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.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Creating Places: A Fine Future Vista

Of all the recently released renderings for the expanded Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, this image perhaps most caught my attention. Nashville — with its hilly terrain, river and some distinctive large buildings — offers a respectable number of interesting vistas from afar. But for the pedestrian, the up-close street-level vista offerings are modest, the result of an urban core that lacks street blocks along which both sides are lined with buildings. There are some exceptions, including both Fourth and Fifth avenues between Church and Union streets, and Church Street spanning two blocks (Fifth to Fourth to Third avenues). Sadly, however, far too many blocks in both Downtown and Midtown have "missing teeth" — gaps in blocks that typically feature surface parking or, in a few cases, simply empty lots. As such, the above rendering makes me all the more excited to know that eventually the block of Fifth Avenue South from KVB to Demonbreun Street will be "filled in" by the Music City Center on the west side of the street and the Omni Hotel/CMHofFM on the east side. This "wall" of built fabric could prove to be one of Nashville most impressive.

Creating Places: Elliston 23

Within the next few days, I will offer a blog post with details of Elliston 23, the large (with significant massing and to hit a 70-foot zenith), mixed-use building slated for the site formerly home to the handsome Father Ryan High School building. I recently talked to two Southern Land Co. officials (the company's architecture division is handling the design) and learned of some interesting specifics. More to follow...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Creating Places: Bad West End Design Part 8

From the building home to the Extended Stay America, we conclude our tour of West End Avenue with the one-two punch of West End Square and the adjacent building home to Tenno. The former houses, among others, Dairy Queen and Wolf Camera. By the standards of typical suburban strip retail centers, WES is decent in that it offers a second level, thus minimizing full-fledged horizontal sprawl. But beyond that, the building is generic, seemingly of cheap materials and marred by various unsightly signs. Next door the "Tenno Building" looks like a roof masquerading as a building. In fact, the lack of roof-to-overall-building-proportionality is almost shocking at first glance. Visualize a 2-year-old child donning a magician's top hat. Very odd. And very ugly.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Creating Places: Hilton's Home2Suites Part II

Has anybody noticed the almost stunningly small footprint of the Hilton Home2Suites Hilton that will front Division Street and be sited on the east side of Bristol on Broadway? I'm not certain of the square footage but it will rank among the most modest of any the city has seen for a hotel. Of note, this could render a very distinctive building, due to its height (seven stories) related to its footprint.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Creating Places: Bad West End Design Part 7

From the Stoney River Legendary Steaks structure, we now visit the building home to the Extended Stay America. I like the height and massing, but the colors, forms and positioning of the building are poorly executed. The north face of the building (that is, the side that fronts West End Avenue) is not well suited for addressing a major street. On a positive note, there is no surface parking separating the building from the sidewalk. I do think it's cool we have an extended stay hotel in this part of the city. But it simply seems the architect worked from a template from which multiple Extended Stay America designs are derived. Very generic.