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Competition: Chattanooga Passageways 2.0

An international contest has been launched for a series of $80,000 street-art installations in Chattanooga, Tennessee (Deadline: 3 November)

Open to multidisciplinary teams of artists, architects and landscape architects, the competition seeks ‘unique, innovative and cohesive’ artistic visions for new permanent artworks in the city’s underused passages and alleyways.

The winning scheme will be constructed in a newly created alleyway between a residential development at 728 Market Street and the 700 block of Cherry Street inside Downtown Chattanooga. The call for submissions follows an earlier contest which saw three permanent Passageways installations delivered last year.

Neural Alley by Revenge of the Electric Woman

Neural Alley by Revenge of the Electric Woman

Neural Alley by Revenge of the Electric Woman

According to the brief: ‘Passageways 2.0 seeks to reimagine the alleyway and demonstrate the potential and significance these in-between spaces have to our built environment. The implemented design will enhance a new downtown alleyway in the heart of city centre, utilising unique, innovative design concepts with a cohesive artistic vision.

‘The project entails designing a spatial installation that is habitable and can be adapted for use as a small public event space. The installation must be designed for permanence and safe for public use.’

Located on the banks of the Tennessee River, Chattanooga is a major transport hub and the fourth-largest city in the state of Tennessee. Last year the city held a contest which saw three permanent installations delivered in the alleyways of the 700 blocks of Broad, Market and Cherry Streets.

Contest site

Contest site

Contest site

Winners of the inaugural contest, dubbed Passageways, included Urban Chandelier by Office Feuerman, Neural Alley (pictured) by Revenge of the Electric Woman, and Gaden Grass by Team GFB.

The latest competition focusses on a single alleyway between a residential development at 728 Market Street and the 700 block of Cherry Street. Proposals will be expected to consider their experiential offer, spatial presence, placemaking qualities, connections to the wider community, longevity and constructability.

The project is backed by not-for-profit urban improvement organisation River City Company, along with Cogent Studio and Public Art Chattanooga. Financial backers include the City of Chattanooga, Lyndhurst Foundation and the Benwood Foundation.

Submissions must include a seven-page PDF document featuring a completed application form and qualifications along with six case-study images showing previous works. The judging panel will include an artist, architect, landscape architect and representatives from Public Art Chattanooga, the City of Chattanooga’s Department of Transportation, River City Company and the City Centre neighbourhood community.

Three finalists, due to be announced 13 November, will each receive a $3,000 stipend to further develop their concepts. The overall winner, due to be announced 15 March, will receive $80,000 to deliver their scheme in time for next summer.

How to apply

Deadline

The deadline for submissions is 12pm local time (EST) on 3 November

Fee

There is no fee to enter

Contact details

Email: passagewayscha@gmail.com

Visit the competition website for more information

Passageways Chattanooga from River City Company on Vimeo.

Neural Alley case study: Q&A with Noa Younse

The team member of Revenge of the Electric Woman discusses lessons learned designing one of the previous competition’s winning schemes

Noa Younse

Noa Younse

Noa Younse

How did your Neural Alley project deliver an innovative installation to reanimate Chattanooga’s urban corridors?

Our team, consisting of Jenny Hiser, Carson Smuts and myself, collectively felt that we had to address the increasingly fast-paced world that is taking over every aspect of our daily lives; we felt that this alleyway was another element that contributed to the constant need for movement without consciousness. We wanted to use this project as a way to furnish an analogue experience that would encourage people to put down their phones and engage with reality, if only for a few minutes. Instead of creating an immutable piece of art, we devised a system to facilitate tactile interaction. By providing people with the means to create their own meaningful experiences they might voluntarily choose to spend their time playing with our alleyway, thus transforming the space from an underutilised thoroughfare to a sought out destination.

Neural Alley by Revenge of the Electric Woman

Neural Alley by Revenge of the Electric Woman

Neural Alley by Revenge of the Electric Woman

Which architectural, material, visual and other methods did you harness in your design?

Our piece was simple, interactive, intuitive, and photogenic. I think these elements contributed not only to the constructibility of the work but also its shareability. Using low-tech fabrication techniques, only a few materials, and by having a repeatable set of instructions, we were able to enlist the help of local volunteers. ‘Pixel Parties’ were essential to actually completing the piece—from painting each of the 4,000+ pixels to glueing the connections into the backs of each one to hanging them all up. Our system was designed in such a way that people could actually have a direct impact on its construction, and thus feel a sense of ownership and pride in the piece itself.

