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doormanpoet

Highrise verses lowrise

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After much consideration, I have come to following conclusion. One must read what the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat has to say about the definition of Lowrise, Midrise, Highrise ,Skyscraper and a Jumbo Skyscraper. Nashville has no skyscrapers at the moment. Basically a low rise is under 15 stories, a midrise is 16-30 stories, a high rise is 31 -50 stories and a skyscraper is over 50 stories and a jumbo skyscraper is 70+ stories and a footplate of over 30,000 square feet per floor. I may be off a floor or two. The Bellsouth is NOT 617 feet. It is 500+ feet with a 90 foot spire.

With that being said, our lowrise, midrise, and skyscraper discussions need to be fine tuned. The Signature Tower will be a skyscraper but not a jumbo skyscraper. Nashville has to concentrate on filling up dead space and surface parking lots. As long as the architecture is befitting the city, I am not overly concerned with the height. However, I do believe all buildings over 10 stories (except old apartment houses on Nolensville Road, Aklen Place, Dominican Drive, Jefferson Street, and other places which have 40-50 year old retirement highrises which obviously can't be torn down) need to be in the CBD. Height accoding to the centrist model must radiate out at descending heights from the central core. Palmer Plaza, ICON, Adelicia, and Encore belong on Church Street or Commerce Street on one of the many vacant lots and not in Sobro or West End.

I have been vehemently opposed to West End Summit's height from the beginning. The project does not address the street, and would block views of the downtown skyline from various angles. Palmer Plaza looks way out of place due to its location. This IS NOT Atlanta. We do not need a 269 foot building on West End when my 31 story, 385 foot tower stands out by itself surrounded by surface parking lots.

I also think Suntrust Plaza is not high enough at 13 stories. The prime lot deserves a 20+ story building to better utilize the location.

Nashville is falling into a "lets build it" mentality without thinking how height or lack thereof addresses the street, pedestrian traffic, and OVERALL SKYLINE SYMMETRY. The skyline is unbalanced and is starting to show a haphazard approach to development.

I love Signature Tower. I highly commend Tony for his vision. HE IS FILLING UP AN EMPTY LOT ON CHURCH STREET, Alex Palmer should od the same.

Obviously, developers build on what they have and what lots they have access to. I have faith that Signature Tower will enhance the downtown skyline. I also think it will look less out of place surrounded by 400 and 500 foot buildings compared to Palmer Plaza being surrounded by lowrise buildings.

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I agree with the need to fill up vacant lots in the cbd but look at City Center 2 - if there was ANY kind of demand for office space then the tower would have been built by now. I find it hard to impose a limit on development - regardless of height in an area that could be grouped into the overall (albeit very loosely defined) downtown area. You said it yourself that developers are going to build where they have land. Maybe the city should look at forcing the owners of large un-developed areas in the cbd to either poop or get off the pot.

BTW - I so totally agree with your thought that Suntrust should be building higher in that location. I think the building will look lost. IMO a perfect example of how building TOO SHORT in the cbd will cause a building to look out of place.

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There isn't a place in a development pro forma for skyline symmetry......that said, the best skylines and streetscapes are those that are varied. Architectual and materials quality are far more important in the long run, especially since you can't (and probably) don't want to hold development static when you feel that optimum aesthetics has been achieved.

To be concerned that certain buildings are blocked in certain veiws shows the lack of maturity in the skyline......what is much more exciting is truly large skylines that look completely different from every angle.

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I agree with most of this. However, symmetry sometimes happens (accidentally? or coincidentally?). That's why my favorite skyline is Minneapolis'.

I realize that "we" on the forum usually discuss this topic in terms of the new stuff (and that's understandable), but what I find most interesting is the different layers that can be seen in a city's skyline(s) of old and new buildings. IMO, it's refreshing to see a city that has preserved its older buildings especially when they're still prominently visible in a skyline. Not surprisingly, the newer buildings tend to be the tallest ones. Of course, I'm generalizing, but that often gives the stairstep effect.

