How Nashville, TN’s Landmark Shaped Music City’s Image

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Nashville’s tallest building towers over the city. It’s such an iconic part of the skyline that it’s even featured on Tennessee’s state driver’s license.

The skyscraper has an official name, but everyone in Nashville knows it by its unofficial nickname: The Batman Building.

Home to AT&T’s Tennessee headquarters, the building, also known as the “Bat Building” or “Bat Tower,” has been the landmark of downtown Nashville for 30 years.

“It was an immediate hit on the Nashville skyline and still is today,” local historian David S. Ewing told Nexstar’s WKRN.

Construction of the tower began in 1992 and was completed two years later, in September 1994. The goal at the time, Ewing said, was to consolidate several small offices for the South Central Bell company into one space. of work.

“South Central Bell had a very large presence in Tennessee. Their main office in the state of Tennessee was in Nashville; they had a lot of small offices in the city, and they put them all together downtown in one very big building to put everyone in one space – about 1,800 workers,” he said.

The AT&T Building, as it is now known, was formerly known as the South Central Bell Building, then the BellSouth Building. But his unofficial nickname comes from his resemblance to DC Comics’ Caped Crusader.

“If you look [news] cover when the Batman Building opened in 1994, everyone saw this iconic image of Batman. Even months before the building opened, on the front page of The Tennessean, there was an image of the building and an image of Batman side by side that read, “Holy High Rise!” “recalls Ewing.

The imagery, while iconic, was entirely accidental, according to AT&T Tennessee President Joelle Phillips.

“It’s a reflection of the good old people of Middle Tennessee who call it what they think,” she told WKRN. “I think it was just kind of a natural thing.”

Neither the company nor the architects sought to create a building using this specific type of imagery. In fact, the team that designed part of the building told WKRN that the distinctive spiers on either side of the building were inspired by the technological advancements of the time. But the resemblance to Batman was unmistakable.

“When the Batman Building opened in 1994, a reporter asked DC Comics, the Batman comics publisher, about it, and they were flattered that Nashville was doing a building that looked like Batman,” Ewing said. . “The person suggested building a smaller building after Robin with an R and a circle on it.”

According to Phillips, locals needed to assure members of Warner Media, which was once part of the same company as AT&T and protected the Batman name and product image, that the name was an organic creation and not intended to infringe on anyone’s intellectual property. property rights.

“It’s just what people call it,” Phillips said. “If anything, we kind of walked away from that conversation with even the people who control the Batman brand thinking it was good for the brand. People are calling [the building] this in a very positive way.

For the past 30 years, the Bat Building – or the Bat Tower or the Batman Building – has been the centerpiece of the Nashville skyline, leading the charge for the growth of downtown Nashville.

The architects who designed the AT&T building had no intention of making it look like the Caped Crusader, but the public and media couldn’t help but draw the comparison. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

Ewing said he viewed the construction of the tower as a green light for redevelopment after an economic downturn in the 1970s and 1980s.

“It was a real signal to come back to downtown Nashville – a bat signal, if you will – that downtown was open again, and it got a lot of other people to invest in the heart of the city,” he said. “A lot of people were building buildings outside of the Nashville area in the Green Hills and Cool Springs area, but we weren’t building those iconic towers. In fact, in the 70s and 80s most of the other tall buildings on our horizon were built as hotels or by banks.

While the building is iconic from the outside, the interior is equally unique, according to Phillips and Ewing.

The interior was designed by the late local architect Earl Swensson and includes a signature design element that Swensson put into many of his buildings: the all-glass atrium.

According to Ewing, Swensson “sort of invented” the large glass atrium for the Opryland Hotel and has used similar atriums in other major projects, including the AT&T Building and Centennial Hospital.

“A lot of other architects have copied it over the years,” Ewing said.

The building was a Swensson didn’t want to look like a typical square skyscraper, according to Ewing.

“There’s a ton of light in the building,” he says. “The way the rooms and floors are laid out, there’s no typical grid system. There are many different curves and angles. It was really meant to be technology and architecture combined.

Earl Swensson Associates says the building includes a two-story economic development center, a nine-story underground parking garage with 1,308 spaces and an 8,000 square foot enclosed winter garden, which is another point of interest.

Another unique feature of the building is its orientation. While most downtown skyscrapers or office buildings run parallel to the streets they sit on, the Batman Building sits on its land, facing the corner of Commerce Street and 3rd Avenue North rather only one street away.

“So the building doesn’t have its back to one side or the other,” Phillips said.

While AT&T and earlier versions of the company were the building’s original owners and only tenants at first, the tower began to accommodate other companies through leases beginning in the mid-2000s.

When Nissan North America announced it would be moving its headquarters to Franklin, the company needed temporary space for its employees to work, and the AT&T building made room. AT&T gutted about half of the building for Nissan to use while waiting for the Williamson County facility to open.

“In fact, for a while there was some kind of Nissan signage above the front door of the Bat Building,” Phillips said.

Today, the building is home to several tenants, including US Bank and the law firm Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs. It belongs to the limited liability company Location MTL.


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