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it's just dave

Nashville's most beautiful building

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"They can't build 'em like this anymore" is a phrase most of us fans of architecture often hear. "Can't" is an overly used word sometimes. In the case of Nashville's Schemerhorn Symphony Center, the word is, "yes, we can, yes, we will, and yes we have" built it like that. Yes, it takes an astromnomical amount of money, dedication, talent and searching the globe for the absolute best in designers, acoustical engineers and artists.

Check out the Tennessean article linked below about the pediment and other art to be included in the center. Adding once again to Nashville's cultural moniker "Athens of the South" (which includes higher education as well) will be a building of Greek influence that will visually dominate anyone's visit downtown moreso than anything at the present time. Until Signature is built, the center will inspire and awe all who see it. I hope everyone realizes just how extraordinary this building will be. It only takes visualizing the finished product to understand that we will have something most cities and symphony organizations only dream about. People writing individual checks for $30 million, $20 million, $10 million and all the efforts to bring this building to reality will put Nashville on the classical music map on a world-wide scale for years to come. Make no mistake, every bit of pride we assign to any tall buidlings ever built in this city should be punctuated by this structure.

Yes, they DO build 'em like this. I'm adding the Symphony website to this as well just as a reminder. 2006 will give us something to be proud of.

The pediment will be installed in February, so finally, there's something we won't have to wait long to see.

http://www.tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/ar...ENT05/512180311

Take another look.

http://www.schermerhornsymphonycenter.org/

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As an art school grad and one time architectural school student I have mixed feelings about some of the classical architecture Nashville is building these days. Nashville is the 'Athens of the South' and features two of the finest examples of greek neo-classical architcture in the country in the State Capitol and the Parthenon. However, are we overdoing the classical thing? I suppose it is 'safe' as it is hard to mess it up and modernist architecture can really be bad in some cases. But we need to take chances and use some of the world's notable designers to think outside the box and build some outstanding buildings.

photo_big_0214.jpg

My comments and grades on recent completed and proposed public buildings are:

1. The Gaylord Entertainment Center - (A-) Modernistic exterior with the fabulous radio tower reflecting Nashville's radio heritage. It was correctly designed as a concert venue first and a sports arena second; something other Citiy's arenas are copying.

2. The Coliseum - (D+) Obviously built cheap. And face it, it is an ugly building. It was supposedly an homage to Nashville east bank industry, but I think they just said that to explain away the drap appearance. Charlotte's stadium would have been more coliseum like. But we should have gone for something more modernistic such as Chicago's new Soldier Field.

photo_big_0071.jpg

3. The downtown public library (B) - In a word, safe. There were several proposals in the contest, but the current one is the one I liked the least. It is a fine building and one we can be proud of, but it does not stand out or command attention.

mainlib.jpg

4. The renovated Performing Arts center lobby (A++) - This is what happens when you take chances.

exterior_resized.jpg

5. The Beverly Briley Court Building (B+) - Fairly well done. It has an art deco look that mimics the current City Hall Building well. Still, could have taken a chance here.

6. New proposed Federal Courthouse (C-) - I was excited to hear that Micheal Graves was preparing the design, but heartbroken when I finally saw it. Some fed bureaucrat, architect wannabe, must have dumbed down any original proposal to the point where it now more resembles an HCA hospital.

7. The Symphony Hall (A) - I will concede that being safe in this may be the best way to go. The public art is what convinced me to raise this from an A-. If you are going to do classical, then spend some money and do it right. And they did.

ssc_rendering.jpg

I don't know what's next, an opera house? more state offices? The Sounds stadium?

Please. please, please listen, HOK, if you are reading this site. Give us something remarkable and unique and not what has become the new cookie cutter stadium look with all the brick and such. Don't get me wrong. I have been to Camden Yards in Baltimore and loved it. It was and still is one of the great ballparks in America. But. I like Pittsbugh's much better. Think along those lines.

But we need to make sure we don't get in a classical rut.

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A closer inspection of the drabby Coliseum shows this.....

COLISEUMpano.jpg

I agree, it is a bit of a bummer to have a stadium as thoughtless as this one. But it is all that we have.