Neural Alley by Revenge of the Electric Woman

Neural Alley by Revenge of the Electric Woman

Neural Alley by Revenge of the Electric Woman

What advice would you have to contest participants on participating in this year’s Passageways 2.0 competition?

Find a way to get people to naturally engage with the space. Give people a reason to come back and discover something new. Find ways for the community to help. Do as much building as you can beforehand and allocate more time than you think you’ll need to actually pull it off.

Neural Alley by Revenge of the Electric Woman

Neural Alley by Revenge of the Electric Woman

Neural Alley by Revenge of the Electric Woman

Q&A with Amy Donahue

The director of marketing and communication at the River City Company discusses her ambitions for the competition

Amy Donahue

Amy Donahue

Amy Donahue

Why are your holding a competition to create vibrant pedestrian corridors in Chattanooga?

Chattanooga, like many U.S. cities, was not utilising our alleyways for more than light industrial uses. With limited urban space, River City Company wanted to create more public space, and alleys were an excellent option. The original round of Passageways in 2016 and the current Passageways 2.0 competition bring to the forefront what good design can do for a community. For Passageways, it’s reclaiming overlooked, auxiliary spaces as community gathering spots. The first round’s success has not only spurred a second round of competition but also the expectation that our spaces and buildings should be more than placeholders.

International participation in Passageways is important for two reasons. First, we want the opportunity to expose those unfamiliar with Chattanooga to the opportunities that you can find here. Second, being able to draw international interest adds both credibility to our competition and creates a high level of interest in our city. Chattanooga, Tennessee, is not New York City or Los Angeles. We are a mid-sized American city of 178,000 people. But we have a vision, a 30-year history of high risk yet high reward urban revitalisation projects and an appetite to create unmatched experiences. Regardless of where you live, those things make Chattanooga special.

Receiving roughly 80 submissions for the first round of Passageways with one-third coming from international applicants, our selection committee was shocked by all the options that you could erect in alleyways. In the decision to stick with an international competition format for Passageways 2.0 and the focus on creating one permanent installation, River City Company along with our partners Cogent Studio and Public Art Chattanooga wanted that onslaught of high-quality design options again envisioning the best and lasting use of the space.

Contest site

Contest site

Contest site

What is your vision for the new installations?

The vision for Passageways 2.0 is centred on stunning permanence. For the original round, Passageways focused on multiple alleyway sites with short-term installations. Passageways 2.0 seeks innovative and habitable design concepts with a cohesive artistic vision for the approximately 300-foot-long alley totalling 6,200 square feet. With the ability to also host small public events, the installation will be surrounded by residential and commercial tenants who will self-animate the space daily.

With the focus on creating a long-term installation, quality of materials and maintenance needs will be evaluated in relationship to the proposed idea along with any included sustainable practices or elements of the concept. We want something that is bold, creative and produces the be all and end all for reimagined alleys with a long life orientation.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

To create the calibre of installation we are looking for, teams with diverse skill sets based on the proposed concept should apply: seasoned architects and designers, students, artists, technologists, lighting engineers, sound engineers, etc. While there are no formal restrictions on who can apply, submitted team resumes and past work will be a part of the selection process. The selected team can anticipate both US and international media attention for their project.

Contest site

Contest site

Contest site

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

As a joint project by an economic development non-profit, a local architecture firm and the public art arm of our local city government, our focus now is Passageways 2.0. Yet, this second round morphed out of the success of the original round plus addressing the gaps it presented. So while we don’t have another project currently in the pipeline, Passageways gives our community the tenacity to be bold and make our city distinctive.

Are there any other pop-up installation projects you have been impressed by?

Passageways was inspired by two separate pop-up installations. River City Company’s 2014 program call Open Spaces which took vacant first-floor storefront windows and placed dynamic and vibrant installations of art, light and tech inside those storefronts. Yet, they were interactive with passersby on the street. The second pop-up installation was DesCours from AIA New Orleans in 2011 where architects created installations in ‘hidden’ locations like abandoned buildings for a 10-night exhibition.