by Lauren Standish, ASLA
In 2014, the Georgia Building Authority (GBA) decided they needed a new public space close to the Capitol Hill Complex to serve as a forum, a place where all visitors could exercise their freedom of speech and assembly. The downtown area desperately needed greenspace for large gatherings and public events, and existing options for such spaces and gatherings lacked a strong identity. When the GBA reached out to our team at HGOR, where I am a principal and have been part of the team for over two decades, they were searching for an innovative solution.
From the start, I felt our partnership would benefit everyone involved for several reasons. HGOR has an extensive background in creating meaningful spaces across various topographies that represent a voice for the people and consideration for history in and around Atlanta. Many of these projects allowed our team to lend a solid sense of understanding, backed by a respect for social justice, to design a place representing cultural and civic importance. Additionally, our mission to preserve and expand the historic site while complementing the existing campus grounds prepared us for the challenges within the Liberty Plaza project. It also provided valuable hands-on knowledge that served us well with the design of the Nathan Deal Judicial Center, where we performed research on historically iconic public gathering spaces during our time devoted to designing Liberty Plaza.
Our team faced several initial challenges because of the selected location for this proposed new space. It did not provide an easy, pedestrian-safe route to the Capitol grounds that didn’t involve on-site law enforcement monitoring events. Before Liberty Plaza was a designated gathering space, events took place at the western entrance of the Capitol, Washington Avenue, where it was necessary to shut down the streets for pedestrian safety.