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, September 23, 2012

Creating Places: Hensler and Hastings deliver


As I ponder what might be Nashville's most underrated building of 250 feet or more (I'm strongly leaning toward the SunTrust Building on the northwest corner of Fourth and Church) while simultaneously listen to Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer brilliantly reference Herman Melville, here are some random thoughts regarding the exterior design of the residential tower (shown below) local developer Ray Hensler plans for the Gulch.

First, let me commend Hensler for his choice of Hastings Architecture Associates. With quality buildings such as Roundabout Plaza,  SunTrust Plaza and Terrazzo as part of the firm's portfolio, HAA submits very respectable work — and buildings that have added nicely to Nashville's skyline. 

As to this building (for which Hensler has yet to reveal a name), its color scheme and well-defined base are highlights. I've yet to talk to Ray about the exterior materials (the rendering does not reveal them), but it appears blue glass will be a highlight — and I like that. The color palette suggests a nod to the aforementioned Roundabout Plaza (with its handsome blues and grays). Very tasteful.

On the subject of shape, note how the corner most visible in this rendering (I'm fairly certain that is the corner that will address the northwest corner of the 12th Avenue and Laurel Street intersection) is slightly extended, offering a nice contrast to the larger portion of the building's south facade. In addition, the tower showcases a well-defined base, while avoiding the appearance of a more conventional (and, typically, less attractive) "pedestal building." Another nice touch: minimal use (if any) of concrete. In contrast, it seems the Omni will have excessive exterior concrete. In fact, and if we're so lucky, Hensler and  Hastings might be using some limestone and/or granite for the building, much like HAA did in concert with Zeitlin Architects for Terrazzo.

However, and somewhat disappointingly, the building apparently lacks a cap (in fairness,  sometimes images of this type don't fully reveal all exterior design elements). Rarely does a skyscraper (or any building, for that matter) achieve 100 percent design success without some type of roof-top element, whether a spire, parapet, contrasting material/color, sign, etc. 

Also, the tower has balconies extending from its face, a design element that rarely works. I live in a building with extending balconies and while my balcony affords me nice views of Nashville's built form, such balconies can mar an otherwise attractive skyscraper. In contrast, Hensler's classy Adelicia features inset balconies, giving that building a very clean, streamlined look.

Lastly, I like the tower's height, as it is neither excessive nor insufficient for its site. I roughly estimate the building to rise between 250 and 260 feet, which should work quite well on its high-perched Gulch lot. For contrast, consider the building will sit on land that is elevated a minimum of 40 feet above the site of Icon in the Gulch, which rises approximately 251 feet, according to Emporis. Very simply, those pedestrians standing at the 11th and 12th avenues split and looking north toward the Hensler tower will, indeed, be impressed — but not overwhelmed with outlandish height.

If this rendering and Hastings' previous work are indications, I anticipate Hensler's tower to earn at least a B-plus grade for its exterior design. And an A-minus is not out of the question. 






11 comments:

  1. Hmmm......interesting, but please clarify what the old Sun Trust (originally Third National Bank) building at 4th & Church have to do with this new residential project in the Gulch area? And how do Bob Schieffer of "Face the Nation" and Herman Melville figure into the equation? Definitely a ponderous, highly rambling way to begin an article. Perhaps Bloody Mary hour on a Sunday AM?! Grade: C-

    ReplyDelete
  2. Mean spirited trolling by a-mous douchebag...D-

    ReplyDelete
  3. The article is very rambling and hard to follow.

    ReplyDelete
  4. After spending the weekend in Chicago - I come back to Nashville again disappointed in the lack of creativity from our local architects. Of course Chicago has a long history of great architecture that Nashville cannot compete with, but it is precisely that history that pushes today's architects to continue to be forward thinking.

    The rendering of this Gulch project, to me, just shows the same aesthetic that's been going up in Nashville for a decade now - Roundabout, Encore, Viridian, new Suntrust. There's little that's original in these designs and nothing iconic. Blue glass does not an icon make.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A-Mous 11:12 AM,

      I lived in Chicago for 3.5 years and, yes, the city offers numerous high-rise marvels. But I'm not so sure it's fair to compare Chicago and Nashville as the standards many in the former place on architecture are much more demanding than we see with the latter. Furthermore, we don't know what type design budget Ray Hensler gave Hastings. Perhaps it was a figure that limited the firm, with HAA delivering the best exterior design it could based on that budget. So assuming the design budget was, relatively speaking, 75 percent of what a design firm would get for an average Chicago mid-rise residential building, I think this building's exterior looks quite nice. Still, I understand your overall argument and appreciate your weighing in.

      WW

      Delete
  5. I really like the drawing of this new apartment building. I think it will look really good and fit in nicely in downtown. Nashville, nor any other city, can really compare withbChicago architecture. I think we are doing quite well and have a few iconic structures already. Look forward to seeing this one rise soon.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This design can be seen practically in every major US city from between the oceans. It's not a bad design, but it's certainly not unique and probably won't warrant ooo's and aaa's when completed. It should add to the growing skyline of the Gulch which is a good thing. But as someone else pointed out the rendering is pretty much the same aesthetic already in the Gulch. The Gulch in mind is supposed to be young and trendy. As such the architecture should reflect that element. Maybe the rendering doesn't do the building justice in terms of materials and color. But, I sure hope that someone will break Nashville from the box building syndrome. The MCC is a wonderful departure from it with the fluid roof line. It takes on a personality of its own. That is why I'm disappointed with the renderings of the Omni. It lacks personality from a distance. So, hopefully through lighting and materials, this apartment building will have its own personality.

    Speaking of personality, the Bridgestone Arena certainly is a building with it's on personality. I hope that those who are responsible for keeping the building looking good and functional, will consider copying the lighting that is now used on the exterior of the Superdome. I think having the shell, dome whatever they call the roof of the BA would be perfect for that same type of exterior lighting application.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agree with the comments about the Bridgestone Arena. I understand there is a plan to rework the entrance on Demonbreun St. that will better link it with the Music City Center and Omni. When the MCC opens, much activity and pedestrian traffic will likely shift towards Demonbreun. I also like the design of the arena and it's unique roof. Some type of cool exterior lighting would be excellent.

      As for the new rental apt. tower in the Gulch, I think the rendering looks good. More height and density is just what Nashville needs.

      BTW, I read in the Tennessean today that US Bank will be moving its TN headquarters to the AT&T tower and they will get naming rights on the building along with AT&T. Any ideas as to how this will work -- will be be dual branding? If so, I think would look very strange.

      Delete
  7. A-Mous 4:10 PM,

    I hope to write a story about companies getting naming rights to buildings. Your question is a good one.

    WW

    ReplyDelete