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.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Touring Signor Terrazzo

What does Nashville get when you combine Hastings Architecture Associates and Manuel Zeitlin Architects? A semi-masterpiece in the form of Terrazzo.

Slated for completion by late March and designed by the aforementioned Nashville-based companies, this 14-story mixed-use building shines both inside and out, as I learned today during a 45-minute tour courtesy of general contractor The Parent Company. While assessing this soon-to-be-completed gem, I found the materials to be top notch and the craftsmanship handled with conscientiousness. A mixture of uses (retail, office and residential), a strong addressing of the 12th Avenue and Division Street intersection and a perfect scale (neither excessively tall nor too diminutive) render the building versatile and inviting.

If there were any doubt that Terrazzo does not boast the best exterior of all other 150-foot-plus-tall post-2000-built Nashville buildings, let the doubt end. Earthy Minnesota limestone contrasts splendidly with green-tined glass to create walls of beauty. The "understated turret-like" northwest corner of the building — about 220 feet tall from sidewalk to roof — represents an exterior highlight. Accompanied by four friends (all "built-environment enthusiasts"), I viewed the first floor (BB&T bank will occupy a portion with space reserved for a restaurant), Floor 2 (office space), the commons floor (pool, fitness room and lounge) and various units (including two of five penthouses). Wow.

Developer Crosland deserves much credit for not skimping on either exterior or interior materials. Likewise for hiring MZA and HAA. Hastings led the design of handsome mid-rises Roundabout Plaza (an A-minus effort) and SunTrust Plaza (B), while Zeitlin's best work might be the cutting-edge building home to the Tennessee Association of Realtors (A-minus). Both firms prefer 21st century applications, and Terrazzo nicely exhibits a contemporary flair that holds true to that preference.

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