Inspired Architecture

Transforming our city’s downtown landscape

Every year, thousands of people flock to Chattanooga for its beautiful scenery mixed with its flair for recreation and entertainment. Whether it’s visiting a zoo, spending time at a park, or watching a movie on a rainy day, Chattanooga has an activity for just about any occasion. Locals and visitors alike make these places their weekend destinations, but in the excitement of it all, few stop to wonder what inspired the look and feel of the structures that make up the Chattanooga landscape. Here, the architects behind some of our city’s favorite recreational spots give you a glimpse into what made these ideas a reality and share the architectural inspiration behind their design.

By Candice Graham

Full PDF here.


Photo by Brad Shelton/

High Point Climbing
“The Block is the culmination of desire and undeniable perseverance. A conversation about possibilities led to a sketch on a napkin of a piece of public art that would entice pedestrians to interact with it during daily activities. ­ The art form that now covers the existing five-story Bijou Parking garage is a physical metaphor for a rock face – its folding plates creating unique and challenging routes that you might find climbing the T-Wall. ­ Part art piece, part functional climbing wall, the gesture extends for the entire block. Collaboration was key to the success of this project. Our dynamic team, which included River Street Architecture, River City Company, High Point Climbing, Woods Engineering, Rockwerx, and Strauss Construction, shared the goal of providing something unique for our city. Our hope for this project, beyond its success for our client, is that it will continue the momentum of thoughtful downtown revitalization and contribute to Chattanooga’s outdoor heritage.”

About the Architect
Craig Peavy is a 2001 Auburn University graduate and alumni of Auburn’s Urban and Rural Studio. Craig started his career with Lord, Aeck & Sargent in Atlanta and then became a partner at River Street Architecture before starting his own firm. He is now the Principle Architect of pvdesign, inc.

Majestic 12 TheaterInspiredArchitecture2
“We were charged with designing a building that was responsive to its urban setting, compatible with the surrounding buildings, and LEED certified. So we decided to design it to look like we had reclaimed a series of warehouses, a style reflective of both the Discovery Museum and the Coca-Cola bottling building. As you walk around the Majestic, you will notice that its facades appear to have various sizes of openings that suggest we filled in existing openings. The brick color was purposely chosen to reinforce this “infill” concept. In an effort to salute many downtown historic structures we decided to use Warehouse Row as additional inspiration. While the building salutes the historic character of Chattanooga, the theatre is a state-of-the-art design. It was the first LEED Certified theatre in the country, and to our knowledge it is still the only one.”

About the Architect
As cofounder of Artech Design Group, Rick Thompson is the principal in charge of areas involving theatres, healthcare, education, and municipal and private sector projects. Rick represents East Tennessee as the incoming Chairman of the Tennessee Architects and Engineers Board of Examiners and is on the board of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.

Miller Plaza PavillionInspiredArchitecture3
“Miller Park Plaza was designed in 1989 as a contrasting companion to Miller Park, then less than a decade old. Created to actively engage the downtown pedestrian with permanent facilities for retail, meeting and entertainment spaces, the plaza was also intended to serve as a catalyst to encourage public activities during the evening. The popular Nightfall music series is a testament to achieving that objective, and the plaza continues to deliver on its overall mission 25 years after its opening. Of special note, the design theme for Miller Park Plaza was conceived to make the space a contemporary interpretation of the traditional masonry architecture found in our community. It won the coveted AIA Honor Award for design excellence, the first ever given to a building in Tennessee.”

About the Architect
Bill Wilkerson has lived in Chattanooga nearly all his life. He has served as president of AIA Tennessee, AIA Chattanooga, and on several Chattanooga area design review committees. He is also a partner at Derthick, Henley & Wilkerson Architects.

Chattanooga ZooInspiredArchitecture4
The primary goal of the expansion at the Chattanooga Zoo was to create an entry that would yield a new identity for the zoo, provide for a better customer experience, and meet needs such as enlarging the gift shop. Working with Morgan Manning and Rick Jackson from the zoo, Mike Little and I endeavored to create an open environment with structures of natural materials and styling that reflect buildings that might be found in various areas and villages of Africa’s Great Rift Valley. The uniqueness of this project allowed for a creativity very different from what we normally use for our projects. I believe the zoo now has a very enticing, exciting, and identifiable entry that rivals those of larger zoos and of which the zoo staff and City of Chattanooga can be proud.”

About the Architect
Steven D. Billingsley is a graduate of the University of Tennessee, College of Architecture and a LEED AP as certified by the USGBC. He is currently licensed in 18 states. Billingsley/Architecture was formed in 1990.

Coolidge ParkInspiredArchitecture5
“Coolidge Park is unique in that one experiences it not only on the ground, but also from above, looking down from the Walnut and Market Street Bridges. While investigating the project from aerial photos early in the design phases, the design team found a photograph of hot air balloons being launched from the site a few years earlier. Landscape architects Brad Good and Joe Sawyer took the colorful array of patterns in the photograph as their inspiration for the park’s colorful, overlapping circular walks. Within that design concept, the water feature, carousel pavilion, Walker Pavilion, river overlook, river stage, and the Charles Coolidge Memorial were all incorporated. Bud Ellis and his talented group of carvers restored the 1894 Dentzel carousel from Atlanta and carved all the animals. The carousel and the Walker Pavilions serve as gateway buildings to the park and provide a needed visual edge to the North side of the lawn along the river.”

About the Architect
After graduating from Auburn in 1984, Bob Franklin joined Franklin Associates, Architects as an architectural intern. Notable projects that Bob has worked on include Heritage Landing, the Chattanooga Theatre Centre, Coolidge Park, the Tivoli Theatre renovation, the Memorial Auditorium renovation, and the Electric Power Board corporate office building. Bob became president of Franklin Associates in 1990.

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