I realize that Atlanta, and most Southern cities are in "violation" of that pattern. However, Atlanta is better than most if you look at DT only. It's not too late for Nashville to evolve that way. This is where your point, ATLRVR, is spot-on: There's no way to predict that it will happen that way as there are just too many factors affecting where/how the next building will be designed.

It may not happen now, b/c I believe the zoning regs in DT and MT Nashville have just been revised to allow over 50-story buildings now. Can anybody on this forum confirm that the Metro Council passed it last week?

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The problem with Nashville showing its historic skyscrapers is that it really only has one - the L&C Tower, which is only 400 feet tall, and will soon be swallowed up, because it is right in the middle of the CBD, where newer and taller towers will soon be built.

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I'm not even referring to the taller buildings. Even many cities in the South (specifically the faster growing ones) have a number of 7-15 story buildings. These were their first skyscrapers, and so often they are from the early 20th century. Just a quick scan of Chattanooga's, Asheville's, Augusta's and Columbus GA skylines show them. The larger cities like Nashville and Birmingham (especially) and Charlotte had an even greater number (some are gone).

Having said that, what I meant above is when a growing city like Nashville can preserve the older buildings DT at the same time they're building new and taller buildings. If it happens that those buildings are put up in the center of the CBD, then the effect will be a nice stepped view of the buildings of DT.

Also like I said above, the evolution of this in any city is a generally random process.

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Doorman, we agree on a lot of things. I think your running start on this thread contains a great deal of insight, and I am excited to see the start of a discussion about Nashville's architecture and urbanism beyond the realm of newsbites and cheerleading. You wrote a lot of intelligent things, and it took me awhile to respond because I needed to think about them.

Now I have had that time, and I have found that in order for me to make the point I want to make, I need to open up a recent chapter in your Book of Poetry. Awhile back, in what seemed like an effort to gently take some names, you posted a thread to the effect of "architecture as art / sculpture soaring into the sky," in which you argued that architectural aesthetics could not be debated on their objective merits, because architecture is art, and the merits of art (or lack thereof) are very much subjective. Now I don't agree with any of that, though we do agree on much else--but the only piece I want to drag into this current discussion is the idea that architecture is specifically sculpture, or can even be closely compared to it.

Any hope that your feelings about highrises and midrises are not utterly arbitrary depends a great deal on the following truth: architecture is not sculpture. For the sake of emphasis, I want to say it again: architecture is art, but it is most definitely not sculpture. Sure, architecture contains a great many sculptural elements--just like music contains a great many poetic and dramatic elements--but buildings themselves are not works of sculpture any more than music is poetry or theater. The reason architecture is not sculpture is simply that it is something else. It is the Stage of Human Events.

Sculpture has its own collection of obligations, but architecture and urban design have a set which is totally unique--architecture must physically and temporally accomodate human beings, providing shelter and shaping the world to better fit our needs and desires, and--if it is to be good architecture and urban design--it must also enoble love, give dignity to loss, provide the language of hope, instill meaning to work, grant depth to play, and, above all else, provide the porticoes and plazas and streets in which human beings can interact and long for Paradise on terms of their own choosing, in a civic realm which accomodates (and, if possible, encourages) all the virtues and duties which Natural Law demands of a civilized people.

Sculpture has a role to play in all of this, as it is one of architecture's great and durable cousins, but architecture is not sculpture. Rather, it is--or at least should be--a Great Stage.

And to me, that makes skyscrapers look a little worse, for they are distant objects (sculpture, if you will) more than they are physical places--while plazas tightly surrounded by embellished and articulate structures look a little better. I want to meet my father for a beer or a coffee in a human-scaled place with dignity and detail, not take him for a spin on the Interstate so we can observe the mighty mechanisms of a culture will no sense of place on the ground.

And there, I believe, is the crux of the high-rise debate. Places, or objects--we must choose.

