Creating Places: A Citizen Observer's Look at Nashville's Built Environment

Writer's Note: William Williams' interest in the manmade environment dates to 1970, at which point the then-young Williams started a collection of postcards of city skylines. The collection now numbers 1,000-plus cards. Among the writer's specific interests are exterior building design, city district planning, demographics, signage, mixed-use development, mass transit and green/sustainable construction and living. Williams began his Creating Places column with The City Paper in February 2005. The column in its original form was discontinued in September 2008 and reinvented via this blog in November 2008. Creating Places can be found on the home page of the website of The City Paper, at which Williams has worked in various capacities since October 2000.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Intersections of Note

Think about this: Outside the central business district, how many Nashville intersections feature buildings essentially straddling all four corners with no surface parking and no, or minimal, setbacks devoted to plazas and greenery? Not many, right?

One example of this most urban of manmade fabric characteristics can be found at 18th and West End avenues in Midtown. The intersection is framed by -- moving clockwise from the northeast corner -- a small brick building home to The Golden Coast (where one can lustily dine on some mighty tasty Americanized Chinese fare, I might say), Hotel Indigo, Palmer Plaza and West End Lodge. By New York City standards, the intersection is about as impressive as this writer's ability to grasp basic technology skills. In contrast, by the painfully modest standard's of Nashville's urban physical form, the intersection offers some noticeable pedestrian activity and some solid building height and massing providing street definition.

Regarding this topic, another "fully built" Midtown Nashville intersection can be found at 17th Avenue and Church Street, with the charming vintage building home to Bank of America and the gritty semi-industrial structure (occupied by Chris-More Inc.) across 17th as the intersection anchors.

Downtown, the most densely built — and "wasted space-free" — intersection is that of Church Street and Fourth Avenue. The quartet of the L&C Tower, Noel Place building, Courtyard by Marriott hotel and SunTrust Bank Building tower over two-laned streets Church and Fourth, the narrowness of which allow the towers to create a more dramatic effect than they would otherwise.

The "second-best" downtown intersection is likely that of Broadway and Seventh Avenue. Anchoring the four corners are a collection of architectural masterpieces: the stone fortress home to Hume-Fogg High School, the stately Masonic Lodge, the heavens-reaching First Baptist Church steeple and the gothic-like Custom's House. Superb.

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