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, January 8, 2012

Creating Places: Eyesore of the Day

Pictured at left are two buildings — one diminutive, handsome and vintage (on the right) and the other a fairly recently opened warehouse-like monstrosity — comprising the Watson Grove Missionary Baptist Church. Sitting on the southwest corner of 15th and Horton avenues on Nashville's south side (near Music Row), the two buildings offer a stark contrast in architectural presentations.

Let me preface my criticism by noting I'm sure there are some fine folks worshipping at WGMBC, decent and honorable people who undertake volunteer work, assist the elderly and the hospitalized, and are too busy going about the stressful business of life to devote time to maintaining a blog of this type. Indeed, the congregants certainly are contributing more to our community than this writer.

That said, I must be blunt: What were church officials thinking when they approved architectural plans for this design? I've seen more attractive sewage processing facilities. In fairness, I'm sure a modest budget limited the church's options, but this design is absolutely unacceptable. And hideous.

The photo doesn't "highlight" the building's various problems but they are many. For example, the facade offers no defined entrance. Rather, a small door (not seen here but located on the left side of front wall's protruding element) faces 14th Avenue in a head-scratching design feature (likely a safety consideration of some sort).

On the facade's lower right side (and somewhat visible here) is the HVAC system. A puzzling placement, no doubt. People don't voluntarily have warts placed on their visages. I guess it's OK to do so with a church.

The exterior materials include two brick types (those on either side offer a nasty, almost pinkish hue), drab off-white (almost a faint yellow) corrugated metal and stucco, and a green metal roof. The materials are overwhelming in usage and massing, while the color scheme elicits nausea.

Furthermore, the building — its roof so gradually and excessively sloping that its zenith is located much too close to street level — is completely out of scale in relation to the historic structure. The ugly church looms like big brother waiting to punch his little sibling for no reason.

Lastly, the steeple (and I use that word generously) is laughably tiny and made of flimsy and cheap materials.

If I were on the Watson Grove church design review committee that approved this bloated beast, I would be ashamed. Sadly, such religious building design (Covenant Presbyterian being an exception) has been the norm in Nashville for years.


  1. The corrugated metal siding is hideous. But William, so much has changed in recent decades... not just due to the "pack-em-in and we'll build it" temporary church building mentality. There is also the public's perception of a church that would spend its God-given money on the "luxuries" instead of the charities. It's the same phenomenon at work with the healthcare companies in town that cannot possibly spend their "profits" (gasp!) on a decent looking HQ building. It's all perception... and this horrible looking church building suggests to many people that its congregants are much more concerned with God's work. Just sayin'. As a weekly church-goer to my towns oldest Presbyterian church, I think the only thing that will prevent such eyesores from being erected will be strict "no warehouse" type zoning. In short, Metro codes needs to define this building as a warehouse if it's constructed a certain way.

  2. Myron Monk,

    You are spot-on with your comments. Agree fully.