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Is Memphis the architectural capital of Tennessee?

 
USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee

 

Two Memphis firms won 70 percent, or seven, of the 10 statewide design awards given for 2016 by the American Institute of Architects Tennessee.

That's out of  98 submissions.

And the mammoth Crosstown Concourse redevelopment -- where the grand opening was celebrated less than two weeks ago -- has quickly made its presence known in the architecture world; three of its tenant spaces were among the 10 statewide winners.

Last year, one Memphis firm, archimania, won half the Tennessee design awards.

All of which prompts the question:  Is Memphis the mecca of Tennessee architecture?

Such a claim may not be an overstatement, says Carolyn Wills, president of AIA Memphis and principal with Bottletree Design Group.

"I'm a bit biased,'' she acknowledged. "In Memphis, we have a pretty noteworthy history of making significant contributions to architecture.''

The Memphis winners are:

— 85 Union (Award of Excellence to LRK Architects): The jury described renovation of the 17,000-square-foot mixed-use building as "a strong, urban move'' and "... a very civic-minded solution to an important corner site.''

— The Chisca on Main (Award of Excellence to LRK Architects): The jury described this renovation of the historic building as a "massive undertaking, breathing new life into a building that could have been a blind spot or even an albatross to its community.''

— Tech901 (Award of Excellence to archimania): Of this space inside Crosstown Concourse, the jury stated it "kept coming back to this project's use of material textures and color values. They all work well together with a raw, natural undertone.''

— Woodward Residence (Merit Award to archimania): The design of a new residence Downtown got the jury's attention in part because "it very convincingly addressed the context head-on. It is all about place. Adjacent to a highway in a compromised piece of land, it is an architecture of accumulation.''

— Live at the Garden (Merit Award to archimania): The jury described Memphis Botanical Garden's the new outdoor performance theater as "a successful assemblage of buildings that merged with the natural environment; the architecture acting as a frame to the various events that occurred there.''

— Mama Gaia Organic Restaurant (Merit Award to archimania): The jury said this space at Crosstown Concourse was "masterfully organized'' and that "the detailing concept was recognized for being consistent with the restaurant's brand -- raw, whole foods.''

— And Memphis Teacher Residency (Merit Award for archimania): Also inside Crosstown Concourse, this space was described by jurors as having "a strong presence in the atrium of a building'' and said it "brought the public realm up, into the space... a storefront in the sky.''

The city's long history of progressive architecture and the architecture school at the University of Memphis help explain why design here is a strong tradition , Wills said.

"Most of the Memphis architects really know how strong a modernist history this city has,'' she said. "And I think we're attracted to that and want to continue with that.''

 

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