The architects add a touch of upscale New York vibes to the Atlanta design palette
The Overline Residences is the first Atlanta project by Morris Adjmi Architects, a firm whose portfolio includes a 15-story office tower located directly above Manhattan’s High Line Park in a design that recalls that neighborhood’s industrial past.
With its design for Top linethe New York-based architecture firm sought to deliver what its client, New City Properties, wanted – a structure that shared visual elements with its neighborhood while standing out with its striking appearance.
The 18-story Overline Hotel opened in June in Atlanta’s booming Old Fourth Ward neighborhood. The apartment building is part of Atlanta developer New City’s broader Fourth Ward project that includes a recently completed building Office tower Next to Overline and a hotel under construction under the management of Method Company.
The three buildings are located on 11 acres of prime urban real estate in Atlanta – along the Beltline, a popular 22-mile bike and walking trail, and adjacent to Fourth Ward Historic Park. Bustling retail office development Ponce City Market Just a short walk across the Beltline.
Jim Irwin, founder and president of NewCity, said: High Line Linear Park in New York, which was built along an abandoned elevated freight railway line, was constantly in his thoughts during the design phase of the entire Fourth Ward project. Irwin said he wants to bring the same type of cutting-edge architecture, interior design and landscaping associated with the High Line to Atlanta.
Allison Schwartz, an architect with Maurice Adjmi in New York, and Irwin discussed the Overline project with CoStar News. The excerpt below has been edited for length and clarity.
How was Maurice Adjmi involved in this project?
like: New City reached out and presented the project to us. They said they are looking forward to bringing some fresh design perspective to Atlanta.
Gee: I really felt a great deal of conviction that I wanted to build something really unique and special and showcase the 4th District as an architectural district. You have such a tremendous history of a neighborhood that is worth celebrating.
For generations, Atlanta has been great at doing things quickly or very aggressively. “We will host the Olympics. We will have the largest airport.” But as time went by, we started to realize that we were now a proper city. We are maturing. If you think about major global cities, their infrastructure is built to last 100 years. This is what I really hoped and aspired to.
Many developers resist hiring larger architecture firms because of the cost. How does New City have the financial capacity to do this?
Gee: I have the advantage of working with incredibly great partners on the financial side, Lamb Properties. They run the family office of the Bluhm family in Chicago, and because of that, they don’t make me feel pressured to try to make things less expensive. They liked the idea of bringing in world-class architects.
What were some of the main challenges of designing this project?
like: The location of the site had the advantage of being close to the Belt Line, but it was also a challenge due to the physical constraints and irregular shape of the site. The groundwater source divides the site into two parts and creates a significant change in grade. These constraints helped determine the direction we took.
What are some building design themes?
like: The fabric of the neighborhood is low-rise brick buildings. We were mindful of how our building would be perceived in these surroundings. We didn’t want to overwhelm (the 4th Ward Historic Park). We decided to design a staircase with bounce balconies. The steps had two effects: they lightened some of the building’s mass over the garden and they also provided plenty of private terraces. Along street level, we designed two- and three-storey podiums to match the scale of the surrounding buildings.
Gee: We were trying hard not to be overbearing with the surroundings and to make the building appear smaller than it actually is.
like: Our leading design ethos is to design with the neighborhood context in mind. That’s why so many clients come to us. They want something that relates to the surroundings, whether new or historic.
We chose brick because of its prevalence in neighborhood buildings and because it carries a certain sense of longevity and creates a tactile feel. There was some concern about brickwork on high-rise buildings and that we would not be able to find the right subcontractor. In Atlanta, it is unusual to have a brick high-rise building. There was concern that people wouldn’t want to do it and wouldn’t know how to do it. But we found the one we needed.
Gee: The public spaces on the terraces were designed by Brooklyn-based landscape architects Future Green who did much of the design of New York’s High Line. They treat the Overline as the High Line’s version of gardening in North Georgia. Each plant is native to northern Georgia.
How impactful is the location adjacent to the 4th Ward Historic Park and the Beltline?
like: The overhead line is not located directly on the Beltline, but there has been a lot of talk about how cyclists can get off the Beltline step near where the overhead line is. It’s a 30 or 40 foot drop. There were also discussions about how pedestrians on the Belt Line make this transition and how they see and approach the building first.
Overline is an obtuse L-shape that opens to views of the park and downtown Atlanta. I don’t think any side of the building is a bad view.
Gee: Since it is next to the garden, it has a constant, unobstructed view.
We thought a lot about the High Line in New York. I love the High Line, and to me it shows the power of great architecture. But the High Line is a nice, contained experience. Once you get to the High Line, you’re on it and there aren’t a lot of ways to get directly to the buildings from it. You have to go down the stairs or use the elevator and get out of the street and then you can enter the buildings. But with the Beltline, everything is public. It’s integrated. We intentionally tried to break down the idea that you’re in a public park and then you’re going to a private building. All of this will be open all the time.
How involved was New City in the design process?
like: New City held a workshop with all the designers and engineers, which encouraged us to think about how different buildings interact with each other. This is not the only time I have participated in a workshop like this, but it is unusual. It was helpful because it was a master planned project, and it was helpful to bring everyone together so each group could highlight their priorities.
Jim talked about how we are working on a new product in the Atlanta market – a high-rise apartment building that features thoughtful interiors and a host of important amenities.
Gee: Every project we do is a collaboration. It’s kind of back and forth. We decided that we didn’t want to just follow trends, we wanted to create trends.
HKS is the architect of record for Overline Residences. Brasfield & Gorrie is the general contractor. Future Green Studio in Brooklyn, New York, is the landscape architect. Seattle architecture firm Olson Kundig designed the office tower in the Fourth Ward, while Berlin architecture firm Parko Leibinger designed the hotel.