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, October 31, 2012
Sunday, October 28, 2012
This rendering suggests the buildings — or various buildings acting as one — could offer various plusses and negatives. I like the potential of the intricacies of the structure, as it shows various traditional shapes, forms and patterns. I also find it interesting that the entirety of the main level seemingly is devoted to retail space. I can't think of many tall/wide Nashville buildings with such a sea of retail at their bases (Icon would be an exception). In addition, I think the roof of the portion of the building facing 21st (note its sloping shape and the various gables) could play nicely off the roofs of the nearby (and fully under construction) College Halls at Kissam (check this image).
My main concern is that the building (no name has been announced) could be covered in red cream and yellow cream stucco and feature very cheap windows. Essentially, it could look, to some degree, like a massive — with inexpensive faux-trad detailing — stucco-clad interstate motel. Also, the building could be very "busy." I could visualize its attempts to look and function like multiple buildings failing, rendering the structure a massive mess of dissimilar sections that neither work well together nor well separately.
Lastly, I'm not convinced this project will materialize. Buckingham is proposing the structure be 479,000 square feet and carry a price tag of about $100 million. This cost is steep and even seems slightly under-estimated. Many tall buildings will cost a minimum of $7 million per floor (and as much as $15 million). Though the Buckingham structure is not a skyscraper in the strict sense, it is so massive and multi-shaped, it might cost up to $10 million per floor. The main section is 12 stories, while the hotel piece (at left and in red) would seem to be 17. Let's call it 13 on the whole and, at $10 million per floor, that's $130 million. At the least, I could still see $8 million per floor (or $104 million). Also remember that some of the building is planned for condo space, and I'm not convinced the Nashville market is ready for condo buyers wanting to live in a building with apartment units, too.
Having said all that, I hope I'm proved wrong and the building materializes and is both attractive and functional.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
And speaking of a man who was anything but effete ... Mr. John Cash: an American music legend.
The little cinder block building that runs along Molloy Street between Fourth Avenue South and Almond Street in SoBro now sports an updated mural of The Man in Black. And, I must say, it is outstanding. The former mural had deteriorated badly, so this new iteration is welcomed. If anybody knows the men responsible, please let me know their names. I'd like to give them credit. Great work.
Sunday, October 21, 2012
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
The good: The signs are of an appropriate height — tall enough to dissuade vandalism, via spray paint, but not so tall that they contribute to visual clutter — and secured by attractive black support poles. Some offer interesting wording (SoBro Attractions, West End District, Capitol Hill, etc.), while many are helpful (particularly to visitors to the city) and well placed.
The bad: The green and brown color scheme seems a bit odd. And on that theme, there is an inconsistency in that some of the signs are brown only. For that matter, some of the signs have a curvature at their tops and/or a Nashville logo while others do not. The Nashville logo — as my friend Andi Stepnick recently remarked — suggests Hard Rock Cafe (however, and in fairness, the design and lettering of the "Nashville" have long been used by the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau). Some of the signs are placed such to confuse visitors or, as is the case with one in front of the 2525 Building on West End Avenue, in spots blinded by trees.
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
1. I like that Duda Paine is the architect. I just checked the firm's website (see here), and its portfolio of office towers reveals great variation from building to building. Duda Paine, clearly, is not stamping out sameness.
2. On that theme ... I would prefer that each WES building have its own distinct design. The sameness of the two could render a collective blandness than would otherwise be the case.
3. And on that theme ... In general, I'm not a fan of "twin towers." It seems very 1980s-ish.
4. BUT, if we're going to have twin towers, this site is well suited for them as it will provide a nice variety of access and viewing (particularly as seen from the north and south) points.
5. Both buildings offer a well-defined base, main section and cap. That is almost always a positive characteristic. Some have mocked the caps, noting they suggest the buildings are topped with mohawks. I can see that criticism. But the caps will give some added (and needed) height.
6. On the height theme, neither building will be more than 300 feet tall, rendering both (at least potentially) a bit stocky. And sited side by side, that stubbiness might be exaggerated (as a horizontal vibe will be as evident as the vertical aesthetic).
7. The exterior materials should be very attractive. The renderings suggest mainly glass and metal (ala The Pinnacle at Symphony Place). I would hope there will be some granite elements (and not concrete). Of note, the renderings suggest the glass will offer a slight pinkish hue. I would trust that will not be the actual color.
8. I'm hoping the motor court offers a water feature. It's not clear in the rendering but I seem to recall during my chats with Palmer & Co. officials years ago that a water feature will be strongly considered.
9. On that theme, the main entrance should be relative attractive and (we would hope) not excessively "vehicle intense."
10. Note that the buildings are "layered" as they begin to stair-step vertically toward their caps. This will add some interesting definition but might, unfortunately, exaggerate the stockiness of the buildings. When buildings stair-step, they tend to assume an almost "wedding cake-like" form. I'm optimistic that won't be the case with WES.
Sunday, October 14, 2012
Designed by the Brentwood office of Thomas, Miller & Partners, the new hall (my photo is bad) offers various positives, including 1. a smallish, column-flanked pedestrian entrance that fronts Meridian; 2. a well-defined separation between Floors 1 and 2; and 3. (on the left side and topping the engine storage area) a hipped roof (rather unusual for a fire station, I would think). Also of note, the building features a metal roof. For better or worse, metal roofing has become commonplace in lots of industrial construction. And when that metal is red (picture a Mrs. Winner's building) or green (visualize countless suburban strip centers), the effect can be painfully unattractive and bland. Fortunately, the fire hall roof is gray metal and actually looks acceptable. In addition, the landscaping is quite tasteful.
A few minor quibbles: The building is a bit too horizontal — though the previously mentioned hipped-roof component and two mini-gabled roof elements lend some needed height. Also, the tops of the first-floor windows are positioned somewhat too closely to the eaves-like roof element separating Floors 1 and 2.
Overall, this is a very respectably designed civic building. Grade: B to B-plus.
Monday, October 8, 2012
Of particular note, and located near the Trolley Barns overlooking the Cumberland River, the Nashville Civic Design Center has installed various large-scale images that are the results of an international competition involving how the riverfront, East Bank and greenways could look and function in the future. The creations of the 17 remaining finalist will be on display through Oct. 14 and you can vote for your favorite through today. (Read here for more info.)
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Jennifer Cole serves as executive director of the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, the entity tasked with bringing high-profile public art to Davidson County. Of note, the MNAC will install 25 new pieces in the public collection during the next three to four years. Given public outdoor art can be key element of the built environment — and on the day the art-clad 28th/31st Avenue Connector opened — I though it might be nice timing to run this Q and A with the gracious Ms. Cole.
What about the art component of the 28th/31st Avenue Connector? My concern about that art is that few walkers will get to stop and enjoy. I see the connector as being dominated by cars and, as such, will offer only a modest level of success with its art.
Tell me about the initiative in Donelson.