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, April 26, 2009
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Monday, April 20, 2009
And although the CapStar Bank brass is not likely to start sporting radical facial hair, collecting the music of Radiohead and embracing the architecture of I.M. Pei, it deserves credit for enlisting Hastings Architecture Associates to “push the design envelop” with the financial institution’s recently completed Green Hills building.
In fact, based on architectural significance, the CapStar Bank Building already ranks in the top 5 percent of Green Hills structures — although one could argue that distinction is not particularly impressive given the commercial district’s suburban-themed buildings, collectively, are emasculated by cream-colored synthetic stucco elements, impermanent-looking parapets, faux stone touches and odd attempts to appear traditional. Many of these generic structures are no more substantial architecturally than Jonas Brothers songs are lyrically.
Not so with the CapStar Bank Building.
To get a feel for the ideas HAA incorporated in this 21st century jewel, I chatted today with the firm’s Derek Schmidt, who spearheaded the project. Schmidt said Hastings opted for a Rockville (Minn.) beige granite base as an anchor to an Indiana limestone mid-section. The bulk of the building, which tops out at an effective 32 feet, has a limestone cap, as the facade “box” feature counters with an aluminum-composite cap. Similarly, the canopies are aluminum composite, while the curtain wall and storefront offer clear-anodized aluminum. The effect flirts with being dramatic.
“Most of the upper management of the bank are Nashville banking veterans,” Schmidt said. “They wanted this new branch to have a sense of permanence, but also a sense of place.”
Schmidt said CapStar officials favored some of the older Third National Bank branch design elements (in fact, the bank’s main office is in the iconic former Third National Bank Building downtown). These branches (Green Hills sports a handsome version on Hillsboro Road next to Macy's) feature limestone and marble and have aged in a dignified manner, both functionally and stylistically, since their unveiling.
“So we kind of looked at that for inspiration,” Schmidt said.
Inside the building, the floors are crafted of travertine, while wood elements derive from clear walnut. The centerpiece might just be a two-story, open-riser staircase with glass panels.
Of note, the building’s back exterior stairs are nicer than the façade elements of many Green Hills buildings.
To an extent, the CapStar Bank Building (located at 2321 Crestmoor Road and constructed by general contractor Solomon Builders Inc.) reveals, as Schmidt said, a “high-tech meets high-touch,” feel, its interior giving a “slight nod to mid-century modern.”
That nod, though subtle, is effective nonetheless, rendering the CapStar Bank Building one of the better free-standing buildings (regardless of usage) unveiled in Nashville during the past few years.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Walking the perimeter of the building, I noticed a number of nice exterior touches, particularly a clay-tiled cornice-like element near the roof line. To create a more inviting feel, GS&P added windows near the corner of the west side of the building, along which was also added new siding painted a masculine olive. Metal door frames and three metal lights (affixed to curving stems) give the building’s facade a contemporary flare. On that theme, the building’s east side offers two smallish tubular light fixtures (to provide decorative night-time illumination) that are very attractive. Colorful and playful roof-line signage for Hue (the tanning salon/clothing retail business operating from the building’s east space) is very eye-catching, with understated landscaping along the building’s east flank and a brick-surfaced parking pad and wood deck giving the back side a needed facelift.
Developer Mark Sanders is to be credited for sparing this diminutive vintage jewel. And kudos to GS&P for quality work.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
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.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
A recent "update" has simply brutalized the structure, which is now topped by a "creamy pink" stucco cap on which is monstrous signage completely out of scale with the building's other parts. From some angles, the building presents itself as, essentially, a hideous roof -- and nothing else.
My 9- and 6-year-old Lego-obsessed nephews could have designed better.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
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