Friday, February 09, 2007

No "American Favorites" in Nashville

From NPR comes the American Institute of Architects' public poll of 150 favorite pieces of American architecture. How unremarkable and nondescript is our architecture in the national consciousness when Houston's Astrodome and Disney's Dolphin and Swan Hotels make the list but nothing in Nashville does? We cannot use the excuse that Nashville is underexposed or that it fails to be a destination of visitors. There is simply nothing built here that makes a global impression that sticks with visitors after they leave.


  1. what, no BATMAN building on the list??

    As long as 'we' keep the neo-classical theme going, I'm not sure we are going to make that list.

  2. I agree with John -- the Bellsouth building is not everyone's favorite, but it's a fine building, and nothing to be ashamed of or scoffed at. Incidentally, did you know the top of the building was designed to look like a telephone handset in its cradle? The spires were added on after the fact, which diminishes the effect.

  3. That list is a popularity contest. I take it with a grain of salt. There's not a single building on the list by Mies, who was arguably one of the most influential architects of the 20th century. I'd like to see a list of the top 150 as ranked by architects and designers...not just the general public.

  4. Britney can't think of one..

    I suppose the Tennessee Capital Building doesn't qualify?

    Our captial building is one of the most beautiful structures in the United States. If it is not included, it reflects poorly on those making the list... not the beauty of the building.

  5. I agree with Nate (put that down in the record books). Our capitol was a pretty bitchin' building in its day, and now as well.

    I also am very wary in general of the "we don't have any cool buildings!!!" sentiment because in my opinion it feeds the sort of skyscraper-hysteria that leads to people supporting any old zoning change and development that will blow away any amount of Nashville historical buildings in the interest of making Nashville look like a "real city".

  6. Points taken. But some of the buildings on the list are not skyscrapers. There are a couple in National Parks. I think that the list is about collective memory and experience of the built environment. It is about popularity, but it is also more: it is about perception, maybe touched by nostalgia and relatively unfiltered by professional (as in design) analysis of form. I'm not valorizing it. I am saying that people visit and leave Nashville without noteworthy remembrance of its architectural forms. That doesn't take away from your own personal feelings about the buildings. But it still matters.

  7. good grief..I agree with Nate as well.

    And, I do love the Batman building..seriously.

  8. The bellsouth is fun and has great importance to our skyline, but its not noteworthy. There isn't anything stunning about the actual "architecture" of the building. Its just different, and being different is not an automatic qualification for great architecture. From a designer's standpoint, nashville is lacking in the "magnificent" department. Many developments over the past years have had grand ideas, but were poorly executed due to budget. Many times famous architects were commissioned to build great structures in Nashville, and for whatever reason, they have almost always fallen through. Its sad Nashville is not on the list. But not because we have noteworthy buildings that have missed societies attention. I am sad because of all the resources, creativity, time and history Nashville has and has had, we still have little to offer aesthetically.

  9. Are you seriously arguing that the Astrodome is magnificent?

    Its a freaking eyesore.

    Its notable for nothing other than size.

    Much like the Sears Tower.

    Sorry... there aren't 10 buildings on that list that are more magnificent than our Capital, and not a single one that was so fantastic, its architect decided to be entombed above its cornerstone.

    Lots of words being tossed around... very little specific communication other than...

    "Nothing about Nashville makes me say wow."

    Well... lets be honest... all sorts of ignorants see the Mona Lisa every year and say the same thing... "what's the big deal?"

    It doesn't make the Mona Lisa less magnificant.

    WTC? The Walmart of Sky Scrapers? Rockefeller Center? I've been to NYC 5 times... each time visiting RC.. and I can't even picture it.


    This reminds me of the old saying... An expert is someone from out of town...

    Perhaps in some nashville residents' case... a magnificant building is one you see in another city.

    I'll never understand where Nashville's inferiority complex comes from.

  10. And we haven't even mentioned the Ryman yet... or what about The Methodist Church across from Vandy?

    These are beautiful buildings.

  11. To untwist what you've done to my words: I said that the Astrodome made the list of the public's favorite pieces of American architecture. I never said anything indicating that I thought the Astrodome was magnificent. My argument is that it says something about Nashville architecture that so many people visit here and yet the American public in general does not claim any Nashville architecture as their favorite, not even among the top 150. Considering that I don't care too much for the Astrodome (a feeling which could have more easily been read into my remarks than the pretzel you manufactured), I think that it is pretty sad that the Astrodome made the list and nothing in Nashville did. Capiche?

  12. Nashville has several great examples 19th & 20th century architecture so for me the real question is why such generalized polling seems, unfortunately, to be the preoccupation of the AIA. The AIA needs to be more concerned with educating how architects and urban planners can affect public policy in making cities.