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Doorman, we agree on a lot of things. I think your running start on this thread contains a great deal of insight, and I am excited to see the start of a discussion about Nashville's architecture and urbanism beyond the realm of newsbites and cheerleading. You wrote a lot of intelligent things, and it took me awhile to respond because I needed to think about them.

Now I have had that time, and I have found that in order for me to make the point I want to make, I need to open up a recent chapter in your Book of Poetry. Awhile back, in what seemed like an effort to gently take some names, you posted a thread to the effect of "architecture as art / sculpture soaring into the sky," in which you argued that architectural aesthetics could not be debated on their objective merits, because architecture is art, and the merits of art (or lack thereof) are very much subjective. Now I don't agree with any of that, though we do agree on much else--but the only piece I want to drag into this current discussion is the idea that architecture is specifically sculpture, or can even be closely compared to it.

Any hope that your feelings about highrises and midrises are not utterly arbitrary depends a great deal on the following truth: architecture is not sculpture. For the sake of emphasis, I want to say it again: architecture is art, but it is most definitely not sculpture. Sure, architecture contains a great many sculptural elements--just like music contains a great many poetic and dramatic elements--but buildings themselves are not works of sculpture any more than music is poetry or theater. The reason architecture is not sculpture is simply that it is something else. It is the Stage of Human Events.

Sculpture has its own collection of obligations, but architecture and urban design have a set which is totally unique--architecture must physically and temporally accomodate human beings, providing shelter and shaping the world to better fit our needs and desires, and--if it is to be good architecture and urban design--it must also enoble love, give dignity to loss, provide the language of hope, instill meaning to work, grant depth to play, and, above all else, provide the porticoes and plazas and streets in which human beings can interact and long for Paradise on terms of their own choosing, in a civic realm which accomodates (and, if possible, encourages) all the virtues and duties which Natural Law demands of a civilized people.

Sculpture has a role to play in all of this, as it is one of architecture's great and durable cousins, but architecture is not sculpture. Rather, it is--or at least should be--a Great Stage.

And to me, that makes skyscrapers look a little worse, for they are distant objects (sculpture, if you will) more than they are physical places--while plazas tightly surrounded by embellished and articulate structures look a little better. I want to meet my father for a beer or a coffee in a human-scaled place with dignity and detail, not take him for a spin on the Interstate so we can observe the mighty mechanisms of a culture will no sense of place on the ground.

And there, I believe, is the crux of the high-rise debate. Places, or objects--we must choose.

Nice post. I agree...architecture is one of many arts. However, you are right, it is not sculpture. Architecture is a combination of art and science. The art is wrapped into the form while the science is tied to the function...engineering and construction.

Does Nashville need a building at the scale of the Signature....No and Yes. Yes...because that is what the developer wants. It is not a symbol to the city as much as it may be a symbol for the developer. No...Because, the sustainability of such a building is weak.....energy consumption is huge....developable property is abundant....and the list goes on. What is forcing the height?

A sense of place is created....for the most part...within 60 or so of the street level. Each part of the building within this range...and its associated uses....is what provides the pedestrian with visual and physical interest. One must have the desire to go from location A to location B. Density is important from the number of units per acre, the amount of lots filled and the interest provided at the ground floor. Yes, a tall building provides density....however, just in one finite location. The activity and density along a path is more important... See Stroget in Copenhagen.

A street with a series of vacant lots and blank walls along the path of a pedestrian is not going to provide any interest for the average person. However, an active street will. For example....Kings Street in Charleston is a good example of where a pedestrian may walk a great distance in hot weather> Why? Because the street level is full of activity...and interesting ground floor uses. The same is true of many other streets.

Using Church Street as an example.....it could have the same level of activity without a 1,000 + building. The need along this street is to provide activity along all of the street...not just in nodes.

High-rise residential is very new. We love to cities of the past when we vision our city of the future.....shopping and other activity provided in downtown before the malls. However, a Signature tower is not necessary to provide the activity we vision.....I would rather see 5 to 10 15 story buildings filling in vacant lots than feeling oppressed by the very tall signature tower.