The Symphony Hall is a feather in the hat of the city. I am more impressed with it everytime I go downtown. Even the little Christmas tree on top was a nice additon, if only temporary. LOL!!

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There's no denying the beauty and presence of a well designed classical building. And i'm blown away by the sculptural motifs they have planned for the building and the grounds. This will be a great spot to just hang out in downtown. I agree with a lot of what PHofKS said and I think he's right on when it comes to the Schermerhorn going all out with the details and thus doing classicism correctly. The artist working on the pediment relief talked about the decoration and detail that adorned buildings until the modern era. So much of that care and consideration is lacking from our environment.

What grade would you give the CM Hall of Fame, PH?

Oh, and for comparisons sake, anybody who hasn't seen the Walt Disney Concert Hall should google it and witness the complete opposite end of the spectrum from the Schermerhorn.

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I've got to admit. I rather like it. This would look good stategically placed on Vanderbilt's campus.

I don't think we've overdone the classicist buildings, yet. It's part of our identity, but I'm with PH, I'd love to see some chances taken and some really striking modernist archtecture begin to emerge. It's very tough to do this right and long-lasting, but it can be done, and I hope we integrate some of that into our city structure. I love contrasts. I'd love for Nashville's image to reflect our heritage and our vision for the future as well.

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2. The Coliseum - (D+) Obviously built cheap. And face it, it is an ugly building. It was supposedly an homage to Nashville east bank industry, but I think they just said that to explain away the drap appearance. Charlotte's stadium would have been more coliseum like. But we should have gone for something more modernistic such as Chicago's new Soldier Field.

6. New proposed Federal Courthouse (C-) - I was excited to hear that Micheal Graves was preparing the design, but heartbroken when I finally saw it. Some fed bureaucrat, architect wannabe, must have dumbed down any original proposal to the point where it now more resembles an HCA hospital.

But we need to make sure we don't get in a classical rut.

Well put PH. I'd agree with most of your grades, except I'd give the collseum a gentleman's D... but I wouldn't even give that to the new Fed Courthouse.

You're absolutely right about the bureaucrat who 'dumbed down' the design. In fact, he is a Circut judge from Nashville (I think his name is Eccles or Eggles...or maybe even Eggleston). Of course I don't know him, but I've read his comments in published articles about the building. I read enough to conclude that he's of that older generation that can't see beyond yesterday's great classic buildings. Plus, he's apparently enamored of the city's rep as "Athens of the South." So consequently, you get the jumbled mess of "classical" elements in a hideous package. Yes, I'm disappointed by the proposal too.

One more thing. There were new security requirements for all new federal buildings built after the OKC bombings. I am not familiar with all of them other than what I've read in pertinent articles. Suffice it to say that a lot more emphasis and expense is put on security at the expense of external design. So in addition to the scores of people who lost their lives and the grief endured by their family and friends... Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols have left another ignominious legacy.

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Thanks PH for your analysis of recent architecture in Nashville. For the most part, I think you're right on with your grades. I do think the new Schermerhorn Symphony Center is going to be well deserving of an A grade. It is going to be most striking, and the art touches will make the Center something that all Nashvillians will be proud of. It looks better every time I see it.

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The interior of the WDSH is stunning, while the outside has yet to grow on me. Dave, I will somewhat agree with you on the statement that it would look good on Vandy's campus. I could see that without a doubt.

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^Yeah. That is a typical Frank Gehry design. YUCK!

Ugh ! My eyes ! That's shaped like something that came out of my bowels when I didn't eat enough fiber.

And don't get me started on that ghastly monstrosity known as the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain. :blink:

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I think his name is Eccles or Eggles...

His name is Robert Echols. Check out his comments in this old article from the Nashville Scene. It's written by their architecture critic, Christine Kreyling. She's not kind about the new courthouse.

Apparently the GSA wanted a modern design, but this judge wanted something neoclassical because "so many people love buildings like that." Yikes! How simple can you get? This guy needs to stick to judgin' and leave architecture to the architects. IMHO, here you have a "classic" example of being stuck in a "classical rut."

Nashville Scene: Federal Disaster

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What grade would you give the CM Hall of Fame, PH?

My thoughts exactly. That one was left off the list.

My only thoughts on this is that an A++ was given to the T-PAC overhaul, but I think the new symphony hall should garner at least that.

