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, May 19, 2012

Creating Places: Vanderbilt eyesore

This battered wood fence runs along 21st Avenue and frames Vanderbilt University's One Magnolia Circle and Kennedy Center. Given VU's stellar planning, architecture, landscaping and design efforts of the past 15 years or so, I'm baffled the university allows this eyesore to remain. Weather-beaten and deteriorating, the fence (I believe it conceals a daycare facility playground) might date from the 1960s. What makes the fence's presence all the more painful is the otherwise impressive stretch of 21st, with an imposing wall of mid-rises on its west side and the stately Peabody campus on the east side. One could argue this is one of Nashville's five most urban and big-city stretches of street — the ramshackle fence notwithstanding. If I might lamely take a line from the late Ronald Reagan ... "Vanderbilt, tear down this fence."


  1. William, I think Vandy has several other eyesores worse than the fence. The first one that comes to mind is the one-story, flat-roof building along West End Ave. between 23rd and 24th Avenues. Not only is it a long, bland "Mobile Home" of a commercial building, but it has an absolutely hideous parking lot along its front. I am about 80% sure that Vandy was involved in building this one... just as I heard they were involved in a couple of two-story (upper walkways along the fronts) commercial buildings on satellite sites along West End and 21st Avenue. And also, any truth to the rumor that Vandy was involved in the 2525 West End Complex. That parking lot across the front should never have been allowed.

    1. You are very right about these Vanderbilt "eyesores", on both West End and 21st Ave. A university as rich and progressive as VU should be all over this.

      While on the subject of VU, I am shocked that the 50+ year old Medical Arts Building, located on 21st in one of the most prime spots of the Medical Center, is still there. One would have expected VU to replace this old doctor's office building with something very substantial at the gateway to VUMC. They seem to build parking garages all over, but this old structure is still there and has not even been renovated.

  2. M-Monk,

    Do you mean the building on the north side of West End and home to, among others, Pinkberry and Office Depot? That is, indeed, a foul strip center but I don't think VU developed it. I could be wrong. Agree fully about the 2525 Building. That was a major missed opportunity to have the retail spaces address the street. The surface lot in the front hurts an otherwise solid building. Hines (out of Texas) was the developer. Of note, the architect was Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, one of the nation's power players in the design field.

    A-Mous, I actually find the Medical Arts Building likable in an oddly quirky way. However, it likely does need a renovation.


  3. As a Vandy grad I think this whole conversation would be a failure if there was no bashing of the Vanderbilt Projects. You know what I am talking about: the four commie-block buildings at West End and 24th.

    They are disgusting inside and out, the elevators would break daily, and to top it all off, they charge the students more than $1k a month each to live in those closets.

    Vandy also made sure to make the buildings tall enough to be visible for miles. Go Dores.