February 15, 2014 BarberMcMurry Professorship Studio, Trip to LA ‘Life-Changing’ for Students

Architecture students of the University of Tennessee are engaged in a once in lifetime experience as participants in the studio of BarberMcMurry Professor Lawrence Scarpa.

Scarpa is an internationally celebrated architect whose practice, Brooks + Scarpa (former Pugh + Scarpa), has received more than 50 major design awards, including the National Firm Award from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 2010, five AIA Committee on the Environment-Top Ten Green Building Project Awards, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from Interior Design Magazine in 2009.

Scarpa is also at the helm of the very first endowed professorship in the history of the UT College of Architecture and Design. The BarberMcMurry Professorship reached fruition in spring 2014 with fourteen lucky students getting the opportunity to explore design through the lenses of Scarpa’s expertise and experience as teacher, architect and Los Angeles resident. – Students are basing their studio project on a site in LA, where they visited in mid-January.

The trip to LA was fully funded through the generosity of donors who gave to the Big Orange Give Campaign in fall 2013. Through it, students were able to explore such Southern California destinations as Kahn’s Salk Institute, the Eames House, and visits to the firms of Koning Eisenberg, Jonathan Segal, Lorcan O’Herlihy, Steven Ehrlich, and Morphosis.

“Being able to visit many emerging and already established firms central to Los Angeles contemporary architecture was incredibly exciting and informative,” said Bud Archer, a graduate architecture student in the studio. “Not only having the opportunity to hear from a variety of architects working in a different environment, but also to see products of their work was something I will never forget.” 

“Practicing in a completely different American culture leads to new ideas typically not gained by our education here in Tennessee (or the general Southeastern region),” added Bud. “I like the fact that Mr. Scarpa will be having us do many things that he would be doing in his professional practice – similar model building, practical studies of materials, new processes of design, etc.”

Speaking to the generosity of others – those who funded Scarpa’s appointment and the trip – Bud and Cameron Bolin, another graduate student in the studio, shared their immense personal appreciation.

“I am quite thankful to have the opportunity to study under someone of such diverse and explorative as Lawrence Scarpa. The chance to be exposed to the ideas, methods, and creative process of such a prolific architect is invaluable,” said Cameron.  “[T]he opportunity to practice education and design in direct connection and collaboration of a people and context not familiar to our own is an asset to the evolving education of young designers and the curriculum at the University of Tennessee.”

“Having the chance to see the Salk Institute in person was life-changing, and we may never have had the chance to see it otherwise,” noted Bud about the LA trip. “The Eames house was one place I have always wanted to visit and finally had the chance to experience the space that was so influential to modern home design and prefabrication. These places, in addition to many other works in LA, blur the line between inside and out (due to the weather) which was something that is rarely fully realized in many other regions.”

“Being able to question and learn both in the office and in the field among their work, the very issues of design and execution that we face as young designers, was refreshing, challenging, and motivating,” said Cameron. “I have gained a new perspective in the validity and focus of architectural design that allows us to be practitioner, problem solver, and artist all at once.”

The BarberMcMurry Professorship Studio is just the first of many to come. Established to promote design excellence through teaching by an internationally or nationally recognized practicing architect, the BarberMcMurry Professorship is the result of two gifts—a bequest from Charles I. Barber, one of Knoxville’s most respected architects, and another from his firm, BarberMcMurry architects. In 2011, the firm’s leaders, Kelly Headden and Charles Griffin, UT architecture alumni, matched the Barber gift to produce the $1 million endowment.

Others can contribute to the learning and future successes of UT College of Architecture and Design students by giving to

See how the studio progresses through our Scarpa Studio Pinterest Board.

Images by Geneva Hill, graduate architecture student, and Brandon Pace, adjunct professor in architecture.

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