

Underground Atlanta is an underground mall near GSU’s Atlanta campus. At it’s opening, it was a major tourist attraction and many visited when they came to the city. Today, due to a lack of funding and loss of public interest, the space is often deserted.


Underground Atlanta is not easily visible from street level. To enter, one must go down an escalator or flights of steps. Once downstairs, the mall stretches for about two blocks. The main shape of the mall is one long hallway with shops lining the walls and kiosks lining the sides of the walkway.

The hallway is wider than one within a typical building, and acts more as a roadway for pedestrians. The ground is made of cobblestones, and the side of the path have sidewalks that separate the main walking space from the stores.

In small offshoots, there are rectangular slabs of marble that act as benches. Next to each of these is a metal plaque on a stand. These metal plaques contain historical facts about the space, its architects, and Atlanta in general. These offshoots are evenly spaced throughout all of Underground Atlanta.

Underground Atlanta has a noise that persists constantly. Upon listening, I was not able to place what the sound was. Below is a clip of the sound.

Works Cited

Carter, S.D. [Daniel]. (2017, March 22). HB51 Hearing: Senate Judiciary Subcommittee [Photo Album]. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10155051859797278&set=a.10155051857862278.1073741911.841037277&type=3&theater

Fig. 1. Goebel, Mark (May 27, 2007) if1126.JPG, [photograph]. Retrieved April 12, 2017 from Flickr Commons: https://flic.kr/p/4V2cqZ

The Capitol. Office of the Governor (2015). Retrieved April 21, 2017, from https://gov.georgia.gov/capitol

Home Base: Atlanta and the Capitol Building

if1126 atlanta state capitol state house ga georgia the state capitol building in the capital city of atlanta
Georgia State Capitol Building (Goebel 2007)

 

Located in the heart of Atlanta, the Georgia state capitol building houses many government functions, from bill sponsoring to sub-committee and committee hearings, and acts as the home base for state government.

The Georgia capitol building started construction in 1884 and the dedication took place in 1889. The architects responsible for the formation of this grand structure were Willoughby J. Edbrooke and Franklin Pierce Burnham, heads of a Chicago architectural firm. (Office of the Governor, 2015)

Over time, the capitol building has become more modern, as well as more crowded. With day to day operations that include many groups of people, as well as chartered tours on a daily basis, the capitol is large hub for centralized government operations and all who are included in those processes.

Explain Yourself: Interview Questions

  • Why were you going to the capitol building?
  • Did you know where to go for the event/hearing you were there for?
  • Was the room easy to find?
  • How big did space feel (crowded, open, etc.)?
  • Did it seem like a lot of people were there?
  • As a protester, what did you think of the space of the capitol building?
  • How did the space make you feel?
  • Does the feeling of space matter to you as a protester?
  • Did you notice anything about the acoustics or visuals of the space?
  • Were you able to find seating if you wanted it?
  • Were you able to see the speakers from a sitting or standing perspective?
  • Was it easy to hear the speakers?
  • Describe the experience of entering the capitol building: how easy was it to find the entrance, how long did it take to get in the building, etc.

 

To Sit or Not to Sit: How Hearing Room Design Affects Protest

pBecause of the nature of this research, credible resources were difficult to find. Many government site concerning the layout of the building or citizen visitation to the building were outdated, difficult to navigate, and often didn’t contain pertinent information. Due to this research issue, personal video and online interviews were done to determine the opinions of students who have participated in protests at the capitol building.

Recently, a bill known as HB 51 was introduced and bought to committee. This bill would affect reporting standards for campus sexual assault, and because of the content, many Atlanta based college students staged sit in protests at hearings.

The first hearing, when the bill went to sub-committee, was held in a room on the second floor of the capitol building. Seating within this room had space for a maximum of thirty people with interconnected metal and cloth cushion chairs. Around the room was standing space that was packed with people, three to four deep in places.

The second hearing, as the bill went on to committee, occurred within a space designed for another thirty maximum. This room had seating with pew style benches laid out in three sections, with poles in the aisles between the three impeding standing space and views of the front of the room. In the back was a narrow aisle that protesters stood in, again sometimes three or four people deep.

Students who attended both of these hearings tended to echo each other when asked to describe what the spaces felt like to them. Common themes included descriptions of the rooms as “crowded,””cramped,” “overheated,” “loud,” and even “chaotic.”

GSU student and activist Sandy Andino (who gave permission for her name and quotes to be used in this document) stated that she felt that the limited amount of seating was because “they didn’t want to [sic] many people there for whatever reason,” and that the “only reason [she] could see anything was [because she] was standing.”

In a similar interview, another GSU student and activist, Hunter MacConnell, stated that many who attended the hearings seemed “very clearly not comfortable for having to stand for [a] long period of time” and that there were a few people who sat “on the floor in front of the door just to last [for the whole] hearing.”

Spaces, Seats, and Structure: Internal Architecture of the Capitol Building

The capitol building is designed to be a place of government. So, much like the government it houses, it has a highly complex structure.

Within the capitol building, there are numerous rooms that each serve different purposes. While studying the built environment of this location, I focused on two rooms that hearings were held in, specifically ones that were protested.

