TVA Tower 2014

How can an aging building be reimagined?


Designing a 21st Century TVA Tower for Knoxville

An advanced architecture studio in Fall 2014 examined the east tower of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) headquarters in downtown Knoxville. Four teams of graduate and undergraduate students designed solutions to re-skin the aging building, increase energy performance, and integrate the tower’s plaza with the surrounding public spaces.


James Richard Rose

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Senior Lecturer, Director of Institute for Smart Structures, College of Architecture + Design
University of Tennessee-Knoxville

Keith Boswell, FAIA

Deputy Governor's Chair, Partner
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Through a sequence of collaborative discussions over the course of the fall semester, the studio progressed from research at the city scale to design strategies for the building envelope.

Student Project: Activate

Activate the existing, static TVA complex through dynamic strategies which promote TVA’s goals for innovation in high performance design. The existing TVA plaza design is stagnant and uninviting. We want to activate the Plaza with an occupiable circulation element which connects Wall Avenue and Market Square to Summit Hill Drive. A grassy terrace accompanies the primary accessible ramp between the towers, providing public green space.

Student Project: Reuse

This project utilizes existing methods of prefabricated construction and meet the highest standards of sustainability to create an educational example of sustainable design. The TVA Tower focuses on creating a civic-focused project by repurposing the existing structure. The adaptive reuse is designed to be an educational example of sustainable design by utilizing existing methods of prefabricated construction and meeting the highest standards of sustainability.

Student Project: Engage

This project puts the TVA tower in conversation with bustling Market Square, where the TVA Towers stand at the pinnacle of downtown Knoxville’s axis; the crown jewel, potentially, of historic Old City. The new TVA Tower East adds vibrance to the Knoxville skyline, communicating a message that TVA, as it grows as a company, is engaging the Tennessee Valley community in exciting new ways. Subtracting unnecessary building material, such as the plaza level glazing, and adding a habitable exterior space frame results in a mixed use building with a dynamic relationship to the city. With an exterior screen that responds to the parameters of the site’s solar loads, TVA Tower East stands as a beautiful example of increased energy performance.

Student Project: Living Building

This approach utilizes natural processes and planning strategies to lessen energy dependence and improve the quality and experience of the building and site. The living building uses a holistic approach with passive systems designed to offset and lessen the need for active systems. The active systems which are still necessary are designed with as little waste as possible. The overall systems work in a loop helping to feed off of each other to lessen energy use and even create energy during certain points of the year. The overall site and building work with as little waste as possible utilizing the sun, wind, rain, and vegetation as integrated facets of the building system.

The overall studio strategy for the project was to work with as little waste as possible utilizing the sun, wind, and rain as integrated facets of the building system.

Related Projects and Research:

TVA Tower 2016

Pertamina Energy Tower

The Engineering of Architecture

Timber Tower Research Project

Benton Johnson: Urban Mass Timber

Students Contributors:

Ryan Ballek, Paul Bamson, Bradley Gould, Brice Holmes, Christina Lulich, Whitney Manahan, Wesley Pettit, Alex Pasley, Nate Ryman, Ryan Stechman, Kate Taylor, Steven Whitmore


The student team of Whitney Manahan, Nathan Ryman, Alex Pasley received an AIA MidTennessee Merit Award.