The city grew extraordinarily rapidly for decades on freeways and subdivisions tucked under the lush canopy of trees, but in recent years growth has slowed. The recession hit hard.
In May, the city hosts the American institute of Architects’ National Convention. Participants may wonder where the “city” of Atlanta is—as people long have. There’s no great urban gathering place (the fussy, tired Olympic Centennial Park hosts no local life but simply foregrounds such architecturally inept attractions intended to distract conventioneers as the World of Coca Cola and the Georgia Aquarium. I had hoped to see the Center for Civil and Human Rights, a promising museum that recently opened, designed by Raleigh architect Phil Freelon, but it was closed the day I visited by panic over a snowstorm that failed to develop.
“Ah, yes, whither Atlanta,” Otis White, a consultant whose Civic Strategies works with cities and civic organizations, told me. “A place that rarely thought about the future is suddenly in doubt, like a teen-ager about to graduate from high school.” […]