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.

Friday, January 2, 2009

What I've Gleaned by Viewing The Glen

To quote the words from the fuzz-guitar classic Social Distortion song: "I was wrong."

Wrong to predict — as I did to various friends about four months ago — that The Glen would represent the first "average" exterior of a multi-unit DA|AD-designed building. Now finished, I rank the architectural effort a solid 7 to 7.5 and consider the design clearly above average.

Developed by stalwart local entity Core Development and Nashville's most recently finished urban infill project, The Glen is a fine addition to the Hillsboro Village area. However, it is not one of DA|AD's best buildings — at least based on exterior design. For example, the architect's Madison Square, Morgan Park Place and Summer Lofts (all located in Germantown) offer a greater variety of shapes, colors and materials than does The Glen. For that matter, McFerrin Park's West Eastland (its grays and yellows contrasting boldly while its sloped roofs lure the eye skyward) is considerable more visually arresting than The Glen. In fact, I rank The Glen exterior — as a study in 21st century infill architecture — as roughly equal to that of West Eastland.

Specifically, The Glen's facade and back are quite attractive. In contrast, the side that fronts Wedgewood Avenue is a bit bland (in terms of form). Critics will argue The Glen is excessively monochromatic and clean-lined, and they may have a point. On that theme, the doors facing 19th Avenue could have been a slightly "edgier" style so as to render the overall structure somewhat less understated. On a positive note, the building's height and massing are perfect for a T-intersection, especially one in the bustling Hillsboro Village. In addition the color scheme, though unadventurous, is quite masculine.

Overall, The Glen is a fine addition to the city's ever-changing built fabric. Though not DA|AD's best work, it continues the firm's upward trajectory of well-designed urban Nashville structures.

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