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.


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

Friday, December 31, 2010

Design with a Conscience

701 Porter
 It is great discovering new projects around town that really seem successful across all platforms.  fAd_writer previously wrote about the WO Smith Music Center, but today’s post is about another worthy rehab project: 701 Porter (or 715 Porter...I’m unclear as to the official name).
I had originally planned to do a post on Nashville’s roadway deathtraps.  A few short months ago, the intersection of Eastland and Porter was near the top of my list.  Eastland traffic traveling away from Gallatin Pike could continue on to Eastland or swing around to Porter without a need to stop.  The brave souls on Eastland headed back towards town had to stop and guess which direction oncoming traffic was going and pray to avoid a head-on collision: really poor traffic planning.
Imagine my surprise the other week as I traveled down Eastland when I was suddenly greeted with a new stop sign.  As it turns out, the new traffic stop was a part of a larger masterplan for 701 Porter: a mixed-used development occurring on Porter and Eastland.  Here is what I like about this project.

The Owner:
The owner is Urban Housing Solutions.  In the past, UHS has been responsible for finding housing for disadvantaged people (typically homeless).  This particular project is primarily to benefit the deaf and hard of hearing: truly a noble purpose.  To find out more about Urban Housing Solutions, visit their website .

The Architect:
The architect is a fellow named John TeSelle.  A cursory glance at his website shows some impressive work most of which is Middle Tennessee work.  His design sensibilities are great, but it is his willingness to work towards a better design at all costs that I find most alluring. Typical architect egos often hinder their own design, but that is not the case here.  UHS hired additional design help from John Dickinson (a deaf architect) of Winter & Company as well as Atelier2.  The latter is the husband and wife team of Mahesh Neelakantan and Parvathi Nampoothiri (I have had the pleasure with working with Mahesh earlier in our careers: truly a design talent).  I am glad UHS put forth the effort to receive enough design input, and I am glad that John TeSelle was open to receive other ideas for a complete and collaborative design.  I think this was crucial in the success of the project.

The Design:
There are several things I like about the design so far (still under construction).

    - Building reuse
The original building was constructed in the 70s, but I doubt it has ever seen as much life and activity that this designs promises. As you can see, it was not much to write home about.  Ditching the metal mansard roof was certainly an improvement and going with a monochromatic gray on the brick helps bring some cohesiveness across the retail stores.

Existing Condition

    - Use of new materials
At the center of this building, metal, brick, and wood are pieced together seamlessly giving this project a clear face. I also appreciate the proportions of said materials.  The layering and the clear separation help these pieces speak for themselves and truly creates a sense of ‘place'.

Obviously, still under construction

    - Signage
Many state that large signage is an overplayed design gimmick.  I like the look most of the time as it is practical for the automobile driver going 40 mph down the road.  Thumbs up, if you ask me.  I also appreciate the signage above the individual retail units.  The horizontal emphasis is appropriate for this area and adds a fun level of detail and intimacy to the pedestrians entering individual stores.

Large '715 Porter' signage - jury is still out on the name of this project

The Occupants:
According to the UHS, the occupants so far are:
--Cooper's on Porter
--BMerin salon
--The Almond Tree Bakery
--Massage East
--Sloss Fine Woodworking
--Nashville Guitar Repair
--Melted Memory
--Montessori East
I am probably most excited about Cooper’s on Porter for a couple of reasons.  The first is that I hope Cooper’s brings a bar setting that is rare on the east side of town (non-smoking with a large beer selection - Village Pub is close, for sure).  The second reason for my excitement is that Cooper’s proudly sports an enormous patio seating area that reaches out towards the corner of Porter and Eastland (where the treacherous intersection used to be).  This patio will surely activate this corner and help bring 701 Porter to the intersection.

Patio overlooking the intersection

Solid project all around.  I am excited to see its completion.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Reasons: East Nashville

Continuing our series of “Reasons”, today we touch on East Nashville.  I’ve been a resident of the east side of the river for 5 years now.  Even in that short amount of time, I have seen plenty of changes and many progressions in our community.  I think it is important to point out that “East Nashville” is not a neighborhood (despite being voted Best Neighborhood in the Nashville Scene’s reader poll year after year).  There are many neighborhoods within East Nashville (Edgefield, East End, Lockeland Springs, etc), but this geographic region differentiates itself from the rest of Nashville by its united front and combined efforts.  Below are 10 reasons (in no particular order) that one should live in East Nashville (the area…not the non-existent neighborhood).

-          Community
When I sat down to create this list of reasons, it was not necessary to belabor the specifics.  I simply asked the East Nashville listserv ( ).  Simple fact: East Nashville is the most active community in Nashville.  We are the most militant, most defensive, and, perhaps, the most arrogant citizens of Nashville.  It may be a bad for everyone else, but it is great for east side residents.  Simply browse through the listserv, and you will find years of information on community obstacles and headaches that neighbors were unafraid of taking on.

