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.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Creating Places: Random tidbits

Some quick points as I ponder who is the more amusing chap: Don Rickles or the late Rodney Dangerfield.

* The under-construction Pine Street Flats in The Gulch is starting to assuming some nice definition. Once finished, the "contiguous building wall" stretching from Terrazzo on the south to Velocity on the north will be one of the most impressive of its type in the city (though not on the same level as some of the canyons in the central business district, the stretch of 21st Avenue along which tower the structures of Vanderbilt University and its medical center and a few pockets found in Midtown and along West End Avenue).

* For some reason, I'm a fan of this 1960s-era building (located in the 4200 block of Harding Pike and near Saint Thomas Hospital). Home to a SunTrust banking center, the structure's symmetry, materials, color scheme, signage and (yes) canopies create a collective tastefulness — the harsh asphalt surface parking surrounding the building notwithstanding.

* And speaking of Saint Thomas Hospital, there are few uglier major civic structures (which I'm defining loosely here) in Nashville.

* In contrast, I consider the NES Building one of the city's most underrated civic structures (Have you ever noticed how few folks mention it in the discussion regarding such buildings?).

* It seems more and more tasteful single-family residential construction is unfolding in Green Hills. Encouraging. I hope to take a few photos and post them soon.

* Whoever chose the eye-catching exterior night-time lighting for the Adventure Science Center deserves a tasty Yazoo Dos Perros.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Creating Places: A few quick hits

* * A few random thoughts while reflecting on the ZZ Top concert and pondering who sports the more impressive beard: Billy Gibbons or Dusty Hill ...

* The new Subway sandwich shops on Elliston Place and in the old school building on Granny White Pike (across from Lipscomb University and last home to a laundry mat) have noticeably harmed the visual vibe of their respective locales.

* And on the Granny White theme, the Granny White Church of Christ building (seen below) ranks among the five or so most architecturally underrated religious structures in Nashville.

* The Omni Nashville Hotel is about to have Floor No. 8 topped. The under-construction building now appears to be about 120 feet tall.

* The lot that will eventually be home to West End Village (located on the southwest corner of 31st Avenue North and Long Boulevard) is absolutely massive. That's a project to keep an eye on as it unfolds.

* I've been told from a very legitimate source that the hideous storage building on the East Bank (and sited near Ghost Ballet) will be gone once an upcoming phase of riverfront redevelopment is underway. Good to hear.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Creating Places: Random tidbits

Some quick hits as I ponder which late drummer's facial expressions I find more entertaining: Art Blakey or Buddy Rich

* I learned this week the garage for the Hyatt Place (currently under construction in SoBro) will primarily be above ground. This means only modest digging will be required, so we could see the structure at five stories by the end of this calendar year (unless there is a major delay). Kudos to my good friend Ron Brewer, who assisted with the updated garage info.

* Though it may seem difficult to believe, Nashville has more than 30 major projects underway, just started or just finished. Not bad given the sluggish economy.

* Watching the two recent NBA playoff games on TV and seeing the video of downtown Oklahoma City, I envy that town for now having Devon Tower, a striking 844-foot-tall skyscraper that has redefined OKC's image (along with the Thunder). Nashville needs a building of 750 feet or taller, as such a high-rise would send a strong message — one of "We are a city on the move" — to both locals and visitors alike. As to Devon Tower itself (read more here), Pickard Chilton was the architect. PC, along with Nashville-based stalwarts EOA, designed SoBro's The Pinnacle at Symphony Place.

* Of all the new construction we're seeing in Music City and of those buildings that are far from being completed (and, as such, require some effort so as to mentally visualize their final form), one that has me highly optimistic is Elliston 23. The building is already creating a nice wall along both Elliston Place and 23rd Avenue North. When finished, it should reach about 75 feet in height.

* The new law school building on the Belmont University campus is assuming a grand presence on its site.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Creating Places: Looking at Lentz

At top is the current Lentz Public Health Center, located on 23rd Ave. N. On the bottom is a rendering of the planned replacement facility, to  front Charlotte Avenue at 26th Avenue North. Interestingly, I see a few similarities. Both buildings are more horizontal than vertical, and the new structure seemingly will have a modest percentage of its facade comprised of glass (much like the original). Lastly, both buildings incorporate a light (as opposed to dark) color palette. Of note, I would have preferred more height for the new structure. In addition, and potentially a negative, the new Lentz will have no buildings near it and, as such, could seem a bit awkward in its less-than-building-lively setting. I do like the signage on the far left and the vertical piece splitting the building's entrance. Though not visible due to the image's limited size, the signage on that component reads Metropolitan Health Department and should be eye-catching. The good folks at Gresham Smith and Partners designed the new structure and have done a very solid job. Grade: B-plus.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Creating Places: The Ham and the Chicken

While in Birmingham recently, this building housing a Chick-fil-A caught my attention — one, because it's a rather attractive building (and a masterpiece compared to most of the freestanding buildings accommodating fast food businesses) and, two, because the site previously was pockmarked by a horrendous looking fast food building (I don't recall if it were a Chick-fil-A but I sure remember it looked goofball surrounded by lots of cool buildings). Given the site is only one block south of the epicenter of the Ham's happening Five Points (a mixed-use urban district with lots of old-school, pedestrian-oriented structures and their attendant charm), the previous building was disturbingly out of context. This new building represents a vast improvement and shows that fast food buildings don't have to be as bad for the built environment as the food served from them is for our health.