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.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Creating Places: MZA designs Village building

Creating Places: It takes an MZA village

In an interesting twist, Manuel Zeitlin Architects has designed the Hillsboro Village building that will replace the vintage masonry structure from which the company has long operated and must soon move. Seen below, the building will likely represent that most contemporary structure H.G. Hill Realty has developed to date (including 12South Flats).

Let's look at the positives and negatives of the exterior design.


* The building (for which a name has yet to be announced) offers an interesting array of shapes,  combining both horizontal and vertical forms. I suppose a critic might argue the building is excessively "busy" due to this feature. But I like it.

* As many of you know, I favor the neutral colors. The rendering suggests various shades of gray. Again, critics will call that "drab." But I see "industrial" and "permanent."

* I don't know what materials will be used, but I do know MZA typically shuns stucco. So that's good. I would suppose the structure will be clad in metal and tile. It could even have some Hardie siding.

* I like how the building's right section elevates to three levels as it steps back.

* The corner restaurant piece is well defined and could even offer garage doors (it's difficult to determine).


* I'm a major fan of well-designed contemporary structures, and this building surely will be an example given MZA's track record (the firm's Terrazzo and the Tennessee Association of Realtors Building are stellar).

However, Hillsboro Village is appealing, in large part, because of brick and stone buildings — the Belmont United Methodist Church and all the structures on the west side of 21st (notwithstanding the horrendously bland credit union building) being the highlights. Even the little homes with eateries and on Belcourt Avenue lend a certain understated charm.

This building, in contrast, will be anything but charming. It should be very sleek, energy efficient and eye-catching, but my concern is that it might wildly contrast with most of the other buildings in the Village, particularly those on 21st. True, there are some other contemporary structures in the district (for example, the building home to Sunset Grill) that work well. And the MZÅ/Hill building will be sited across the street from a gas station (which, by its nature, offers a somewhat industrial vibe).

Maybe the Village could use a more 21st century feel and, as such, this structure will fit nicely. For now, I'll remain hopeful.


  1. I like it a lot. HG Hill Realty does quality work and it will be a most welcome addition to Hillsboro Village. If it looks anything like the quality of the Terazzo in the Gulch, it will be really good.

    When will construction start? What's the time line for completion?

  2. AMous 8:14,

    I'm not sure about a start date. I would think in early 2013. But will check.


  3. I only wish they had found a means to incorporate the existing buildings, with their many decades of accumulated soulfulness, into the project. Now that would have been a real challenge for an ambitious architect to resolve. And Nashville would have had the best of both architectural worlds. Hillsboro Village as we know it has only a few weeks left. Welcome to the new midtown Hill Center!

  4. Amous 9:30 AM,

    I actually talked to Hill Realty about that option. Could have been very cool. But it was not viewed as practical. Indeed, a certain "soulfulness" will be gone once this building (actually a group of individual buildings) is razed.


  5. "Shades of gray" (even 50!) sounds cold and unappealing. Of course, there are warmer ones possible. The lines, however, do look appealing. Let's just hope and pray the look isn't so out-of-keeping with the rest of the Village as to destroy its charm. That would be a shame.

    My only other regret with this rendering is that it's so low-rise, thus, not forward-thinking. At least 4-5 stories would have made far more sense. But I suppose what's done is done.

  6. AMous,

    Agree on the height (or lack thereof). However, I think an urban design overlay (UDO) limits buildings to a certain height in the Village.