Thursday, October 11, 2007

"Hidden" Meaning

As one walks into the Schermerhorn Symphony Center's main lobby(above), the grandeur and elegance of the building is very apparent. However, there are design elements throughout the entire building that one may notice but not realize the "hidden" meaning behind them.

If you look closely at the lobby photo, you will see that the railings all have an iris as the focal point. The iris is the Tennessee state flower, and its icon appears on everything from the interior balcony railings and staircases to the mechanical grills (right) and elevator doors.

Note also, the columns in the lobby. If you look closely at the tops of the columns, you'll see iris buds tucked into the little nooks (left). And what are those little squares under each of the iris buds? Sugar cubes! The architects put the cubes there to pay a lighthearted tribute to the Symphony president, Alan Valentine, who apparently likes a lot of sugar in his coffee.

Speaking of coffee, the top of each elevator car in the building has a brushed metal border featuring coffee beans (right). The Cheek family, who founded the coffee company that eventually became Maxwell House Coffee, were patrons of the Nashville Symphony in its infancy. In addition to holding board meetings at the family's estate, Cheekwood, the symphony also performed there.

Inside the concert hall are a number of decorative panels (left) that adorn the walls of the hall (Most are located on the fronts of the box seats.). The panels, which are about three feet in width, pay tribute to Laura Turner (matriarch of the family that founded Dollar General), for whom the hall is named. Turner's love of music, gardening and horses is reflected in the panels. The five lines represent the musical staff, and across the bottom of the panels is a piano keyboard. The center flowers - a rose flanked by tulips - bloom from horseshoes. Of interest is the fact that, in addition to adding a decorative touch to the concert hall, the panels also provide an acoustic service by diffusing high-frequency sounds during concerts.

On the exterior balconies that grace the northside of the Center, the focal point is a riverboat pilot's wheel (right), recognizing the roles the Cumberland River and the barge industry played in the history of Nashville. In addition, the pilot's wheels pay silent homage to Ingram Industries, a barge company founded by the late husband of the Nashville Symphony board chairman, Martha Ingram.

If you walk around the building, you'll notice that the passion flower, the state's wildflower, appears on keystones that sit on the arches of the windows, and on the wall fountains on the north and south sides of the public garden (left).

I find it quite amazing that the architects and designers put all of these subtle references in the design elements of the building, and I have to admit that my favorite is probably the least ornate - the sugar cubes - simply because of the story behind them.

Join me tomorrow as we look at the public garden and a special tribute to the late Kenneth Schermerhorn.


Carlos Lorenzo said...

I don't know if I will ever visit Nashville (it's sad to be in this world and not visiting all the great places) but you are making feel like making my best to go. Lovely architecture and great post!

Steve Cuddihy said...

The coffee beans, that's a neat touch and would have easily overlooked it. Great post today!