Friday, August 23, 2013

Was the Nashville Civic Design Center contest on ballpark designs a process of imagining or of realization?

In 2011, I emailed Gary Gaston, the head honcho of the Nashville Civic Design Center, and I asked him about an event they were holding that April (co-sponsored by the Friends of Sulphur Dell, a group boostering a new North End ballpark) that would include University of Tennessee student renderings of ballparks for the Sulphur Dell area near Bicentennial Mall State Park along with commentary by Professor Mark Schimmenti. I was particularly concerned as to whether the students, who had visited various ballparks for ideas, had also attended 2010 North Nashville Community Plan meetings in order to learn more about local community character.

Mr. Gaston replied to me:

This is not a public meeting on the topic of a ballpark - these are student projects, theoretical exercises .... Student projects are wonderful ways to explore imaginative visionary solutions for sites - they are not meant to be grounded in the practical (otherwise we would be asking them to limit their creativity).

The NCDC has been all over the rapidly unfolding disclosure that indeed, Karl Dean favors a ballpark for Sulphur Dell (news that had been on the street for years) and, when they promoted it on their Facebook page this week, an official with their partner, the UT College of Architecture and Design commented:

This is incredible! Fantastic to see the work of Professor Schimmenti, our students, and the NCDC realized.

I don't understand. Was the purpose of the 2011 NCDC workshop to help expand our imaginations without regard to practicality or to help practically realize Mayor Karl Dean's plan to build a ballpark at Sulphur Dell?

UPDATE:  I went back over my posts from 2011. A commenter to one of those posts had the following observation to put after attending the meeting:

Someone asked why the NCDC and UTK did not study the Thermal Site, to which the UTK professor replied that the real planning should be left to the experts and a "professional" study will need to be undertaken. Further proof this was a sloppy PR move by the powers that want the Sulpher Dell site (or should I say, the powers that want the Thermal Site for something other than baseball), but had very little to do with actually advancing the planning debate.

Again, the purpose of the design contest is muddied by the question of whether it was supposed to have practical effect even as now NCDC and UTK are celebrating practical effects of the contest.

1 comment:

  1. According to the NCDC report, the Thermal Site and East Bank had already been studied by either NCDC or other processes at the time of the UT design studio. North Gulch was also studied by the students.