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.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Creating Places: A Fiddle Breakdown

The Comfort Inn at 14th Avenue South and Demonbruen Street was recently affixed with absurd looking fiddles. Of cheap materials and a cartoonish design, the fiddles create the effect of unsightly zits on the non-descript structure. It never ceases to puzzle me that some folks think this type junk is aesthetically appealing. 

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Creating Places: VU Addition, Pangaea Update

Work appears completed on the facade addition to Cohen Memorial Hall, which fronts 21st Avenue and is located on Vanderbilt University's Peabody Campus. The addition greatly limits long-distance views (for motorists navigating 21st) of the other three sides of the historic structure. On a positive note, the new component of the building (dominated by limestone) is very handsome.

In nearby Hillsboro Village, the brick building home to Pangaea has been given a fresh coat of paint and looks fantastic. The color scheme of bold yellow and semi-electric blue pops with a funkiness befitting of the district. Now if Pangaea's aging (and fading) red awning can just be replaced, perhaps with a silver or charcoal (no more red, please) version...

On the Village theme, I must mention the building that houses Cornerstone Financial Credit Union (a retrofitted structure that was completed in the early 2000s). With each passing year, I dislike this building's exterior more and more — and yearn for the original, despite its flaws. The current exterior is painfully bland, mimicking the uninspired — and safe — junk thrown up seemingly everywhere in this town, whereas the previous iteration at least brought a bit of 1960s urban grit to the table. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Creating Places: Rating The Pinnacle

As the exterior work on The Pinnacle at Symphony Place comes to a close, it's time to consider where the tower ranks (based primarily on appearance and function) among downtown's buildings of about 300 feet or more.

This writer's Top Five:

1. L&C Tower
2. AT&T Tower
3. The Pinnacle at Symphony Place
4. Fifth-Third Center
5. Nashville City Center 


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Creating Places: Around Town

A few quick hits:

Recently, I noticed for the first time a metal horse framing the roof line of the Charlotte Avenue building home to the Darkhorse Theatre. A very nice artsy touch, no doubt.

New street lights have been installed along the State Street side of the under-construction 1700 Midtown apartment building. The hardware is of a traditional design, which makes no sense given 1700 Midtown is very industrial/contemporary. Disappointing.

On the State Street theme, 1805 State Street (I believe it's a residential structure) ranks as one of Midtown's most underrated buildings. Standing only two stories and offering primarily brick with some stone touches (including a nice cornice), this classy little building is worth checking out either in person or via Google Street View. Doing so will help the viewer better understand the type architectural aesthetic Midtown featured prior to the 1960s, since which developers and architects have often brutalized the area with heinous designs.