MSU alumnus’ firm takes half of the AIA Tennessee 2015 Design Awards

August 6th, 2015 Comments Off on MSU alumnus’ firm takes half of the AIA Tennessee 2015 Design Awards

archimania's Hattiloo Theatre received an Award of Excellence at AIA Tennessee's 2015 Design Awards (photo via

archimania’s Hattiloo Theatre received an Award of Excellence at AIA Tennessee’s 2015 Design Awards (photo via

(Via AIA Tennessee news release)

The Tennessee Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA Tennessee) announced the 2015 Design Awards at a gala celebration during AIA Tennessee’s state convention in Knoxville, Tenn., last week. To salute excellence in architecture, AIA Tennessee conducts an annual Design Awards Program. This program honors built works of distinction designed by AIA Tennessee members. The program also brings to public attention outstanding examples of architecture.

Julie Beckman, Associate AIA, KBAS Studio and the University of Tennessee College of Architecture and Design, chaired the Design Awards Program and selected Karen Fairbanks, AIA, of MarbleFairbanks, to act as Jury Chair. Completing the impressive jury were Karla Rothstein, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University; Joeb Moore, Joeb Moore & Partners, LLC in Greenwich, CT, and Adjunct Professor of Architecture at the Barnard/Columbia Architecture Department; and James Slade, AIA, LEED-AP, Slade Architecture in NYC.

The ten projects were unanimously chosen from a field of 73 submittals, all of which received thoughtful consideration.

“Our jury became especially animated over projects that made an impact with minimal means. In the end, a number of civic projects and community-focused projects with a social agenda were favored. And innovation within constraints, a limited and unexpected use of materials and solving tough spatial and site conditions for great impact stood out to us. We didn’t set out to look for these at the beginning of the jury, but these issues surfaced in our dialog together as we looked at your collected work.”

The Memphis-based architecture firm, archimania, received 5 of the ten awards. Todd Walker, FIA is principal and a 1987 graduate of the MSU School of Architecture:

MEK House
archimania (Memphis)
Adapting to their changing lifestyle and growing collection of art and midcentury furniture, the client prioritized five discrete rooms in their 1990s spec-built house for: the entry, living room, kitchen, master bath, and the unfinished space above the attic to be used as an informal hang-out space.

These areas of focus have been treated as insertions – distinct from the original house in materiality, functionality, and form. Beyond responding to the family’s functional needs, the renovations are designed to serve as a backdrop for the client’s world-class collection of art. Surfaces of dark walnut paneling act in contrast to the white ‘gallery’ walls and serve as a visual material datum that connects the individual insertions as a cohesive counterpoint to the existing.

Because of its location, upstairs and separate from the rest of the house, the design of the attic was able to take on a more active, unrestrained character. Custom built-in lounge furniture responds to and mimics the angles of the attic walls. Dark wood strips wrap the space, lending it an intimate feel while echoing the materiality of the insertions below.

Jury Comments:

  • This is a great example of a super opportunistic project – one that embraced existing conditions and ran with them to transform the interiors. Take a second to look at the existing kitchen, attic, living room, and entry in particular.
  • Partial plans: lower level on left; upper level on right; existing below
  • Stair: we were completely wowed by this stair- A beautiful recladding of the existing stair
  • Kitchen bar: and a very clean material palette linking the primary spaces
  • Kitchen: Kitchen counter surface turns into a pocket over the stove.
  • Kitchen again: carefully crafted details at the counter and cabinets; ceiling
  • Bathroom: Impressed how they radically transformed the spaces through clean moves, and beautiful materials.
  • Bathroom again:
  • Attic: another example of taking an ordinary condition and making an extraordinary space
  • Attic detail: simple wood strips applied to the surface – relate to the wood used on the lower level
  • Final: Found a great balance of light and dark surfaces, bold graphic color and pattern, while creating a unique, intimately scaled space to hang out in

Leadership Memphis
archimania (Memphis)

Leadership Memphis is an organization that prides itself on building leaders through education and collaboration. Seeking an open and highly visible new location, their vision for the space was two-fold: to house private and flexible public workspaces conducive to highly collaborative activities, and to provide rentable space that would accommodate diverse group functions. Using color and directed flow patterns, the two bays function as either one large space or as two separate spaces. The Administration bay includes custom designed cubicles with oversized openings and functional sliders to fit the occupants’ needs as well as a large layout worktop that serves as the center for group activities. The Gallery bay is equipped with 1000 SF of open space, often reserved for public events and shares facilities with the Administration bay. A vibrant yellow provides high visibility from the street and connectivity between the bays. Continuity of the color was an important factor and proved challenging as it crosses between linoleum, acrylic panels, and paint. This client, formerly housed in a midrise and away from activity, has generated a life on its own and continues to draw crowds at weekly events at a formerly empty corner.

Jury Comments:

  • This project was a favorite for many reasons – one of them being the powerful impact that the color and material choices in the interiors make on the exterior
  • Existing conditions: started with long, shoe box spaces
  • Plan: developed a super clean, simple, clear diagram; working and meeting spaces of all scales from individual spaces to large gatherings and events in the gallery
  • Long desk: They utilized a minimal palette to connect the programs and announce shared surfaces and spaces; we noted how carrying simple material datums across element helped tie the different parts of the project together
  • Desk to enclosure: we were impressed by their cost-effective solutions
  • Panels: rolling panels provide privacy and also help keep space flexible
  • Carrying the datum across helps tie everything together
  • Yellow: Color is an ambient backdrop here AND, as noted in the exterior image, acts as a lure from the outside.
  • Kitchen: The yellow starts as a surface – a graphic element and then turns into a space
  • Final: Finally as an acrylic material for the shared spaces in the back of the gallery

Hattiloo Theatre
archimania (Memphis)

The first and only black repertory theatre in Memphis sought to relocate from their start-up space to an existing parking lot in an urban entertainment district currently undergoing a resurgence. The new building allows the theatre to have its own identity and establish a presence on the corner of a main artery into the district.

