By Melody Harclerode
Since my husband works in the field of architecture and my 8-year-old daughter wants to be a designer, our family vacations often necessitate a tour of historical or interesting buildings.
We enjoy seeing architecture with innovative spaces, beautiful features and rich history. A visit inside certain landmarks, such as the Biltmore House in Ashville, North Carolina, can leave people breathless with their splendor, yet speechless with their expensive entrance fees.  Fortunately, more affordable tour options are available for the public.
The Atlanta chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA Atlanta) sponsors free monthly tours on Saturdays of newly constructed and renovated projects in metropolitan Atlanta. Participants can enrich their knowledge of buildings by listening to the architects who designed the project.  Taking advantage of this service, my daughter and I joined a group of 30 people for the May tour of the Hinman Research Building at Georgia Tech.
Our visit began in the impressive central studio of this architectural research complex. Architect Karen Gravel of the local firm Lord Aeck & Sargent discussed the building history. In 1939, Georgia Tech professor Paul M. Heffernan designed this first modern facility at the university as an engineering and earth sciences center. Heffernan later served as the director of the Georgia Tech School of Architecture from 1956 to 1976. Karen also explained the firm’s award-winning restoration and adaptive use work to improve the facility.  Jihan Sherman disclosed the intricacies of creating and coordinating construction documents for a project with multiple design teams.
Leaving the hall, the group walked up a new monumental stair onto dramatic, additional multi-purpose space where Karen detailed the challenges of using an existing crane for structural support.  Stunning woodwork by the design firm Office dA enhanced the interiors. The one and a half-hour tour culminated with a stroll up and down an inventive spiral stair enclosed with cable mesh and an explanation by Brad Oliva with the Beck Group about the construction process.  My daughter loved the climb as well as the desserts offered by AIA Atlanta at end of the event.
I eagerly await the remaining tours during this year including ones for the Wrecking Bar Brewpub and the Marianna Event Space on July 21st and the Jane-Grant Park Redevelopment on July 28. See the AIA Atlanta website for tour details at aiaatlanta.org.  Organizers advise participants to wear a comfortable pair of shoes, and be prepared for free and fabulous exploration of local architecture.
Melody L. Harclerode, AIA, a local architect, promotes the power of architecture and design as a board member of the Atlanta chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the Principal of Harclerode Architects (harc-arch.com).

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.