Critic's Notebook: Key designer behind Atlanta's Rio Mall to speak at Georgia Tech

Renowned landscape architect Martha Schwartz asks 'What is art in landscape?'


  • Courtesy Martha Schwartz Partners
  • MARTHA SPEAKS: Renowned landscape architect Martha Schwartz speaks at Georgia Tech tonight.

Her name was Rio, and she danced upon the corner of Piedmont and North....

Longtime Atlantans remember—and new ones may hear tell—about Rio Shopping Center which once occupied the midtown corner of Piedmont and North avenues where a Publix and Walgreen's now stand. The unusual building, opened in 1988, featured two levels of blue metal-sided shops around a central courtyard where gold frogs congregated around a mist-spewing PVC geodesic globe (told you it was memorable).

The mall's design, created by the Miami-based firm Arquitectonica, was inventive, colorful and whimsical, but it never caught on with Atlantans. Though many loved it, the place was often derided. Either way, it was usually empty, and it was eventually taken down in 2000.

One of the building's key designers, landscape architect Martha Schwartz, speaks tonight, Nov. 19, at the Georgia Tech School of Architecture at 6 p.m. Her other work post-Rio includes the Dublin Docklands project in Ireland, the Children’s Discovery Centre in Damascus, the Javits Convention Center Plaza in New York City, the Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington DC and many other projects worldwide.

Schwartz plans to address the question "What is art in landscape?" during her talk. With all the changes to Atlanta and its outlook since 1988 when the Rio was opened, and even since 2000 when the building was taken down, it will be interesting to see if Schwartz shares her current perspective on the shopping center and its fate.

Unrelated to that, but sort of related to that: Her design firm's website sells bronze bagels. That is all.