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.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Creating Places: Omni Hotel

Viewing the Omni Hotel rendering for the first time today (and, of course, realizing this is a rendering only) I nonetheless asked myself, "Where is the distinctiveness? Where is the edge? An 800-room hotel that will anchor a nationally significant convention center and we get, seemingly, a basic box? And a box that's not even 300 feet tall?"

True, it's early in the process and images of this type can be misleading. Maybe the Omni will feature various eye-catching metal elements, some colored glass and interesting geometric forms — despite what will apparently be a very conventional overall shape. Of note, I am optimistic about the street activation. On this theme, the structure should feature a well-defined base, always a plus. And I like the catwalk connecting the hotel to the MCC (and spanning Fifth Avenue).

At the least, we're getting a nice-sized building that will add substantial pedestrian activity to SoBro. But after hearing Omni officials, during the media event to announce the company's arrival, gush about the stellar building they would deliver...either they exaggerated or they misguidedly (perhaps driven by ego) think that every building they develop is outstanding. Questionable either way. Still, I want to be hopeful. There are some very cool Omni hotels, so maybe ours will be too — my modest initial reaction notwithstanding.


  1. I agree with your opinion here. That "slab" of bland 1970s glass and concrete (not even a dramatic metal parapet!?) looks cheap. I agree with the comment made by the person at the end of the article... that it looks like a Vegas hotel from the 1970s (like a place where Elvis might have died). Anything short of 400' feet is a big "letdown".

  2. I have to disagree. First, the rendering is obviously at the conceptual level. So, it appears much of the details are not fully developed. Second, the angle of the rendering only shows the connection to the Convention Center. Much of the detailing and articulation of the building maybe on the south side which faces Lafayette and I-40.

    I will also point out that within this block contains, the Convention Center, Country Music Hall of Fame, and Bridgestone Arena. Each are large buildings with curves and undulating forms. Very distinctive. I feel the design of the Omni is a nice, restful contrast that doesn't compete to stand on its own.

    In my opinion, Nashville lacks well proportioned, clean-lined, modern buildings. We have one with "Batman ears", one with "Piano-Keys", and one with a "Mohawk" (Icon). So, I find it refreshing to be getting one that is simplified and a little understated.

  3. The problem with your short list of distinctive buildings is that not one of them is attractive. Parts of the Icon are reasonably appealing, but that is a sharp-edged building if I ever saw one. So now it will get a bookend at the convention center. It's simply a missed opportunity for something quite nice looking. Instead, it will look like a slab of 1980s windows along the southern edge of downtown.

  4. I never said the Arena, the new Convention Center, and especially the Hall of Fame are attractive. My point is that they all have strong, distinctive features with lots of curves. For instance, the roofline of the Convention Center is a series of undulating curves design to reflect the surrounding hills. Therefore, the the hotel should not compete with the surrounding architecture, but create balance. The hotel really should be presented in full context with the Convention Center, as well as how it fits with the complete skyline.

    My other point is that Nashville has enough buildings with signature "elements" such as the spire on the ICON. I just don't feel the hotel necessarily needs something to make it stand apart. Not to mention...its just an OMNI. So, I feel the design reflects the conservative image. Its not a "W".

    As far as the "slabs of Glass", it's all in how it's detailed. Curtain walls of glass are being used in some very dynamic applications these days. Plus, the glass provides glazing, transparency, and reflection to contrast to what appears to be a vast amount of solid materials.

  5. Nashnative,

    To be honest, I wish the Omni Hotel would have some type distinctive cap. I like the "batman ears" and "mohawk" you reference.

    But you make some quality points.