Goodnight Raleigh - a look at the art, architecture, history, and people of the city at night

Goodbye, (Old) Audio Buys Building

Disliked by many Raleigh residents, the long-vacant Audio Buys Building always seemed a bit odd in the Five Points neighborhood context. Detractors now get their wish as it appears the building is in the early stages of demolition or renovation.

Early Years

The early uses of the building at 1700 Glenwood Avenue were documented by architectural historian Ruth Little in her 2006 report, The Development of Modernism in Raleigh, 1945-1965:

The One Hour Martinizing plant at 1700 Glenwood Avenue, built in 1965, illustrates a freestanding retail building located on a traffic thoroughfare that attracts attention through its bold design. The International Style building features a cantilevered glazed upper level where the dry cleaning equipment and clean clothes were visible to passing cars.

Modern Gone Wrong

The overhangs (visible in the photo above) which may have served a purpose when built do not seem relevant to today’s tastes and needs.  They do not allow for additional parking or other uses, and the lower level is a windowless storage basement. The abundance of glass on the functioning upper level and lack of it on the ground level runs contrary to the consumer retail structures of recent history: retail or primary use is for street level, and the upper levels are for storage, offices, or living.

Breaking the Rule of Thirds

Beyond having primary use upstairs and nothing useful on the lower level, I think one reason this building is disliked by some is the manner in which the two contrasting levels represent parts of the whole: each at about 50%.

The rule of thirds is one of the first principles any designer, artist, photographer, or other visually-oriented creator learns. In short, it states that something looks better when the focal point is at 1/3 or 2/3 the width or height of the whole. In the case of the Audio Buys Building, the horizontal dividing line of the drastically different levels is nearly in the middle.

To be sure, there are examples of pretty two-story buildings with equal height levels. I think it doesn’t work here because the two levels look so different and serve different purposes.

Love for an Ugly Duckling

Despite loving the general style in which this building was modeled after, I can’t say I’ve been fond of this particular design. The tinted glass has long since faded and the lit fluorescent product/business names were very dated.  Additionally, it represents what so many dislike about modern architecture:

  • it doesn’t blend in with surrounding buildings
  • some of the functional characteristics don’t work well in practice
  • it just plain looks weird

But perhaps because of these oddities, I’ve secretly loved it. It seems to be sticking a thumb in the eye of the buildings around it, particularly the very elegant and ornate traditionally-styled Hayes Barton Baptist Church across the street. This building gives Five Points a diverse palette of building types, representative of several eras.

What the Future Holds

I don’t know what will be going up on this spot if/when this building comes down. Wake County tax records do not indicate that ownership has recently changed hands, and the site does not bear the name of a contracting company.


Sources indicate that this building is being renovated and not demolished.

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