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High-rise residential is very new. We love to cities of the past when we vision our city of the future.....shopping and other activity provided in downtown before the malls. However, a Signature tower is not necessary to provide the activity we vision.....I would rather see 5 to 10 15 story buildings filling in vacant lots than feeling oppressed by the very tall signature tower.

Sounds familiar...eh posters? No takers on this one? (crickets chirping)

Sorry, that was wrong. Just curious if this is making more sense to anyone else, or are skyscrapers still the desired model for our city by the majority on U.P. Nashville?

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Generally, I like tall office towers and shorter residential towers. BUT. That doesn't mean I'm going to reject Signature Tower. Now that I've seen that it's probably gonna be built, I just can't say no to it.

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Just curious if this is making more sense to anyone else, or are skyscrapers still the desired model for our city by the majority on U.P. Nashville?

I don't know if it's necessarily a model that people here want. If I'd hazard a guess, I think people here are glad to see something big actually being built downtown after so much in offices moved to Franklin even if it is residential. On that note, people recognize that lots of units will bring lots more people for a more lively DT. Plus, it seems that the smaller, in-fill stuff seems to be doing quite well as it is, that people are tending to get excited by the signature (little s) projects. Office may or may not follow. I happen to believe it will, but what do I know?

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Sounds familiar...eh posters? No takers on this one? (crickets chirping)

Sorry, that was wrong. Just curious if this is making more sense to anyone else, or are skyscrapers still the desired model for our city by the majority on U.P. Nashville?

I think the issue is not if skyscrapers are the desired model of the people on this list serve....the issue is one of density in a city like Nashville. Manhattan...yes....skyscrapers are necessary due to land value and a lack of space. Nashville...and other cities of its size have numerous lots that remian vacant in the downtown. Therefore...I ask....is it better to have a 1,000 + building or 10 to 15 buildings in the 10 to 20 story range filling in the "missing teeth" of downtown?

I remember during the plan of Nashville community participation process that people liked the idea of buildings in the 10 to 30 story range...this opinion was expressed during a community meeting at the convention center...with hand held devices that tallied votes. It does not mean that you can't have a tall building like the Signature tower....once again...is it needed now?....at a time when we have so many vacant lots downtown.

If any of you have not seen the Plan of Nashville.....or attended a Nashville Urban Design Forum meeting...I would encourage you do to so.

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I was not living in Nashville during the participation phases of The Plan of Nashville but I have read the book cover to cover and I agree with many of the lofty goals. But i take it as a general guide to follow, especially for the close in neighborhoods and roadways. Realistically we are a long long way off from turning the interstate into a grand blvd. :)

Regarding the Signature I will again state that we are discussing apples and oranges in this case. It is my opinion that the market for the Signature is not the same as that for the Kress or Art Ave. lofts or Morgan Park thus in this case it is not an either or proposition. That question is more valid for the Viridian but still not on point. I will just point out that there are many mid-rise projects that have been completed or are proposed?

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Again, I will try to more tightly focus the discussion. The issues at play when debating the relative merits of highrises and low/midrises, I have argued, can be summed up quite simply:

Do we want distant objects, or intimate places?

You don't have to agree that this is a helpful way of understanding the issue--but if you don't, at least tell me why...and please let's try to keep it real and rational.

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Again, I will try to more tightly focus the discussion. The issues at play when debating the relative merits of highrises and low/midrises, I have argued, can be summed up quite simply:

Do we want distant objects, or intimate places?

You don't have to agree that this is a helpful way of understanding the issue--but if you don't, at least tell me why...and please let's try to keep it real and rational.

I agree with your object or intimate statement.

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You don't have to agree that this is a helpful way of understanding the issue--but if you don't, at least tell me why...and please let's try to keep it real and rational.

