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, March 18, 2012

Creating Places: Gilbert McLaughlin Casella delivers

I have long admired the work of Nashville-based architecture company Gilbert McLaughlin Casella. Check the portfolio here. The recently opened recreation center at Christ the King (seen here and fronting Belmont Boulevard) represents one of the best efforts GMS has submitted to date.

This building shines on so many levels (my apologies as my photo does it minimal justice), including materials, forms, massing and street activation. The corner piece, with its handsome stone and metal windows, offers a neo-art deco feel. The wall running to the right of the corner element creates a subtle stair-step effect. The brick color is perfect, as it relates to the brick color of the older main building (not seen in this shot) by being neither exactly alike nor radically different. However, my favorite characteristic of the structure might be the stairwell with black metal railings. Note how it connects to the sidewalk, creating a nice interaction with the public realm. The only flaw (and it's minor) is the limited number of windows. But this is a gym and windows for such buildings are not easily designed or arranged.

Kudos to Christ the King officials, who were receptive to GMC's design. And a fine job by SouthLand Constructors with the build-out.

Final grade: A-minus

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