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My thoughts exactly. That one was left off the list.

My only thoughts on this is that an A++ was given to the T-PAC overhaul, but I think the new symphony hall should garner at least that.

I was bowled over with the TPAC lobby (especially inside) when it opened. They took a chance with some contemporary architecture and it worked. It is beautiful, appropriate and I believe it will stand the test of time. And there is an attention to detail that gives it one more + in my book. The waterfall, artwork and even the floor makes a bold statement. The combination of concrete and chrome honors the art deco era when theater was at its max.

Perhaps the Symphony Hall will get another + once I get to see the interior.

As for the Hall of Fame, I should have included that in the original list. I would give it an A-. It is bold without being over the top. And it is appropriate. I think the piano keys motif may be a little cheesy, but it probably works for others. I also think it will fit contextually into the SOBRO neighborhood area well. I can visuallize walking down the street lined with 2 to 3 story brownstones, you turn the corner, and there it is. A nice little surprise. Similiar to the Guggenheim Museum in NYC in that regard.

This has been a good discussion we've had here and I appreciate the comments and replies.

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One of the great things about the HOF is that it works very well with the GEC. If you stand at Broad in front of the GEC and look south toward the HOF, the convex design of the GEC and the concave design of the HOF flow very well. I have no idea if this was planned or if it was a happy accident. Sorry that I don't have a picture.

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I was bowled over with the TPAC lobby (especially inside) when it opened. They took a chance with some contemporary architecture and it worked. It is beautiful, appropriate and I believe it will stand the test of time. And there is an attention to detail that gives it one more + in my book. The waterfall, artwork and even the floor makes a bold statement. The combination of concrete and chrome honors the art deco era when theater was at its max.

I must go see the TPAC Lobby. I was not even aware that it had been redesigned. I've generally agreed with all your assessments of the other buildings that you've rendered; so I'm sure I'll be floored as well.

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I am currently getting a Masters degree in Architectural History at the Savannah College of Art and Design, but I call Nashville my home and keep constant tabs on what is happening there...I feel proud and optimistic about the city, and plan on returning one day should the professional Nashville Architecture world offer me a seat.

The Schermerhorn Symphony Center is not, by any means, a strictly classical building. It lacks symmetry and has opted out of a great deal of classical vocabularly and grammar...it has Doric/Egyptian/whatever columns and a pediment, but to call it a classical building is only to address its surface.

It is profoundly classical, however, in intent. The building reflects a transparent and extremely commendable pursuit of Vitruvius' three requirements of all architecture: strength, utility, and beauty. This marks its greatest difference from the new architecture which many good people seem to be calling for on this site. Almost all modern, postmodern, deconstructionist (Gehry has already been brought up in this discussion) and otherwise "contemporary" architecture does follow the first two of the classical principles, but not the third. The priorities of Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, and Peter Eisenman would be better summed up as: strength, utility, and progress.

Those who clamor for built experimentation and heroic environmental daring-do run the risk of sacrificing beauty on the altar of "progress." This frame of mind has, for the past fifty years or so, gotten us a whole lot of bad buildings, inhumane streets, and disfunctional cities--not to mention unattractive and wholly unrewarding "machines for living." If progress is the chief aim of our society, and it is to be achieved by constant tinkering, we must be prepared to live in a world of false starts and architectural nonsense. Experimenting is good--but please don't do it on my family and friends. I prefer a commonsense, functional, beautiful built environment that can be repaired over time and doesn't require a hundred books and a toleration for discomfort to be appreciated.

That is why I love the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, and that is why I am pleased that it does possess many classical elements. I am all about innovation, variety, and creativity--and feel the need to say that I am not yet a committed classicist--but I value the pursuit of beauty, and have come to believe that a perscription of newness for newness' sake typically creates buildings and places that are devoid of all value as soon as they stop being new. The "avant-garde" and the "cutting edge" are no replacement for honest beauty, and are not nearly as timeless since they depend on trends in order to break them. Most visitors to Paris, Florence, and Savannah agree.

And finally, for the sake of argument: at this point in the game, my friends, an almost-classical building like the Schermerhorn would have been as revolutionary as one could get in architectural circles, if it had sported some feminine Ionic columns and pure symmetry. That would have set the hounds of progress in the halls of the Bauhaus screaming and snapping their rulers in rage.