This is a very good way to put it. The most enjoyable and walkable cities that I have been too don't have that many skyscrapers and even in Manhatten, the most interesting neighborhoods are in the part of the city that are comprised o lowrise/midrise buildings. You can see the same effect in Philly. The Center City (low rises) is full of life, the CBD full of skyscrapers mainly dies off after business hours.

DC, Tokyo, London, are places that I have been where there is an huge amount of street life, they are very urban and dense, and great people places. All without skyscrapers. Monumental buildings are nice to look at from a distance, but almost invariably they are dead at street level.

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I think that there are plusses and minuses to almost any building size as a general category. I think that a lot depends on the way that the building addresses the street. There are some tall buildings that are wrapped in pedestrian-enticing businesses at street level that do create a sense of intimacy so that the passersby might possibly look up, but otherwise do not really notice that the coffee shop, retail store, or bar or restaurant that they are entering covers the first two stories of a 30- or 40-story building. Lots of inviting windows and the inclusion of horizontal design elements to offset a sheer vertical facade can do wonders. In my experience, this is more often true of older buildings than ones from the last half-century. On the other hand, there are some mid-rise buildings that basically have a wall facing the street with one little entrance, and so they don't necessarily create a sense of intimacy simply by virtue of their height. There is something more specific at work. And even having balconies does not necessarily create a sense of intimacy - sometimes it simply creates a cluttered look and the occupants use these appendages more for storage than for engaging in conversations, especially with people on the street. It seems that design, appropriate use or reuse, and street or neighborhood context all work together to make successful building, whether large or small, from an urban fabric standpoint.

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Very true, there are a lot of lowrise buildings that have the same problem due to the lacking design. However the vast majority of skyscrapers that are built, in part, as monuments and more focus ends up on the look of the monument rather than a design that would provide for a positive effect at ground level. A granite lined lobby with glass doors seems to fit the developers and architects egos, then hiding the building behind mom & pop shops.

I recommend a look at this thread if you want to see what happens to a streetscape when you have a bunch of badly designed highrises.

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This is a very good way to put it. The most enjoyable and walkable cities that I have been too don't have that many skyscrapers and even in Manhatten, the most interesting neighborhoods are in the part of the city that are comprised o lowrise/midrise buildings. You can see the same effect in Philly. The Center City (low rises) is full of life, the CBD full of skyscrapers mainly dies off after business hours.

I suspect thought that the CBD in Philly is virtually all offices which is why it dies out after hours, not because it's highrises.

But I agree with you for the most part. When I go to NYC, I stay with a friend in the East Village which is virtually all 5 storys. Much more interesting than midtown, at least on the street leve.

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However the vast majority of skyscrapers that are built, in part, as monuments and more focus ends up on the look of the monument rather than a design that would provide for a positive effect at ground level. A granite lined lobby with glass doors seems to fit the developers and architects egos, then hiding the building behind mom & pop shops.

I definitely agree with you that most highrises are not designed with the street-level qualities that make for a good pedestrian feel. The building that I work in has such a glass lobby, and the interior walls feature granite slabs separated only by horizontal metal stripes every two feet or so. I often think that there should be names and dates on the stone pieces. It's like a mausoleaum! Meanwhile, across the street is a tall 1929 office building that features a collonade porch along the sidewalk where pedestrians can stop in out of the rain and access street-level retail, or enter a grand lobby leading to the many retail tenants and the office tenants inside, as well as a pretty good cafeteria.

I guess that my point is simply that some tall buildings are well designed to address the street and are exceptions to the prevailing trend that highrises are meant to be internal cities that are fortresses against the city surrounding them. But it also seems that quite a lot of low- or mid-rise buildings share that fault: these are the majority of suburban-style office parks or apartment complexes, whether or not they are located inside the city limits. Most of these pedestrian-friendly tall buildings share one thing with those dense, pedestrian-friendly low-rise neighborhoods: most were built before WWII or were sympathetically designed to blend in with those older neighborhoods. But with design trends and conversations about the city changing, maybe the best qualities of those older buildings can be incorporated into contemporary buildings.

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