December 6, 2022 Architecture Students Design in Nashville’s East Bank near New Titans Stadium

perspective of glass-and-brick building

Students in Professor TK Davis’s Nashville Urban Design studio are doing one thing: Visualizing possibilities.

In both spring and fall 2022, TK Davis’s studio has focused on the reinvigoration of the East Bank area of Nashville, and through creative freedom, students are offering Nashville officials possibilities for the development of the area.

In spring 2022, Davis’s 13 third-year students in the School of Architecture applied their talents to two districts in East Bank that surround the planned new $2.1 billion enclosed stadium for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans. In fall 2022, the work continues but this time focuses on a different district, a 92-acre area adjacent to the stadium.

Partly prompted by the announcement of the new stadium, the East Bank area of Nashville is undergoing an expansive reimagining. The work is led in part by the Metro Nashville Planning Department, who also are collaborating with Davis and engaging with students in studio and reviews.

For almost two years, the department and others have been studying the “future land use, urban design, mobility, open space and environmental resiliency of East Bank,” according to the department’s study, and Davis’s studio continues to contribute to both the visioning and data collection of the effort. The primary study area is 338 acres, bounded by Interstate 24 to the east and south, the Cumberland River to the west and Jefferson Street to the north. “This is one of the largest and most complex studies undertaken by Metro Nashville,” stated the department.

“The East Bank is surely one of the biggest stories on infrastructure, urban planning and design, and public policy ongoing in our state,” Davis said. “The department has stated that the vision for the East Bank is ‘to become Nashville’s next great neighborhood through an expert planning process that includes strong community engagement.’ Our goal is to demonstrate through student urban architecture projects what the potential issues and opportunities in the area might be. Our students are visualizing possibilities, and I’m thrilled that they are able to address a project that will make such an impact on the quality of life of Tennesseans and on the visitor experience.”

The study has shown that concerns about developing East Bank include safe connectivity, riverfront access, resiliency and flood mitigation and the creation of destinations. Possible responses are the development of four walkable districts, a new multimodal boulevard, greenways, parks and open spaces and cross-river connections. Check out the full East Bank study.

Responding to the study’s findings, Davis’s spring studio adopted for programming and design one each of 13 urban blocks proposed in the study. During the design process, students grappled with many unique issues and ideas:

  • How might we produce walkable/bikeable, high density, mixed-use urbanism, with high quality public spaces incorporating affordable housing?
  • How might a flexibly applied form-based code be a tool to promote the objectives?
  • How might parking needs be accommodated in the equation?
  • On a site with portions slightly below the FEMA 100-year flood plain, how might we deal with flood mitigation?

In fall, students’ projects continue to assume a mixed-use, walkable/bikeable and high density neighborhood district, this time surrounding the new stadium.

“The students’ projects are designed for local citizens, such as Wrigleyville in Chicago, rather than the tourist district of Lower Broadway,” Davis said. “This directly aligns with Metro Nashville’s objectives.”

section of building

“The opportunity to design a space, while in school, that could have real-life implications is quite a unique one,” said JD Schumacher, a fifth-year student in the School of Architecture and member of Davis’s fall 2022 studio. “Typically, the projects I have worked on before are not necessarily ones that could be physically realized….While working within the guidelines set out by the Metro Nashville Planning Department and the public’s response, it has pushed me quite hard to imagine an opportunity that could truly benefit the community in the immediate and long-term future.”

Students this fall are envisioning a variety of uses for the 92-acre plot, including

  • Teachers’ housing with a children’s museum
  • Sports bar with housing and beer garden
  • Sports hotels
  • Theater with housing for artists
  • Music institute with a concert hall and dormitory
  • Museum with recording studios and transitional housing
  • Culinary institute with a dormitory and market
  • Visual arts school with library and café
  • New Tennessee Performing Arts Center with housing for artists
  • Urban arboretum and wintergarden with housing
  • Athletic club with affordable housing and
  • Safe haven for abused women with an early learning center and food co-op.
axonimetric of urban block

“This project provided me with the unique opportunity of actually getting to work with clients in Nashville,” said Zach Dulin, a fifth-year student in Davis’s studio this fall. “As East Bank begins its redevelopment, there are several people who have been working toward the goal of constructing a children’s museum along the river next to Cumberland Park. My design freedom has allowed me to generate a working concept for the museum that can then be used by the development team to promote the creation of a unique and engaging space for Nashvillians.”

“The beauty of student projects is that we see multiple responses to the same problem,” said Davis. “As students envision possibilities, there is no ‘take it or leave it’ in their approach.”

In spring and this fall, students’ work, which visualizes possibilities for the city, was and will be reviewed by a group of distinguished design and development professionals in Nashville.