The architects of the Music City Center are admiring their own work ahead of this weekend’s grand opening. They say the 1.2 million square foot building represents an evolution in how people think about convention centers.
“Once upon a time, convention centers were referred to as a ‘box with docks,’” says TVS Design principal Andy McLean. “There was not a lot of architecture going on.”
McLean’s Atlanta-based firm has put its stamp on more than 60 convention halls all over the country, including a recent facelift to the Cobo Center in Detroit. It’s no longer just about vast exhibition space and easy access for loading in, he says.
The $585 million Music City Center focused on aesthetics.
“This is a culmination of a lot of that kind of work, to get some of the expressive shapes and forms,” McLean says.
There’s natural light everywhere and glass on all sides, meant to cut down on the fortress-like feeling.
The glass offers good views of the city, but it also has a practical function. The nearby buildings should help visitors orient themselves in the convention center.
“So many times you get in convention centers, you get lost – Opryland a good example – you don’t know where you are,” says Seab Tuck of Nashville-based Tuck Hinton Architects. “This building is so simple.”
Instead of a maze of hallways, there is essentially a ring of open corridors that surround the exhibit space, ballrooms and meeting rooms.
Outside Features Change Inside
From above, part of the center looks a bit like an acoustic guitar body and the green roof has hints of a fret board. The 57,000 square foot grand ballroom is meant to look like the inside of an acoustic guitar.
The rippled roof is probably the most noticeable feature. It made the project more expensive because it cut down on repetitive structural forms. Each crossbeam of the roof had to be specially designed.
The roofline is also noticeable on the inside ceiling.
“It’s like a rollercoaster,” Tuck says. “So you sort of think about this iconic image on the outside, and then you get inside and go, ‘whoa.’”
City officials hope the design will help distinguish Nashville among convention destinations, because there are several projects in the pipeline. Cleveland opens a new facility this summer.
Nashville Mayor Karl Dean says he never wanted just a box, and says he got what he was looking for.
“I think the building looks better than even the renderings did,” he says. “That doesn’t happen all that often.”