East Nashville Google Group

-          Beautiful Homes
East Nashville is rich with history.  Quality homes have been built in some areas for over 100 years.  Plenty of Bungalows, Victorians, and some Romanesque homes pepper the streets of East Nashville.  Images are courtesy of Google Street Views, as I was reluctant to take photos of random neighbors' homes without their consent.

-          Location
East Nashville is downtown adjacent.  There is no need for the interstate in many cases.  Several have argued that East Nashville is a location unto itself (Downtown is a great place to live…it is right next to East Nashville!).

-          In touch with some realities
One of my favorite posts from the listserv speaks to the fact that areas of East Nashville still can “keep it real”.  One resident cited reasons for living in East Nashville being “proximity to good, quality porn, at rock bottom prices. The
ease of procuring illicit substances at any hour of the day or night.  Discounted Beer and tobacco. Not having to mow your yard. And an alley to leave stuff in when you don't feel like hauling it off.  I think that's pretty much it.”  No neighborhood/community is perfect.  The fact of the matter is that some people still patron the porn stores on Gallatin and many residents need their beer and cigarettes at discounted prices.  While the Gallatin Pike Improvement District might cause trouble for many of these businesses in the future, many residents have accepted them as a part of the community and an essential piece of what makes East Nashville, East Nashville.  (Edit: These reasons may not reflect society’s view on what makes a desirable neighborhood.  I am simply restating information I received from the listserv.)

-          Local Development
This is a double edge sword in some cases.  The demographics of East Nashville are quite varied.  You will find public housing a block away from million dollar Queen Anne homes.  Ultimately, this diversity confuses the corporate companies looking to expand their brand into East Nashville.  The plus (or negative) side of this is that East Nashville is not home to a T.G.I Friday’s or a Chili’s.  However, people familiar with the community (ones who live here), tend to have a better understanding what the area needs and what it takes to truly make an impact in a neighborhood.  You will find restaurants, shops, and offices owned by local residents.  These developments spring up all over the place and are not concentrated to one specific area or one sector.  This increases accessibility and makes walking more enjoyable without the threat of gobs of motorists.  The great part of this is that local owners tend to listen to the community and adapt their business to better suit the users.  Some residents, however, can find it troubling that they will not find a nice Publix or Harris Teeter in East Nashville.  It is really fine by me.  I like Turnip Truck better anyways.

Riverside Village Development: image from

Martin Corner Development ( ) : One of many local developments in East Nashville
Marche Artisan Food: this would be a Cracker Barrel elsewhere in Nashville...not that there's anything wrong with that

-          Sidewalks
You can walk around in East Nashville.  In fact, 5 of the top 10 neighborhoods that are most walkable belong in East Nashville (according to ).  Sidewalks are plentiful, and they are not afterthoughts.  You will see them in heavy usage in many areas.

-          Shelby Park/Shelby Bottoms Greenway
This may be my personal top reason.  Runners have long uninterrupted stretches of pavement.  Cyclists enjoy the same benefits.  The new pedestrian bridge stretches to the Stones River Greenway (also beautiful).  Dog lovers can enjoy the dog park. The large softball complex is very active during season.  You can also fish in the ponds.  Here is a brochure from

Shelby Bottoms Trail Map

Great pic from listserv user

-          5 Points
Many consider the 5 Points the epicenter of East Nashville.  Others, whole heartedly, disagree.  This is not to say that Riverside Village and the Walden developments are not impressive, but as I said earlier, I am simply stating that most responses on the listserv cited 5 Points.  And to be fair, it is the most diverse of the local developments.  Many bars, restaurants, music venues, and shops are located at the intersection of 11th and Woodland, and they are, primarily, supported by the nearby residents.  Food options range from the mobile vendor I Dream of Weenie to the celebrated Margot Café.

-          East Nasty Running Group
The East Nasty runners can motivate you to get in shape ( ).  This group has blossomed from a couple of people to runners in the hundreds.   Simply put: feel free to run with the East Nasty Wednesday evenings.  Stay, if you wish, for post run drinks at 3 Crow Bar.  There is also a Sunday morning run in their regiment.  They provide water and good times but it is always fun to see the group running the weeks preceding the Music City Marathon.  TONS of people are all over the streets.  This local group has spawned other worthy causes and is now a showcase for East CAN ( ).  Runners/walkers can volunteer their time to help out homeless dogs and hopefully help to find permanent homes for these guys.
East Nasty on the East Nashville Streets

Tough runs rewarded afterward at 3 Crow Bar

Yeah...there are a couple of runners

East CAN function next to Bongo Java

-          True Diversity
There are East Nashville residents that are 3rd or 4th generation locals.  But East Nashville is still home to many transplants from all over the country.  Some areas of the South are threatened by “invasive citizens” but, for the most part, it works brilliantly in East Nashville.  I, for one, feel the diversity brings some of the better ideas and habits from other walks of life to create a truly unique local culture.

Honorable Mentions: Tomato Art Festival, Riverside Village, and Family Wash