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, November 28, 2010

Creating Places: Nashville 2025

Check this post on the Nashville forum of Urban Planet and involving a blueprint for the city's future growth. Post No. 2 by Shuzilla. I like it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Creating Places: Barbed Wire Mess

As noted within a piece I penned for this week's hard-copy edition of The City Paper, Nashville's inner-interstate loop is marred by areas ringed by rusted metal fencing, some of it with barbed wire. This stuff is nasty and unnecessary — and, of note, uncommon in other cities.

For example, a quick Google Maps Street View search reveals Southeastern peer city Charlotte is minimally pockmarked by chain link/barbed wire fencing at exit points along inner-interstate loop I-77/277. Similarly, Street View shows only modest segments of metal fencing in Memphis along I-240 but none straddling the I-40 segment slicing through downtown.

So do these two cities — and many others — fail to "get it," simply not understanding that barbed wire metal fencing is attractive and functional? Obviously not.

You can go down the list with our built environment problems: TDOT's barbed wire fencing; streets that not only lack sidewalks but curbs or even white edge stripes; fire hydrants whose red paint is so sun-faded as to suggest Pepto-Bismol pink. I could go on but am tired.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Creating Places: Building Facelifts

I noticed today the 176 Third Ave. N. structure last home (and perhaps still — who knows?) to Atlantis is being given a major facade modification courtesy of masculine paint colors and new awnings. The effect thus far is successful. During the past few years, this vintage brick building has undergone more facelifts than an aging, and insecure, Hollywood star. Many of those updates have partially marred the Central Business District-located building with excess paint and less-than-ideal embellishments. Let's hope this latest look is both attractive and long-term.

On a related note, the two-story residential building called The Marc (on West End Circle in West End Park) looks vastly better than its previous iteration courtesy of an earth-toned paint job, sleek signage and multi-colored geometric shapes. An otherwise non-descript 1960s-era brick building, The Marc — or "the marc" as the all-lowercase letters hiply display on the structure's face — strikes a modern-era pose in a district dominated by bland multi-unit residential buildings. Kudos to the person who hit on this simple, yet tasteful, improvement idea.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Creating Places: Random Observations

* The structure that will be the future home to Nordstrom (at The Mall at Green Hills) is framed and topped out. I like the way it straddles the sidewalk along the north side of Abbott Martin Road. Nice height, too.

* And speaking of Green Hills, a soon-t0-be-completed office structure in Bedford Commons (seemingly to be called the Annie Campbell Building) is looking fairly attractive — at least as far as conservatively designed structures can look in 2010.

* I'm curious as to how the park that will front Convent Place (along 21st Avenue South) will appear and function once finished. Landscaping will be a key.

* Similarly, the gymnasium under construction at Christ the King School (and running along Belmont Boulevard) has me intrigued, in part, because so much "academic design" in Nashville during the past few years has been painfully uninspired.

* On the academic building theme, I consider the exterior design of the recently completed James D. Hughes Center on the Lipscomb University campus to be solid — but nothing more.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Creating Places: Night-Time Signage

The building home to the downtown Holiday Inn Express now sports blue night lighting on both its east and west sides. Linear and attractive, the blue lights point toward new (and much improved) signage near the building's roof line. Now, if Holiday Inn would only change the building's general color scheme (a nasty "light pinkish beige" for the brick and blue for the cheap-looking metal elements). That scheme suggests a non-masculine and generic throw-away motel building located off some random interstate and in the middle of nowhere — not ideal for a structure that is within close proximity of architectural masterpieces such as Christ Church Cathedral, the Frist Center and Union Station.