City Thread is the winner of the Passageways 2.0 international design competition to turn a formerly unused and neglected 575 mq alley off 7th Street in downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee into a vibrant public space.
Situated in a city that understands how contemporary infrastructure can enhance urban life (Chattanooga is famous for investing in the first public 1-gig fiber Internet to help foster economic development), the idea of the design is to operate as an element of social infrastructure. The project serves as a social connector where the different actors of the city can come together for both unique public programming and informal hangout. Consisting of a 500ft continuous linear steel tube and painted graphic surfaces, the project physically connects visitors and local tenants with a single gesture while also supporting numerous programmatic possibilities and activities. Further, the zig-zagging linear structure and graphics imply a variety of smaller spaces within the alley, breaking down the overall space into a series of more intimate spaces, or “urban rooms”.
While the project has a precise design calibrated to the contingencies and clearances of the alley, it is designed specifically to be functionally open to interpretation. By virtue of its geometry and relationship to the adjacent buildings and pedestrian access points on either side of the alley, the project possesses many potential “functions” including informal lounging/sitting, mini-stages, and movie screenings, festivals, among others. The design is intended to allow both users, tenants, and those in charge of programming activities to interpret the project and discover different ways to utilize the alley. In so doing, the project can be used widely by a diverse range of users over the years in Chattanooga, maintaining the alley as a vibrantly activated space as community and tenant needs change over time.
The design and fabrication was conceived of as a kit-of-parts, which allowed for a high level of adaptability and was calibration to negotiate the varied elements and clearances in the alley. There are six different formal steel tube elements – straight pieces of varying length and five different radius corners. In total, there were 76 parts (38 straight, 38 curved) that were shop welded into 26 larger elements that were then in turn transported to the site. In combination with one another, the elements got arranged and sequenced through the alley, and welded on site to produce the final structure. The structure is connected to the ground through a system of concrete pads, and is also bolted to adjacent buildings in two locations.
The project also included a system of painted graphics on the ground and alley walls that reinforced the smaller scale alley spaces produced by the zig-zagging structure. In total, there are 11 large painted shapes, for a total of approximately 160 mq of painted graphics.
Ultimately, City Tread demonstrates how unused, forgotten, run-down, and in-between spaces within the city can be cleverly developed and turned into larger assets for the community. The project site, a large alley in Chattanooga, was formerly a dingy, unused (except for illicit activities), and disconnected space in the downtown area. Now the alley is a visually and socially vibrant space that serves the City Center community and provides a renewed sense of place, urban excitement, and connection between the numerous parties downtown.
City Tread is an example of the potential of small-scale, small budget, urban interventions when designed in accordance with community feedback, resourcefulness, and high economy design gestures. The project was conceived, built and installed for a very small budget and leverages a simple design strategy that provides a large visual, social, and programmatic impact within the City Center community.
The project is essentially a new piece of urban infrastructure, and while it creates dynamic and visually compelling public space, it is also specifically designed to support, host, and provoke a wide range of social activities, events, and interactions and allow the community to creatively program and use the space as they would like and build a sense of community ownership. The project also supports economic development by helping further cultivate and nurture the growing commercial, art and creative culture of downtown Chattanooga. It has catalyzed efforts for new business to move in to the area, which further contributes to the area’s developing vibrancy.
SPORTS is the award-winning, multidisciplinary architecture and design collaborative of Molly Hunker + Greg Corso. Their studio approaches architecture in a playful way by balancing rigor and research with amusement and curiosity. Since forming in 2010, SPORTS has designed and constructed a number of large-scale architectural installations and pavilions around the country and they have been exhibited, reviewed, and published widely. Molly and Greg are both also faculty at Syracuse University School of Architecture. Notable awards / recognitions:
2018: Young Architect Award, Architect’s Newspaper
2018: Passageways 2.0 International Public Space Competition Winner
2018: ACSA Faculty Design Award
2017: Architectural League of NY Prize
2017, 2016: Winner of “Best of Design” Award, Architect’s Newspaper
2016: MCASB Pavilion Competition Winner
2016: Ragdale Ring International Design/Build Competition Winner