While both rooms were designed to hold groups of people, neither was intended to have many in attendance. Dimensions of each room, by rough estimations based on sight, were about 45 ft x 30 ft.

Protesters begin to gather in a hearing room (Daniel, March 22, 2017)

 

Video Interview: Hunter MacConnell (GSU Student and Political Activist)

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

Interviewer: Please introduce yourself.

Hunter: My name is Hunter MacConnell I am a student at Georgia State University

I: Why were you going to the capitol building when you did?

H: I’ve gone to the capitol building a few times, and both of them were for protests aginst the HB51 campus rape bill.

I: Can you explain what that bill is?

H: It’s a bill that would force faulty at campuses across Georgia to mandatorily report… I forget the exact word, just to mandatorily report felonies to the campus, and then the campus would have to report them to the police, therefore entangling the victims of the felonies in working with the police instead of being able to go through the campus for justice.

I: What was your role in these hearings?

H: Just sitting in and watching. Both times I worse stuff that signified I was harshly against the bill.

I: Did you know where to go for the hearing that you were there for?

H: Both of them I knew where to go, but actually getting to them was difficult.

I: How did the space of the hearing feel?

H: It was… cramped, very very cramped. There wasn’t enough space for everybody who actually went to the hearings to sit down, which is partially on account of there being so many protesters and media people there. But both times I had to stand up in the back to even get a chance to see what was going on.

I: To you personally, did it seem like a lot of people were there?

H: Yeah there were a ton of people at both of them but there weren’t, or wasn’t, enough space in either room to house everybody.

I: How did that lack of space make you feel?

H: It made it really difficult and it made me… I guess just feel cramped and like I was kind of stuck where I was. I had to stand in front of the door the second time that I went because there wasn’t enough space, and if I stood anywhere further up I’d be standing in front of groups of protesters.

I: Did the feeling of the space matter to you as that role of a protester?

H: A little bit? I thought it was… I probably would have stood up regardless, even though it was like a two hour long hearing both times, just because I want to make my presence known, but there were plenty of other people there that were very clearly not comfortable with having to stand for such a long period of time, and there were a few people who had to sit on the floor in front of the door just to last the whole two hour hearing.

I: Did you notice anything specific about the acoustics or the visuals of the space?

H: The visuals were a little messed up. It was set up so that there were three different sections of visitors and protesters and media and people who were called to talk that day. And there were, at least the second time, there were two pillars between the rows on both sides and they completely blocked off view for a lot of seats of any of the house members and definitely of the speaker at the time.

I: wWere you able to see the speakers from a sitting or standing perspective?

H: I could see them when I was standing, but there wasn’t enough space for me to sit down in a seat, so if I had sat on the ground there was no way. Even if I had sat in some fo those seats, like I said there were pillars blocking view of like the entire house and of the speaker.

I: Were you able to hear the speakers?

H: Yeah I could hear the speakers relatively fine, they pumped it through two sets of speakers that were above the chamber but they didn’t have ones on the sides, like behind those pillars. Those were like the main problem with seating there, was that you wouldn’t, it would be harder to see for sure and to hear because of the placement of the speakers.

I: Going back to the beginning of your experience at the capitol, can you describe how it was entering the capitol building?

H: The first time was easier, I had somebody to go there with me and show me the ropes. The second time entering was a lot more difficult. The outsides of the building that the hearing was at the second time, there are like little plaques next to the doors that say whether they’re for public entrance or not public entrance, but the sign that says public entrance and the one that says not are the same color and the same size and next to the same type of door in that building. So I ended up wandering into the wrong building the first time just because it was the first door that had a differnt sign on it that said public entrance, and then the security guard told me , after I had gone through the checkpoint, that I was in the wrong building and I needed to go back out and back around to the other side to enter the right space.

I: And did that make you feel welcome as a protester?

H: Not particularly. It was… I… it was… I was anxious when I entered the second time, mostly because of that, I couldn’t find a door and the one that I had gone into was the wrong one and the only other place that looked like, from a distance, it was the right place to go required you to talk to a security guard through the loudspeaker because it was a handicap entrance. And that didn’t even lead directly into the building, it led into a small courtyard between all the buildings, so I didn’t really understand why I needed to go through, or why I needed to leave the first building and go through the second when there was clearly a courtyard that led to more than one building.

I: As a protester, what did you think about the space of the capitol building as a whole?

H: The outside of the capitol building is very clearly not designed for groups of people to be. It’s very clearly designed as just a building the middle of the city, which makes protesting outside of the capitol difficult and protesting inside the capitol building in those rooms is difficult, as well just because of how small they usually end up being and the amount of people that go overflowing the room, you not managing to get in because of that and even within the building the numbering of the rooms was not laid out in a way that makes it understandable. I ended up wandering around for about ten minutes on the floor that the room was in because I couldn’t find the room itself.

I: Thank you for your time!

H: No problem.

Collaborative Consideration: Group Edits On Class Work

Suggestions and Comments: Arnas’ Presentation

  • HOLY MOTHER OF RUN ON <– slide 4
  • switches between academic wording and more colloquial speech- make it more cohesive with consistent tone
  • change title- not related to content of slideshow
  • make it more multi-modal- there are a LOT of words
  • writing errors: run on sentences, open quotations, double negatives