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Wow. It's nice to read what I might have said if I were skilled enough, and educated enough, to write such things.

An amazing post, thank you offering this. It's also pleasing to know you want to come home someday.

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I don't know if I understood everything in your post, NewTowner, but I'm sure that I did learn something. Thanks for the enlightenment.

Just curious...What is your opinion of the current design for the Signature Tower?

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Just curious...What is your opinion of the current design for the Signature Tower?

Wow...that is a hard one to answer, simply because I am so eager for Nashville to get a critical mass of residents downtown that any project with as many potential homeowners involved is hard for me to resist.

That said, however, I am not overwhelmed by the architecture. While I think there are many essentially good things about the Signature Tower's design (relatively transparent ground floor, underground parking, distinct body/top), I do feel that the building is designed with "coolness" in mind rather than beauty. I believe that it is possible to achieve both, and I also believe that the architects did not even try, although I must also confess that it is a tall order no matter the talent and resources in play. All of this is almost to be expected, however, given that the building is intended to have 55 stories...and will be practically impossible to see from less than three hundred yards away.

Personally, I would rather see ten stunning and dignified six-story buildings than one corporate-cool gigantic one--although I will not go parading that opinion around on a website full of so many passionate and intelligent skyscraper enthusiasts. I am more interested in beautiful streets than beautiful skylines (although we should shoot for both!), and so this may be a source of some prejudice I hold unfairly against what I would describe as a cop-out sleek, budget-streamlined, 1994-futurist, New Beijing Signature Tower (notice the Lotus Flower crown, and the general sterility of a ground floor made entirely of variously-angled glass).

But I still want lots of people to live downtown, so you would probably see me voting for it in any kind of poll. I support Tony's vision and enthusiasm for downtown, and believe he truly wants to make a difference for the positive (and produce and sell actual things of value, which is getting increasingly harder to find these days, in any field).

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NT, one thing I've noticed about our group is that streetscapes are always important to us. Sure, we want that colossal tower downtown to be a focal point especially when see the city from distant viewpoints, but you'll find most of us agree with your desire to see balance, in-fill, and pedestrian scale buildings fill in many of the empty lots in our downtown core. I certainly get a sense of inspiration in seeing tall buildings, but I love walking downtown and find attractive streetscapes a dire need in the city and the projects I love the most. As I look at various projects, I try to envision how they will look from the sidewalk or the car while scanning the landscape. With that in mind, it's why Church Steet, Capitol Blvd., the Courthous Plaza, Jas. Robertson Pky project, 3rd Avenue, and others rank as my most important. I also hope the future of Gateway Blvd. lives up to its billing as a beautiful urban roadway someday.

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Thanks NT for your candid assessment of Signature Tower. Based on your assessment of Schremerhorn, it's not to different to what I expected. I really appreciate the detail and the zeal at which you value architecture. I understand what you mean when you "would rather see ten stunning and dignified six-story buildings than one corporate-cool gigantic one." The city needs buildings like that...hopefully lots of them. I remember going to Paris and marveling at the architecture there. IMO, it's the most beautiful city in the world that I've ever seen architecturally. It's absolutely brimming with such stunning and dignified buildings.

Having said that, I absolutely love the design of Signature too. It's very bold, and "in your face". The sheer height of it lights the fire in me. I love glass, the brightness and shinyness of it, and the many reflections from it. Sure the design is relatively simple, and probably cost effective. This relatively low cost approach will probably be necessary in a city like Nashville which does not have any track record of people buying scores of million dollar residences downtown. With the Signature design we get hundreds and hundreds of new downtown residents that can afford to live there, we get a symbol of a city truly on the move towards greatness that can be seen from afar, and we get a true sense of civic pride...at least I do. Maybe the design can be tweaked just a little bit to add some additional architectural elegance, especially at street level. I hope so, because Signature Tower will become an enduring symbol of Nashville, IMO, and it needs to be the best that it can be. However, for the project to become reality, it has to be sold to bankers and the people of Nashville who would live in it. The project must have the economics and the necessary return on investment, so there are real limits as to how far architecture can go.

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