Over the last (nearly) six years this blog has offered each of us the chance to talk at some length about design, place and the built environment. These are topics of which I knew nothing when I started considering our downtown and all its intricate components. Hopefully you’ve learned along with me and will continue that journey. I appreciate those of you who already understood design, architecture and urban planning and have helped the rest of our little urban group.
A series of events are approaching which fit perfectly with many of our previous discussions. Each year at this time, Architecture Week is observed in the US and it roughly coincides each year with Thomas Jefferson’s birthday (April 13). Among other occupations, Thomas Jefferson practiced and was keenly interested in architecture. I’ve visited Monticello more than twenty times over the years and that, along with his other architectural project – the University of Virginia, offer endlessly fascinating studies in the discipline.
Our events locally will be sponsored by the East Tennessee Chapter of the American Institute of Architects who have become so enthusiastic about the business, they’ve extended the week into just over two weeks, running from April 1 (tomorrow) through April 16. Almost all the events are open to the public and they’d like to have you join them. For readers of this blog, each of the topics will likely be of interest.
It starts tomorrow with an “Art Salon,” which is a pop-up art show featuring the work of many local architects and other members of the design community. Most of us know that Brian Pittman draws cathedrals, but did you know he builds Lego cathedrals? Both will be on display along with art from many architects you might not have suspected. You’ll find the Art Salon at The Saloon (newly rehabed retail/office and residential building at the corner of Depot and Central, across from White Lily Flats.
Fast forward to next Wednesday, April 6, and you’ll run square into “Design Slam! Knoxville,” held in the Square Room. Sort of like a poetry slam for architects, several teams will be presented with a design problem which I’m told will reflect a real-life challenge with which students of downtown will be familiar. Presented with the problem (which will only be revealed that night), each team will have a very limited amount of time to address the problem, then present their design solutions. A team of three panelists – two experts and one local blogger with whom you may be familiar – will select the winning team. I suspect we’ll all enjoy adult beverages and laugh a lot along the way. The event begins at 5:30 PM and ends at 7:30 PM. The event is free and open to the public.
April 9 from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM, the public is invited to Historic Westwood. At 10:00 AM a presentation on mid-century modern architecture will be followed by a discussion of the style and era. A driving map will be distributed to attendees with directions to some of Knoxville’s best examples of the style.
Friday evening, April 15, from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM is probably the most interesting of all the excellent events, to me. It also hits as closely to the heart of what we’ve discussed so many times as any other session in the series. The symposium titled, “What Makes a Great Place,” is designed to be a fast-paced, fun and informative event. Seven presenters with very different focuses in their work will each have seven minutes to answer one question: you guessed it . . . “What makes a great place?” This should be a blast for those of us who ponder such things. Scruffy City Hall will be the venue.
Finally, in what must be the mother of all Knoxville history tours, our very own Jack Neely will lead a walking tour starting at 9:00 AM Saturday morning, April 16 and beginning at the Bank of America Parking Garage off Locust and Main. The tour will end three-and-one-half hours later in the same spot, so bring good walking shoes, a bottle of water and a few snacks to eat along the way. It should be excellent.
You’ll find this information and more here, though the link may not switch from last year’s information until later today. I’ll hope to see a number of you, as I know many of you are interested in the topics and the more we can learn, the better our conversations going forward.