Bland design not a worry for convention center

Monday, June 30, 2008 at 2:38am
An undulating roof strongly defines the TVS-designed Puerto Rico Convention Center. Courtesy of TVS

Cutting-edge architecture and Nashville.

Historically, the two have been as synonymous as Appalachian folk music and Beijing.

All the better, then, that the Metro Development and Housing Agency has tabbed Thompson, Ventulett, Stainback & Associates (TVS) to oversee the Music City Center design.

Not familiar with TVS’s eye-popping work?

Let’s put it this way: For those Nashvillians weary of this city’s bland, non-adventurous architecture, having TVS design the convention center is kind of like The Rolling Stones giving a free performance at our private summer pool party.

Consider that during the past 10 years, only five large-scale, prominent Nashville structures have pushed the architectural envelope: 5th & Main, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Ghost Ballet for the East Bank Machineworks, Mercury View Lofts and the Sommet Center.

Nashville should shun a convention center that is more avant-garde than functional. The city, however, could truly use a statement structure, one that grabs national attention and conveys, “This is the 21st century Nashville.”

The Schermerhorn Symphony Center garnered great media coverage, helping the city redefine itself as a place that embraces an urbane image. Designed by Washington, D.C.-based David N. Schwarz/Architectural Services and the Nashville offices of Earl Swensson Associates and Hastings Architecture Associates, the ‘Horn is a building of international significance.

But the symphony center’s traditional, almost replica, design — though fitting given the historical significance of orchestral music — is not suited for the Music City Center.

No worries. TVS, which designed the Bank of America Plaza on Union Street, will give Nashville a boldly contemporary building, though not as over-the-top as the firm’s flame-like Dubai Towers Dubai.

C. Andrew McLean, the TVS principal for the project, says the Atlanta-based company will depend on the Nashville offices of Moody-Nolan Inc. and Tuck-Hinton Architects to get a feel for SoBro. Green components are planned. Retail, perhaps fronting a re-configured Korean Veterans Boulevard, is almost certain. A mass transit element could be incorporated.

“Together, we will spend many hours on brainstorming sessions, papering the walls with ideas, to find that special architecture that represents Nashville,” McLean says.

Though undetermined, the MCC exterior could feature significant glass and limestone. Do you like height? Some TVS-designed convention centers offer segments eclipsing 100 feet.

A strongly defined entrance — maybe fronting the southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and Demonbreun Street? — is critical and could create a nice axis.

McLean says a piece of the MCC (let’s hope the entrance) needs to reach a “crescendo.”

Nashville can hear the orchestra warming up.

Correction: In last week’s “Creating Places,” I mistakenly noted the H20 Urban Waterfront District development has been stalled. It has not. Also, I failed to list the federal courthouse as a civic project that has been announced and indefinitely shelved.

William Williams is a citizen observer of Nashville’s manmade environment. Contact him at

Filed under: City Business
By: nashbeck on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I hope the design is great. I hope the CC Hotel is very tall and aesthetic as well.

By: airvols on 12/31/69 at 6:00

It needs to have lights to attract attention to the center and of course a music element. You know color would be great ro set itself apart from the norm.

By: Dragon on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I'm sure people will come from miles around to look, and point, and laugh.For $685 million, I hope they remember to make it functional.

By: nvestnbna on 12/31/69 at 6:00

"A strongly defined entrance — maybe fronting the southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and Demonbreun Street? — is critical and could create a nice axis." -- WWThat's exactly what a 'City Center' doesn't need a single 'grand entrance' which would lend itself to an orientation to the northeast. Multiple entrances with four active sides, otherwise this structure which will span over 50% of Sobro east to west will be what many fear - a city divider not city center.