Batman building and Schermerhorn Symphony Center creator, Earl Swensson, dies

Earl Swensson
Posted at 6:04 PM, Jan 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-25 21:06:15-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — You may not know his name, but you certainly know his work.

Earl Swensson, who designed Music City landmarks from buildings at Belmont University to the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, died this week. He was 91.

"He loved architecture, he was an artist, he could draw, he traveled all over the world," said his former co-worker Dick Miller.

There are just some elements you never forget. For Miller, it was the impression he got when he first met his former boss.

"Enthusiasm, brilliance, one of the smartest people I have ever met," said Miller, who is now Chairman Emeritus of Earl Swensson Associates.

Swensson started his architecture firm in 1961 with just his wife, a dream and eventually a custom-made desk that he designed.

"He created this in his mind and we had it built," said Miller.

That grew into a massive firm that took on equally large projects. Swensson designed everything from Gaylord Opryland Hotel to the Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, Centennial Medical Center and Summit Medical Center. Even NewsChannel 5's TV studios received the Swensson treatment.

"And he was so proud of that building, we’d go down there often as it was being completed," he said.

But by far, his most recognizable work has become a symbol for this city and for resembling a certain caped crusader. To be clear, Batman was never the influence for the AT&T Tower, but it was a nickname that Swensson came to embrace.

"The client made a very clear statement, we want an iconic building. They didn’t know what that meant, nor did we, but we worked and worked and there you see the end result," said Miller.

But what Miller will cherish the most are the memories.

"He would sit here with me and we would talk, and we would just marvel at remember this and remember how that was," he said.

Those memories stand taller in his mind than any building on our skyline.

"A life well lived," Miller said.

Earl Swensson's longtime wife Sue also passed away just three weeks ago.

NewsChannel 5 is told both died from natural causes. Funeral services for Earl will be private but a celebration of life is being planned for later this spring.