A Nashville Art College Answers The Question: Why Erect Grain Silos On Campus?

Apr 10, 2017

While all kinds of buildings are rising across Nashville, one of the city’s largest business parks — MetroCenter — is now home to one of the more unusual structures.

Watkins College of Art has opened a pair of gleaming metal silos. They’re open-air inside, and rise a couple stories, with a ring of windows.

On opening day last week, voices reverberated around college President J. Kline.

“I don’t know that we were necessarily going for ‘wow factor,’ but we’ll take that,” he said.

Kline said the silos, which will be used as art studios for college seniors, are mostly practical. Other than some tricky building permits, the silos were largely premade and then assembled efficiently — ultimately giving the college twice as much square footage as was initially considered with traditional building methods.

Visitors entered the silos at Watkins College of Art for the first time on April 5.
Credit Tony Gonzalez / WPLN

However, Kline does admit to a bit of playfulness. He said there’s a complaint that different academic disciplines have been sharply divided into figurative silos, and that higher education leaders have been trying to tear them down.

“And we could not resist the idea of responding to the de-siloing of higher education by erecting literal silos,” he said. “And we’re an art school, so of course we do things that are pleasing to the eye. So this design, the colors, the materials, work beautifully with the building we have.”

Watkins’ existing building is also uncommon — a former movie theater. An internal reconfiguration in that space preceded the silo project.

Within the pair of round studio spaces, Kline vows that there will be collaboration. Senior art students will get the run of the silos, working side by side and sharing ideas while working on their thesis projects.