Monday, June 27, 2011

RESOLUTION NO. RS2011-1705 cont.

From Metro:
A resolution requesting the Davidson County Delegation to the Tennessee General Assembly to introduce and support the necessary legislation to allow the Metropolitan Government to provide an opportunity for local bidders to match the lowest bid in the award of procurement contracts, as well as to include price as a factor in awarding professional services contracts. The Budget and Finance Committee recommended indefinite deferment. Mr. Crafton moved to defer the resolution indefinitely, which motion was seconded and adopted by a voice vote of the Council.

We can put that nonsense behind us "indefinitely".


Friday, June 17, 2011

The Imperial House

I moved to Nashville in 2004.  There were many alluring structures around town that caught my eye in the first few weeks of residency.  I thought the Country Music Hall of Fame was an appropriately celebrated design for the purpose of the building.  I feel the Bridgestone Arena (Gaylord Entertainment Center at the time) seemed very daunting and intriguing juxtaposed against the lower Broadway honky tonks.  I also appreciated the life and activity going on in both Centennial Park and Bicentennial Park.  All of these are well recognized pieces around Davidson County, but when I moved here, a much lesser known building caught my eye as well.  The Imperial House is unassuming.  It is simple, and it is just out of one’s line of sight driving down Harding Pike.  Modernist structures like this are rare in Nashville, so it did catch my eye early on.  It was clearly an aging building, and it had outlived its original purpose (luxury apartments).  With that said, I just stored the building into my “almost forgotten” memory bank of my brain never to really think about it unless I was driving by the building.  As Spring of 2005 rolled around, a friend dragged me to another miserable round of golf (miserable because I am not a very good golfer…not because of the company) as weather around town was improving.  My golf game is simply atrocious, so I try to make a point to be more social when I am on the course.  Interestingly, our discussions led my friend to bring up the Imperial House on the golf course as one of those surprisingly interesting buildings around town.  “I have an idea to turn those apartments into luxury condos…now if only I could get paid for my ideas”.  Yes.  If only.  But, I agreed with him.  The Imperial House is well located: right in the thick of things in Belle Meade.  To boot, Nashville is home to plenty of rich people that would have loved throwing down a large wad of cash for a condo project at the time.  The building was, once again, stored into the back corner of my mind with occasional thoughts of how neat it would be to see true activity return to the deteriorating site. 

The sad state of the Imperial House: left in ruin

When Fad_writer, fAd_writer, and myself started this blog, I knew that I wanted to tell people about this building.  I also knew I wanted to know more about it myself.  What I like about the building, first, is how simple it truly is.  Too often, I feel architects complicate buildings in hopes of creating something memorable.  The Imperial House has a repeated balcony condition and precast concrete panels.  That is really it.  As far as apartment buildings go, it has outlasted many.  Constructed in 1961, fifty years is quite a long time for a building like this.  The Imperial House did not need any flamboyant gestures or outrageous architectural expressions.  It is what it is.  As mentioned, the balconies play a large role in the design.  The upturned white concrete gives clear definition and spatial recognition to the façade while at the same time, creates a striking repetition from any perspective.  One’s eyes easily stray upwards to the top of the building where the concrete shading devices perch in a winged manner.  The original design had an occupied roof terrace where residents could take in splendid views of the rolling Nashville pastures (not so much pastures anymore).  Benches for sitting and trees brought life to the roof: right out of Le Corbusier’s 5 points of architecture.  Not earth shattering by today’s standards, but in Nashville 1961, it was certainly a perk.  The exposed aggregate on the precast panels (the panels were poured on site but not in place…in 1961, this was not only rare, but fairly remarkable in terms of construction) breaks up the façade just enough to bring to a more comforting scale to the north and south elevations.  The proportions of said elevations are well sized as the middle piece contains perforated concrete block screen walls.  This portion lightly touches the ground indicating an exit from either side of the building, again, well sized for a pair of 3’-0” doors.  Top notch, if you ask me.  Even the parking lot speaks to the design occurring on the building.  Sunshades covering parking spaces mimic the sunshades atop the building and appear to be seamlessly integrated into the apartment building itself.
Repetition of balconies

