September 13, 2019 Architecture Students Design for “Everyday Heroes” in Nashville

Student work from the Teachers Village studio

Our college believes in serving communities large and small through our explorative, collaborative projects. This generosity of spirit drives many of our community engagement projects, including our 18-year partnership with the Nashville Civic Design Center (NCDC).

During Summer 2019, Architecture Professor Thomas K. Davis, in partnership with NCDC, led a group of 12 Architecture students for 11 weeks in designing a Teachers Village for Metro Nashville as a way to address the issue of teacher attrition in Nashville.

Two years ago, officials in Nashville’s Office of the Mayor approached NCDC, who then conveyed to Davis the need to provide affordable housing for Metro Nashville’s public school teaching workforce.

Due to high costs of living in the state’s capital and lengthy commutes from distant, affordable housing among other issues, many early-career Metro Nashville teachers leave the school system—sometimes during the school year—for other school districts in Middle Tennessee. In addition, many teachers in the system work a second job.

According to the school system, Sharon Griffin, Nashville’s chief of innovation, recently visited every school in Nashville, and the consistent complaint she heard was a lack of funding and low salaries. A story on WKRN News 20 stated that Nashville schools started the 2019-2020 school year with almost 100 teacher vacancies.

A proposed response to teachers leaving Metro Nashville is a “teachers village,” inspired by Richard Meier and Partners’ Teachers Village for downtown Newark, New Jersey.

Teachers villages are communities within metro areas that offer affordable housing along with other amenities, such as recreational spaces for wellness, meeting spaces for training, early learning centers and retail conveniences.

“When NCDC urged us to conduct an urban design studio to focus on advocacy for a teachers village in Metro Nashville, I was excited to work with my students to create an attainable community for these everyday heroes,” Davis said.

The group of students who participated in the 2019 Nashville Urban Design Studio

During summer 2019, 12 students in our Nashville Urban Design Studio worked on one of three hypothetical subsite phases of the Woodycrest Teachers Village. The phases are designed to be combined to form four different composite plans.

The first phase addressed the site, an 11-acre city-owned school bus storage and maintenance facility on Tech Hill, a Nashville area known for its high-tech think tank. Tech Hill includes new mixed-use and multi-family, prefabricated housing structures designed by our alumni Sheila Dial Barton (B.Arch ‘97) and Nick Dryden (B.Arch ‘95). In the future, the students could develop the two subsequent phases.

This important work is not new to Davis in the summer studio. Two years ago, he led a group of students for six weeks in designing a teachers village on the Tech Hill site, but the idea was put on hold.

Now, Nashville’s mayor has rekindled the idea, issuing a request for proposals, which was awarded to a local development group, who plans to use the students’ design research as a departure point for their work. EOA Architects and Hastings Architecture, two firms laden with our alumni, will team up as the designers.

The Woodycrest Teachers Village research and design are anticipated to be a future design forum, exhibit at NCDC and possible publication for the city’s design, development and planning leadership. This is a similar approach to a previous summer studio advocating for micro housing in downtown Nashville. At the time, there were no micro-housing units in the city. Today, there are several hundred.

In October 2019, the Woodycrest Teachers Village design will be presented at the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.