The Fred D. Thompson United States Courthouse and Federal Building is located in a downtown Nashville, Tenn., neighborhood, formerly populated by parking lots and old office buildings, that is undergoing rapid revitalization. Imposing and elegant, the building celebrates the role of the public in justice along with ideas such as transparency in government, says Patrick Burke, principal at Michael Graves Architecture & Design in Princeton, N.J. The imposing structure is also designed to exacting requirements for blast resistance and progressive collapse.
The design for the new courthouse and federal building was completed in 2006 and went out for bid in 2007. When the economic bubble burst in 2008, the project (among other U.S. courthouses) was temporarily put on hold. Funding wasn’t granted until 2015 and by then, the lead design architect—the Michael Graves/Thomas Miller Partners Joint Venture—was facing new criteria that Congress had set for the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA).
Read more about this project in the Summer 2021 issue of Ascent
While GSA still wanted a modern-looking building, the Nashville court representatives wanted it to be classical in style. Graves and Thomas Miller found a middle ground: a blend of classical and contemporary character that connects the past to the future.
Precast concrete lends itself to such a design because it can be molded into rounded shapes “Despite most of the detailing being very sharp and rectilinear, nods were made to classicism with stylized, classically proportioned columns at selected locations.