I made a trip to the Imperial House recently to take photos.  I see a building in decay.  No doubt water damage from the big flood did its part as well.  It is a bit sad to see the condition of the building as it stands today.  One must wonder if St. Thomas has plans for it.  My hopes are that they do plan on installing the expensive sprinkler system (the blame for its doom) and, once again, allow residents to move in (assisted living facility adjacent to the hospital, perhaps?).  Those are my hopes as well as the Nashville Historic Inc.  They have listed the Imperial House as an endangered building (

Front entry.  Fountain obviously not operating anymore. :(

Looking west: concrete shaders over parking lot

Perforated concrete block screen wall

Close up of balcony

The Imperial House was designed by Earl Swensson, FAIA.


Thursday, June 9, 2011


Well, it’s been a while.  A LONG while.  I thought if I stopped posting Nashville_Fad or Nashville_fAd would get off their butts and take charge of a really cool topic going on around town.  They called my bluff.  So, I write today about a resolution by the Davidson County Delegation to the TN General Assembly that local architecture and engineering firms be able to match the low bids of all projects in order to procure a contract.  Resolution No. RS2011-1705 tries to mask a garbage proposal as a heroic act to save local architecture firms and engineers.  I have a hard time believing anyone is buying it.  What this proposal REALLY is about is lowering fees paid for quality work.  This bill is sponsored by Eric Crafton, Jim Gotto, and Michael Craddock.  If any of those names sound infamous it would probably be Eric Crafton.  He led the “English Only” charge back in 2008 which received a lot of nation wide interest.  Here is the resolution in its entirety.
A resolution requesting the Davidson County Delegation to the Tennessee General Assembly to introduce and support the necessary legislation to allow the Metropolitan Government to provide an opportunity for local bidders to match the lowest bid in the award of procurement contracts, as well as to include price as a factor in awarding professional services contracts.
WHEREAS, Section 8.111 of the Metropolitan Charter requires the purchasing agent to use competitive bidding in the procurement of certain goods and services; and
WHEREAS, Tennessee Code Annotated §12-4-111 prohibits local governments from including a provision in a competitively bid contract or invitation to bid allowing a bidder that is not the lowest bidder to meet the low price; and
WHEREAS, Tennessee Code Annotated §12-4-106(a)(2)(A) prohibits the Metropolitan Government from using a competitive bid process to award professional service contracts; and
WHEREAS, the Metropolitan Government has a legitimate governmental interest in promoting and increasing local industry, reducing local unemployment, and increasing the local tax base; and
WHEREAS, the Metropolitan Council has determined that providing local businesses the opportunity to match the lowest responsible and responsive bid for the procurement of goods and services will further this legitimate governmental interest; and
WHEREAS, qualified architect and engineering firms are often not given the opportunity to be considered for Metropolitan Government projects even though they could provide quality services at a lower fee; and
WHEREAS, it is fitting and proper that the Metropolitan Government have the authority to provide some form of a preference for local companies bidding on government contracts, as well as to consider price as a factor in awarding professional service contracts.
Section 1. That the Metropolitan County Council hereby goes on record as requesting the Davidson County Delegation to the Tennessee General Assembly to introduce and support the necessary legislation to allow the Metropolitan Government to provide an opportunity for local bidders to match the lowest bid in the award of procurement contracts, as well as to include price as a factor in awarding professional services contracts.
Section 2. That the Metropolitan Clerk is directed to send a copy of this Resolution to each member of the Davidson County Delegation to the Tennessee General Assembly.
Section 3. That this Resolution shall take effect from and after its adoption, the welfare of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County requiring it.
Sponsored by: Eric Crafton, Jim Gotto, Michael Craddock
I am most confused by this part: WHEREAS, qualified architect and engineering firms are often not given the opportunity to be considered for Metropolitan Government projects even though they could provide quality services at a lower fee

