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.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Avenue Bank Building Elicits Mixed Emotions

I continue to wrestle with my thoughts regarding the recently opened Green Hills building home to Avenue Bank. Located at 3823 Cleghorn Avenue and across the street from La Paz, the building is perhaps best recognized for its barn-like shape. That jarring form, along with the structure's "turning of its side" to the street (with this "anti-urban design model" resulting in the facade facing the building on the adjacent lot), limits my full enjoyment in viewing 3823. Of note, I am hesitant to criticize Nashville-based architect Tuck-Hinton for its design work, as the company may have been limited by a tight budget and the desires of Avenue Bank officials to site the building as is (in part, of course, to accommodate motorists). On a positive note, the building's brick color, sleek roofing material, metal window frames, window proportionality and overall height are all of solid or strong attractiveness.

Compared to First Tennessee's Looney Ricks Kiss-designed cookie-cutter "faux-traditional" free-standers on 21st Avenue, Gallatin Road and Thompson Lane, 3823 Cleghorn is a masterpiece. In contrast, First Tennessee's two contemporary branches (on West End Avenue and White Bridge Road and expertly designed by LRK) are much more eye-catching than the 3823 Cleghorn building. For that matter, I like Tuck-Hinton's quality retrofit of the West End Avenue building home to Avenue Bank more so than the design firm's built-from-scratch 3823 effort.

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