Interview with Artist Kemp Mooney

FALSE: What sort of thought was behind your “Long Island Cemetery” drawings in the Unbuilt show?

Kemp Mooney: Looking on the other side of the bridge over the Chattahoochee River, you see such a tall open space. Someone could really utilize that space in ways similar to what occurs in Venice and Florence and those waterways. I decided to make it a space for the dead, since we’re running out of space for burial in the city. It seemed like a reasonable thing to celebrate the place where we put our remains.

The idea of Unbuilt Atlanta was a series of opportunities for a variety of people to express ideas about the city. Some were more sketchy or entertaining, but they could also be the beginning of the seeds of a new policy of trying to make those interstate highways more viable.

FALSE: As an architect or simply as a longtime resident of Atlanta, what do you think about the direction that development has taken over the years?

Mooney: I really think what’s happening in Atlanta is a lack of planning to set standards for the future. I’ve been in other cities where the interstates are crossed over with plazas like in Seattle where it becomes more of an interwoven part of the city’s overall plan. Where there have been attempts to do that, the Department of Transportation has negated them or vetoed them as impractical and not very important to the city. The Department of Transportation is the real culprit in making this city a less desirable place to be.

When you go to the private sector, very few developers are willing to initiate plans in the order of excellence. Every month or so we hear that there’s another plan patterned after Atlantic Station. The projects that are being specu- lated at Fort McPherson, the Ford Plant, and west of Atlantic Station all seem to have a low level of design consciousness either from the aesthetic of the complex or from the urban design context. It makes you really wonder why Atlanta has to be a victim to all this thoughtless architecture and poor planning.