My big question is, “Why aren’t they given the opportunity?”  There are really only two answers.  It is either because they are too expensive or not qualified enough.  Both are problematic in terms of how this resolution pans out.  Architect A says, “It costs 3% for my services.”  Architect B says, “2.5%” but is not qualified to do the job.  Either Architect A takes the job at 2.5% and finds a way to recoup the 0.5% by doing less work or Architect B gets the job that he or she is unqualified to do.  I understand the need for reduced spending in times like these, but surely one can see the ramifications of such cost cutting measures.  How long would it take before another bid is taken to fix all the work that was not done correctly the first time (due to budget cuts or not being qualified to do the work in the first place)?  Ultimately, I see out of state architects taking more work from this.  It seems possible that most of the qualified architects in town simply will not do the jobs that don’t pay the bills.  So, the resolution, which is intended to keep local firms working on local work, could very easily do the opposite.  Local firms are familiar with local building practices and also familiar with local building officials and government agencies.  That should be your incentive for hiring them.  Qualifications and merit go hand-in-hand with cost regarding state projects.  This resolution only takes in to account the cost: a major short-sighted flaw.  Mr. Crafton, Mr. Gotto, and Mr. Craddock, stop with the silliness.

For those concerned with this, contact a councilman.

Rolling Mill Hill as designed by qualified architect

Rolling Mill Hill as designed by qualified architect with budget cuts

Shelby Bottoms Nature Center as designed by qualified architect

Shelby Bottoms Nature Center as designed by low bid architect

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Towering Nashville

Many people associate (at least visually) a city with its skyline.  This, unintentionally, evolved from engineering marvels to density solution and today has frequently become exclusively icon.  Interestingly, the tallest building in the world is now located in a desert.  It is a bit ironic that these monumental structures are generally comprised of a single repeating floor plate.

As with many cities our size, Nashville has its fair share of tall buildings.  These structures, like many cities, are huddled about the grids of downtown.  Nashville’s exception is that most of our skyscrapers tend to be very bold in their expression.  This is probably a consequence of the infrequency at which skyscraper commissions occur.  A side note:  restraint is a terrible task for an architect. 

I thought it might be interesting to break apart the skyline composition and look at some of the key players in the Nashville tower game.

So below are my top four from ranked in importance starting at number one.

1. L&C – This is the original Nashville skyscraper and completed by one of the city’s greatest architects, Edwin Keeble.  There is mastery of overall form as we see the intersection of the vertical circulation mass with the floor plates.  The care taken to balance solidity with transparency is wonderfully done with vertical planes of limestone next to soaring expanses of glass.  This one sits at the top, for me, because of its originality, history, and exquisite design.

2. AT&T (formerly Bellsouth) – Love it or hate it, (and most people here do have an opinion) this building is a statement.  Perhaps less important than the qualities of its design is what it has become – a symbol of Nashville.  So, it ranks second on this list of importance, because its absence would leave a gaping hole in what most people perceive of the Nashville skyline.

3. Tennessee Tower – In my opinion, this is Nashville strongest example of modernism.  Some argue that you can find this building in a lot of cities – and they are right.  Maybe the former headquarters of National Life Insurance became no more than a stylistic replication, but part of me hopes that it was envisioned as a pure expression of an ideal.  That State took over this building in the 90’s and it has certainly lost some of its luster, but its underlying beauty remains in tact.  Of note, there is a great plaza with a new roof garden at the base of the building.  The isolation from the surrounding street gives the tower an amazing feel – worth a visit.

4. Pinnacle at Symphony Place– Pinnacle tower is probably more important for what it hopes to do than for its design merit (of which it has a lot).  The location of this tower south of Broadway is an aggressive step in what many hope will be further densification of downtown to the south.  This may be further realized with the completion of the city's ambitious convention center.

