Cogent Studio and collaborators enliven another Chattanooga alleyway with Passageways 2.0
It may be safe to say that competition stimulates excitement and excitement creates power!
Passageways 2.0 is the second round of alleyway art and architecture to have been opened to competition for an installation in Chattanooga’s downtown city center. The most recent collaboration of sponsors is ℹ River City Company, Public Art Chattanooga and the Chattanooga architectural firm, ℹ Cogent Studio.
“Cogent’s ability and willingness to become involved is helping to build a better public environment through the Passageways design initiative,” says Jason Ennis of Cogent Studio. “It has been a great experience.”
Architect Jared Hueter says, “The whole process is an investigation into the importance and the potential of pedestrian spaces throughout Chattanooga.” The art of creating urban space has been the goal, say Cogent visionaries. Throughout the process, the competing teams were encouraged to thoughtfully and creatively optimize the urban context of a specific site to create a well-designed space.
“There is always so much excitement stirring for these design ideas,” says Kim White, CEO of River City Company. The original re-imagination of alleyway spaces launched in 2016 and was a joint program of River City Company, American Institute of Architects (AIA) Tennessee and Cogent Studio. Four alleys were temporarily enhanced with art and architecture installations from winning teams that represented Chattanooga, TN, New York, NY and Sydney, Australia. The only criticism of the project seemed to be that the installations were temporary.
In May, Passageways 2.0 showcased three new and different design concepts chosen from a collection of 45 regional, national and international submissions. This year’s semifinalists included proposals entitled—Alley Grass, Boston, MA; City Thread, Syracuse, NY and Graffix Alley, Chattanooga, TN. The three semifinalist teams each received a $3,000 stipend and participated in a site visit early in 2018 to meet with local stakeholders.
On June 1st, the winner was announced. The winning proposal was City Thread, a concept from SPORTS, the architecture and design collaborative of Molly Hunker and Greg Corso in Syracuse, New York.
City Thread is an “art-as-urban-infrastructure” installation using a continuous sculpture through the alley that allows for a multitude of uses including informal lounging/sitting areas, mini-stages, open-air show space for community murals or art, including commons areas to use for roving screenings and farmers’ market, among other events.
One major difference in Passageways 2.0 and the original competition is that the site-specific design will permanently activate the proposed alleyway and is expected to create a vibrant pedestrian corridor that may be adapted for small public event space. The 6,200-square-foot alleyway may be found behind the new Market City Center—a 10-story mixed use development at 728 Market Street.
The $80,000 City Thread will be installed in fall of 2018. Once completed, River City Company will host a public unveiling party to introduce Chattanoogans to their newest public space. In addition to the opening event, it will program the space with events in the following months to draw more people in, making it accessible daily. Passageways 2.0 is made possible by generous grants from the ℹ Benwood and ℹ Lyndhurst Foundations.
SPORTS, the winning firm, was recently highlighted as a “Firm to Watch” by Architectural Record and as “Next Progressives” by Architect Magazine. SPORTS is the recipient of a “Best of Design” Award from Architect’s Newspaper and a 2017 Arch League Prize from the Architectural League of NY.
Katelyn Kirnie, director of Public Art Chattanooga (PAC), has a history of creative placemaking and programing through her past work with Boston greenways and parks. PAC Chattanooga is a division of the City of Chattanooga’s Economic and Community Development Department and is dedicated to introducing a wide variety of high quality public art into the community.
“PAC has been involved in guiding the selection process and will assist with shepherding the project through City review and approval,” says Kirnie. “Once the installation is complete, the City of Chattanooga will assume ownership of the artwork and it will become part of the city’s permanent public art collection.”
According to River City spokesperson Amy Donahue, the surrounding property owners are enhancing the space, including resurfacing the pavement in the alley with pavers like those of other projects already in place around downtown, such as Station Street. “They have committed to an on-going maintenance agreement to keep the alley clean and inviting for people when visiting the installation or coming to their respective properties,” adds Donahue.
“City Thread will be a high-quality installation,” says River City Company CEO Kim White. “It will add to Chattanooga’s unique sense of place while creating a space that both caters to everyday use by surrounding properties and provides an excellent setup for events and community use.”