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.

Monday, May 25, 2009

ULI Announces Top 9

And the winners are…

Last week, the Nashville District of the Urban Land Institute recognized nine area developments with its Excellence in Development Awards.

Each project was to have been completed in either 2007 or 2008, though for some reason the Schermerhorn Symphony Center (which was finished in 2006) found its way among the winners.

Other projects recognized included Belmont Lofts, Edgehill Village, The Hill Center in Green Hills, ICON in The Gulch, the Noah Liff Opera House; Summer Street Lofts, Vanderbilt University's The Commons and the W.O. Smith Nashville Community Music School.

Evaluation criteria included innovation in land use and design, design excellence, contributions to the community and exhibiting community character, public/private partnership, environmental sensitivity and financial viability.

No doubt, the nine winners are deserving of recognition, as each is strong in various areas. However, there are five buildings absent from the list that are worth mentioning.

On that note, I present the “Bill Williams Excellence in Development Awards — an ‘Alternative Quintet’ — for Nashville Buildings Completed in 2007-08.” One judge (admittedly with his biases) and three key criteria: new construction, distinctive design and symbolic emphasis.

Adelicia (Midtown): Of Nashville’s eight residential towers of six floors or more and opened this decade — Adelicia, Encore, Icon, Rhythm, Viridian, The West End, West End Lofts, West End Lofts II — Adelicia trails only Terrazzo (which opened this year and, as such, would not qualify for this “ranking”) in attractiveness and functionality. The building’s materials, colors, forms, massing, private pocket park and relationship to its surroundings are top notch. Inside, the 20-story tower shines with a distinctive layout, inviting commons areas and variety of unit floorplans. Though unlikely to eventually be viewed among iconic Nashville skyscrapers that include (as examples and listed chronologically) the American Trust Building, the L&C Tower and the AT&T Tower, Adelicia is, nonetheless, a strong addition to the city’s collection of mid- and high-rises.

East End Lofts (East Nashville): Brick, glass and metal. Concrete floors for the residences. A commanding presence on Woodland Street (and a nice interaction with that street). Superb. Perhaps years from now, Nashvillians will look back and credit East End Lofts for jump-starting the reinvention of what is now a Woodland Street segment of buildings no more inviting than a garbage dump. Clearly, the EEL delivers contemporary design excellence.

East Park Community Center (East Nashville): Notice the manner in which this mini-masterpiece addresses the southwest corner of the Sixth and Woodland streets intersection. Very nice. As is the “East Park” logo gracing the center’s north wall of frosted glass. EPCC’s skin of white metal and brown brick is extremely attractive, while its playful interior invites users to exercise and socialize.

MC3 (East Nashville): An MC3 highlight is the combination of three distinctively different buildings functioning effectively as a whole. The use of alley-accessed residences, with living spaces above garages, is quite appealing.

Tennessee Association of Realtors Building (Midtown): The TAR Building, located only a few yards from Adelicia, is one of Nashville’s best examples of dramatic 21st century architecture. Outstanding.

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