Governor’s Chair Studio: Oak Ridge

Students in the School of Architecture were challenged to study and redesign areas of the city of Oak Ridge in the Governor’s Chair for Energy + Urbanism studio.

Created in secret and chosen for its mix of geographic isolation and proximity to infrastructure, Oak Ridge was sustained in its early days by its singular focus of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Since its economic boom during World War II, the city has weathered several years of difficulty. The 75th anniversary of the Secret City’s founding sparked a renewed interest in bringing life back to its beautiful valley community.

Led by Governor’s Chair Phil Enquist of Skidmore, Ownings & Merrill, James Rose, adjunct assistant professor, and Andrew Obendorf, SOM, students in the fall 2018 fourth-year integration studio chose three neighborhoods near downtown as subjects of their research and design. Working with city officials, ORNL and SOM, students designed ways to revitalize the area into a more innovative, sustainable and walkable city.

Working in small groups, the students designed residential mixed-use buildings established within the existing character of the neighborhood. These multifunctional buildings included designs for housing, greenways, healthcare and tech companies. Students were challenged to integrate the technical aspects of design while also proposing a comprehensive building design anchored in sustainable practice.

Since 2014, the Governor’s Chair for Energy + Urbanism has allowed students to investigate innovations and next-generation technologies for healthy communities and smart cities. This program, a $2.5 million partnership of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Skidmore, Ownings & Merrill and the College of Architecture and Design, opened opportunities for students to work side-by-side with industry leaders on projects like AMIE, the Tennessee River and Timber Tower.