Spatial Interventions

Downtown Memphis Commission exhibits South Main Design Challenge work this Friday, April 26

The South Main Design Challenge is an initiative by the Downtown Memphis Commission to generate creative ideas and conceptual plans for seven vacant or underutilized spaces and buildings in the South Main neighborhood.  For more information about the challenge, visit the website here.

Our team, 8-trax studios worked on a proposal for the South Main Buffalo Mural lot.

About us

Ben Avant: SMA Chump; South Main Business Owner; Lighting guy; Father of One
Cat Normoyle: Educator with MCA; designer; urban enthusiast; dog walker
Matt Seltzer: Architect with archimania; doesn’t eat condiments; has a penchant for the coffee

About our proposal

The South Main Buffalo Mural and the hidden open space behind it create a unique place in a unique neighborhood. It holds a remarkable moment; an experience, for locals and visitors alike, in its current configuration as a derelict lot, a canvas for public art, and a gigantic city-sized planter for a spontaneous garden.

The South Main Design Challenge asks for concepts and visions that transform vacant lots into community assets that live out their potential by strengthening the South Main neighborhood. The Buffalo Mural Lot is one of the few Challenge sites that, arguably, is a community asset in its present state. The danger in “developing” the Buffalo Mural Lot is paradoxical: by bringing a new vision to the site, you can kill the magic of the place that’s already there.

Rather than erasing the innate qualities of the Buffalo Mural Lot, we choose to harness and focus them in order to better share the magic with the neighborhood. Our short term concept and long term vision for the Buffalo Mural Lot use the same tactics to accomplish the same vision: a pocket park that is cultivated by vegetation and the visual and performing arts. We believe a park in this location makes sense from an urban and economic development standpoint: a park ties back to the the larger network of open, green spaces throughout downtown and South Main, and is a perfect complement to the open lawn at nearby Founders Park. A park can be developed more rapidly and inexpensively than a building, and will generate urban equity that can increase the value of adjacent sites slated for development.


[ photo credit: Cat Normoyle, Feb 2013, South Main Buffalo Mural Lot (before) ]
The Tactics

Keep the Facades
They tie the site and its history back to the street and the train tracks, and create the surprise of a hidden garden.

Keep the secret, keep the garden
The wild, woolly spontaneous garden tells us Nature reclaimed this spot before the rest of us did. Although we think the addition of seasonal color and specimen trees can help shape the park, we believe the planting forms need to remain informal, organic and natural.

Bring the Sidewalk Inside (to the Outside)
Make a seamless, accessible connection from the sidewalk and street into the park. The shift from sidewalk to park can be signaled by a material (from concrete to deck).

Activate the site 24/7
The park has a presence now during the day. Enhance that experience by adding an observation deck. Make the park more urban by activating it at night.

Keep the art, and bring more, and don’t apply it – integrate it
The newer elements of art and design can intertwine with the landscape and building fragments. Sustainable funding Use the space as a evening music venue, proceeds go back into the park.

[ rendering credit: Matt Seltzer, East View Interior, Day ]
[ rendering credit: Matt Seltzer, West View Interior, Day ]
[ rendering credit: Cat Normoyle, Sidewalk View Exterior, Night ]
Presentation Boards

The work will be on display on the ground floor commercial storefront at 431 S. Main Street during the South Main Trolley Tour on Friday, April 26 2013. The exhibition will run from 6pm-9pm.

[ dancing gardens, presentation boards ]
[ dancing gardens, board 1 ]
[ dancing gardens, board 2 ]


Reflections of Historic Homes Tour Atlanta, Georgia

On June 27th I, along with 15 fellow students, toured some of the historic homes in and around Atlanta. To my delightful surprise, the event was quite engaging and educational. As students, we are always reading about art and architecture, but it was fun to have a professor bring us out to sites to see these beautiful homes.

The Root House

Interior Shot, Root House

The Root House, formerly owned and lived in by William and Hannah Root, is a 19th century middle-class home found in Marietta, GA. It was constructed ca. 1845 and is an example of Greek Revival architecture. This I-home is two stories high and one story deep, including a hallway entrance opening into a parlor and dining room and bed chambers above. The kitchen is separated from the house and includes a beautiful cast iron stove with food preparation and storage furnishings. There is a humble garden in the back as well.

William Root moved into his home and became one of the first merchants and druggists in Marietta. It was said that some eleven people lived in this home at the same time, including children and grandparents! As you can see from the interior picture, the house is dressed for the summer with slip covers. Originally built on the corner of Church and Lemon Streets, this home now lives just two blocks away and is a museum.

Smith – Manning House

Exterior shot, Smith-Manning House

The Smith-Manning House was original owned by Dr. Sydney Smith who came from South Carolina in the mid-nineteenth century. The House was built ca. 1845 and is an example of Greek Revival architecture. This grand home has three floors where the main steps would have originally entered to the second floor hall. The ceilings are high and the space is open. The windows are tall, providing much light into the house. The middle floor is three rooms deep and two wide, with an enormous hall and center staircase. The lower floor includes a cooking area and more utilitarian work and living spaces. The entire house is currently under re-construction.

This is an example of a wealthy Georgian home constructed about the same time as the Root House. The home is located on Rockford Plantation (or township) which is 900-acres large. Dr. Smith was said to have owned 60 slaves, a town house, a tanyard, and a blacksmith shop in Marietta as well as the Rockford Plantation. After he died, the house was used as a headquarters during the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain and then a hospital for wounded soldiers. In 1893, John L. Manning acquired the property.

Lawrence House

Exterior shot, Lawrence House

The Lawrence House is a gothic revival style cottage in Marietta built ca. 1870-1880. It is believed that the construction began much earlier but was burned during the Civil War fires. The gabled L-shaped home lived Robert de Treville Lawrence, son of Col. Samuel Lawrence, and his wife and children. The exterior is painted yellow with extensive gothic detailing on the four porches that surround the house. The interior is spacious with high ceilings and large windows and doors looking outside to patios. There are two large arched doors that connect the parlor and dining room. The house later added a kitchen, a porch, bedroom, and two bathrooms to the space that were not part of the original floor plan. The large staircase leads up to smaller bedrooms on the second floor.

This house is located at 267 Whitlock Avenue in Marietta, GA and is currently on sale for purchase.