High demands for Music City Center must be met in details

Tuesday, April 15, 2008 at 1:48am

On occasion, a small group gathers at Mulligan's Pub downtown to quaff Irish stout and discuss matters related to Nashville’s built environment.

These fine folks — their ranks including various professionals, hobbyists and even a chap with a distinctive facial hair type — originally met via Nashville Charrette, an on-line message board for planning, architecture, development and urban issues.

Charrette members enjoy a genuine camaraderie, always helpful when spirited disagreement entices , for example, a skyscraper-loving forum participant to "message slam" — or douse with Guinness — those who proudly call themselves "shorties" (proponents of small, mixed-use buildings).

With preliminary work on SoBro's approximately $600 million Music City Center fully underway, the Charrette members have rallied around a common grassroots cause: TheMCCProject.com. The Website offers 3D computer model images, and many local heavy hitters have signed the site’s petition seeking a high-quality convention center design. It’s impressive stuff created, in part, to ensure that Metro officials understand there are high expectations for the next convention center.

A key feature of the group’s proposed design model is the placement of the main convention hall below ground and lit by skylights. Such a positioning would allow designers to create an energy-efficient "green roof" public plaza framed by buildings housing public spaces and accessed by pedestrian thoroughfares.

In addition, the conceptual drawings show a "wrap" of multi-story buildings containing retail and residential spaces around the perimeter of the site, while maintaining the corridors of Sixth and Seventh avenues as pedestrian streets leading into the interior plaza and its shops and cafés.

Nashville Charrette stalwarts Cliff Lippard and Nathaniel R. Walker coordinate TheMCCProject.com. The former lives and works in downtown Nashville; the latter toils as an architectural historian and designer for a Virginia firm but, as a native Nashvillian, can pontificate on this city's public realm with the ease Edgar Allen Poe exhibited penning stories of the macabre.

Always opinionated, Walker describes the Sommet Center and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum as "architectural failures" due to each having "one face and three backsides."

"As if they were designed to be erected on a stage for a bit of musical theater, or on the set of a low-budget science fiction film, the buildings are given one façade that relates to their [surroundings] and three that have the ambience of the back of a service station," Walker said.

Walker strongly favors timeless architecture, while Lippard is receptive to both traditional and contemporary forms. But, both contend the study is not so much focused on stylistic details but rather on basic concepts involving the future center’s massing, materials and integration within its larger context.

"I don't have a problem with a cutting-edge or high-tech design, but we can't have a monolithic, windowless block plopped down in the heart of SoBro," Lippard said.

Walker adds, "If we build the new Music City Center with shoddy materials, a lack of detail, in random and incoherent forms, and out of dead, externally useless walls, then we will have everything that is wrong with the existing convention center, only on a much larger scale: a world-class tourist storage facility."

Nashville deserves better.

We should commend The MCCProject.com for this effort.

William Williams is a citizen observer of Nashville's manmade environment. Contact him at bill37206@yahoo.com

Filed under: City Business
By: nvestnbna on 12/31/69 at 7:00

These guys need the support of those who have a stake in downtown. That's all of us. Downtown Nashville lags many other comparable cities. Charlotte, Chattanooga, Birmingham. It's time the city gets engaged in 'planning' for an active downtown, not just a tourist venue with beer joints and t-shirt shops. Take a look at their ideas, get behind a movement to make this a true city center.

By: TITAN1 on 12/31/69 at 7:00


By: idgaf on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Why are they spending time,effort and money on something that is sure to have a taxpayer revolt?

By: shinestx on 12/31/69 at 7:00

I agree with Walker on the Sommet and Hall of Fame, and generally like the idea behind this proposal. However, I'm very concerned with its ability to handle growth of the center as more space is needed.

By: capt4chris on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Thanks for the article William! I hope you continue writing for the NCP with the new ownership.I think this plan, or at least what it represents, should get community support. It would be great to have a mixed facility that is usable by the local community.I think those fellows came up with a great idea for the proposed convention center. Check out their website!

By: RCW on 12/31/69 at 7:00

I very much hope we do not end up with a concrete convention center downtown resembling a bunker on Normandy except for the words, "Nashville Convention Center," stuck to it somewhere, the aptly-described one face with three backsides (or, heaven forbid, four backsides!). As Nashvillians, we have great works of beauty we can be proud of, and rightly so, such as the Parthenon, the Schermerhorn, Cheekwood, etc.. We hopefully can avoid the mistake of a "big-box" convention warehouse, for which we will shake out heads for generations until it is demolished. When conventioneers come to Nashville, we wish them to see a city of beauty, art and science, not a gauche, sterile, prison-style convention center. Many times all a conventioneer will see is the area around the convention center. Downtown Nashville can be beautiful, attractive, and world-class if we will make it so.The proposed MCC Project, or something very much like it, will attract conventions and make Nashvillians very proud for generations to come, just as the Parthenon and Centennial Park have done.

By: JeffF on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Once again how will Nashvilel succeed in the overcorwded convetion market when 90%+ other cities over the last two decades (including us) have failed. Good touch writing an article that made it seem as if the deal is done. There is still a war to fight between the real Nashville Neighborhoods and the pseudo neighborhood of downtown. Eventually Metro will have to spend money somewhere else other than downtown, it has to. Will the monied downtown business owners allow ITS government to spend money in Antioch or Belluvue?

By: NewYorker1 on 12/31/69 at 7:00

I LIKE IT. It has my approval. All they need to add is a fabulous water fountain and a bronze statue of me in a grand entrance into the CC and this would definitely be the best in the nation. The statue of me would make it so.