Working with a tight budget, the design team formulated an early strategy with two goals: First, define components that were permanent and components that could be added over time based on continued fundraising and profit (this would allow the theatre to add lighting, etc., but not sacrifice building quality), and second, keep it simple.

The building is divided into two main programmatic volumes; the performance volume, featuring two black box theatres and support spaces, and an administration volume. Conceived as windowless boxes, the two theatres occupy the northern edge of the site, abutting a neighboring parking lot. The irregular massing is reflective of the required internal volumes, yet both boxes are clad in a shingled siding that lends continuity and texture to an otherwise blank façade. The lower volume houses the entry lobby, ticketing and administrative spaces and presents a welcoming pedestrian scale along the southern edge of the secondary street (Monroe Avenue). Cor-Ten cladding was used for its ability to weather and oxidize over time while adding to the unique character of the entertainment district.

Jury Comments:

We were very pleased to award this important project – providing an elegant new home to this theater company

  • Site plan: We saw this as great response to the corner condition of the city;
  • Diagrams and plans: We appreciated the strong massing diagram with a super-clean and clever plan; the circulation spine divides administrative spaces from the theater spaces and is anchored by the primary entrance on one end and a secondary entrance on the other
  • Building from main street: We found this to be an exceptionally elegant composition and building strategy;
  • Overhang: engaging the city; cantilevered entry canopy announcing the theaters in a dramatic way
  • Corten: Great choice of materials – liked the cor-ten detailing at windows
  • Details: Shingled siding gives scale and interest to otherwise opaque surfaces
  • Lobby: Simple use of sloped ceiling, continuity of block on the interior, strip of lighting along theaters to draw the public in
  • Interiors:
  • Small theater: cleverly shares back of house spaces with larger theater
  • Larger theater:

Final: congratulations to this team – we were pleased to award this project that brought a powerful design solution to an important community organization

Regional One Medical Courtyard
archimania (Memphis)

This renovation of an unused hospital courtyard between two adjoining towers provides an updated image reflective of the hospital’s new brand and level of care. Challenged to provide a more welcoming and humane respite for patients and guests, bamboo was introduced as the primary landscape material that offered a new vertical scale to the space and provided a soft veil to mask the adjacent buildings. The entry and windows are delineated by Cor-ten steel thresholds on the floor plane and provide openings through the bamboo veil. Massive wooden seating elements serve as natural, functional and sculptural elements in the courtyard.

Jury Comments:

  • We were impressed by the effect that this small-scale insertion within an unused courtyard could have on the day to day life of the hospital
  • Site: It has a significant transformative impact on the experience of arriving and being at the hospital
  • Plan: Introducing a calm, comfortable, contemplative space at a hospital – a shared Zen-like space.
  • Construction: We saw this as an architectural space – designed through a landscape lens.
  • View (with before): Liked the scale of materials – the verticality of the bamboo – and were surprised by the materials – cor-ten on the ground; a simple palette of rich textures and materials
  • Views (3): The design brief noted that they were considering the addition of a future sculpture in the middle – over the storm grate –
  • Final: But we awarded it as it is – we didn’t see the need for the addition of a focal point of the space – that it felt complete to us.

Story Booth
archimania (Memphis)

Charged to create a flexible space for an after-school arts initiative along with a retail storefront, this project renovates a portion of an inner city flea market, disguising the after-school writing and arts workshop as a flea market booth. Taking advantage of the existing flea market’s circulation, infrastructure, and storefront, the design integrates reclaimed shelving units from a nearby Sears Warehouse which organize and scale the space into a storefront, “secret” workshop area with flexible learning spaces and a heightened sense of entry. A series of tall openings following the rhythm of the shelving figures let light, views and circulation into the workshop space from the adjacent alley.

Jury Comments:

  • Excited to see this project repurposing a flea market to house the afterschool program
  • Site: part of flea market, alley
  • Sign: hints at playful character and t he reuse of materials
  • Entry: Jury felt that this is a nice transformation – engaging the storefront with a small retail area
  • And the reorientation to the side alley is smart
  • Open/Closed view: The repurposed shelving becomes the “secret” door into the workshop beyond – we loved the hidden space and thought it spoke to the use of an elemental architectural condition – the threshold – to connect the users to the space
  • Workshop: wanted to acknowledge architects bringing their design skills to these types of projects for social / civic programs that will make a difference in the lives of many children
  • Shelves: support projects that looked for inventive solutions repurposing materials – supporting a social activism and a sustainable agenda – This is the kind of architecture we want to support.
  • Workshop: Very calm place for creativity.
  • Final: with modest means – the architects activate the space through a sustainable model – connecting to the community through the storefront.


Driving Positive Change through the Power of Design – The mission of AIA Tennessee is to shape the professional environment in Tennessee so that architects, clients, the building industry and the public at large understand and appreciate the value we bring to the community.

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