There are other buildings deserving of this list and several that could create an infamous list (a few that are in the proposed stage).  Ultimately, towers play a critical role in the perception of a city, and the importance of their design cannot be understated. For once they are here we run the risk of being defined by them.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

At the risk of becoming more unpopular...

We now have a twitter accountIn addition to blog posts, Nashville FAD will be tweeting as well as starting a Twitter series called “Nashville FAD's Bad or Rad”. Images of Nashville buildings/sites/trends will be sent out periodically, and we want your feedback on whether or not the project is BAD (not 80's 'bad'), or RAD (80's 'rad' works here) and will stand the test of time…much like the 80’s term itself.

Follow Nashville FAD on Twitter @Nashville_FAD

Monday, January 17, 2011

Current Bank Design in Nashville

Back in the good ‘ole days of design studio, I designed a freestanding bank in an urban setting for a 2nd year project. Unfortunately for me, my project ended up looking like a 2nd year project. Fortunately for you, I lost that project in a hard drive crash years ago. The outstanding memory I took away from that project was the instruction from my professor that banks “should” convey a presence of permanence and solidity. The idea is that bank customers want to know (and feel) their money is in a safe place that is firmly grounded and permanent. I believe this is good rule to understand so that one doesn’t jump into this typology blindly; however, it is the architect’s role to interpret, expand and even break the rules to design an appropriate building. Sometimes this is done successfully. Other times, it is not.

Two of the largest financial powers in world, the Bank of England and the New York Stock Exchange, support this idea of permanence. While these buildings in their entirety are far from emulating classic temples, their facades recall the Greek temples of old. The public feels these institutions can be trusted with their money because they have existed for hundreds of years and will not be abandoned any time soon.
 Permanence was adapted by Louis Sullivan at the turn of the century with his National Farmer’s Bank in Owatonna, Minnesota. Instead of a classic Greek façade, his use of form, material, texture and scale instilled confidence in its customers.

Sir Norman Foster accomplished this with his use of exposed structure (an interpretation of the Greek temple) in the Honk Kong and Shanghai Bank in Hong Kong.

Most recently, the Bank of America Tower in New York City conveys a sense of power with use of form and verticality. This tower currently boasts being the second tallest in New York, second only to the Empire State Building.

…and how does this relate to Nashville you ask?

I’ve noticed a trend here in the city where banks seem to care less about conveying a sense of permanence through classic architecture, but instead convey a sense of relevance, on the leading edge of design. Is the goal to target a younger generation? There are many customers that would prefer to distance themselves from the antiquated and identify with the contemporary (out with the old, in with the new). Perhaps these institutions have younger CEO’s who prefer “what they’ve seen in a magazine” to (neo)-classical design? Whatever the motivation, Pinnacle Bank is leading this charge with their string of branches sprinkled throughout the city.
Image courtesy of Google Streetview

Image courtesy of Google Streetview

While my interest in this trend was tickled with the Pinnacle aesthetic, I was confounded when I stumbled upon a Reliant Bank recently completed in Franklin.
That corner is coming to get 'ya.

The 2-story building has (round) red brick columns at the base supporting ribbons of metal and glass undulating (seemingly) at their own discretion. I am not sure what exactly is trying to be conveyed by this building. Is it a sense of permanence? …a sense of relevance? I speculate the bank was shooting for a contemporary aesthetic to be “in touch,” however the end product reminds me of my second year project…only my design remained on paper.

I am all for interpretation and advancement of design, and I understand that there are many steps and hurdles to the realization of a building. Architects must respond to the owner’s needs and requirements, the city’s needs and requirements, and of course our own personal egos. I know nothing of this building’s history, and every building has one.  Every building has a history.  I know nothing of this history, but, regardless, it remains an eyesore.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Design with a Conscience cont.

I had someone ask if they could see a floor plan of 701 Porter.  UHS was kind enough to send them over.  Thanks!

First Floor - Click to Enlarge

Second Floor - Click to Enlarge