TVA Tower 2016

How does context effect Energy + Urbanism?


This studio built on work of the 2015 TVA Tower project, but instead of adaptive re-use the students focused on designing a new tower in downtown Knoxville. Four different locations were considered, and student teams were challenged with creating projects that maximized the potentials of Energy + Urbanism on their unique site.


James Richard Rose

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

Andrew Obendorf, AIA

Associate Director, Studio Head
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Maged Guerguis

Senior Architect
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Contextual Challenges

The studio considered four sites for a new TVA tower. They were all in central Knoxville, but each had their own unique constraints and potentials. Since the sites differed dramatically in size, shape, and orientation, the projects that emerged varied considerably despite being given the same program.

Site 1: Cultural Campus

In many respects, Site 1 was the most challenging. Located immediately to the west of the current TVA twin towers, this site features a large parking structure and a small triangle facing Summit Hill Drive. The scheme that was developed converted the parking garage into new housing and placed a tower on the street edge. The TVA tower portion of the program is placed on the small triangle and twists as it rises; transitioning from a difficult shape and orientation at ground level to a more optimized orientation at the top.

Site 2: Incuse

The TVA harnesses the kinetic potential of natural forces through man-made instruments of monumental scale. By adding infrastructure to the natural environment, TVA serves the people of the Valley with power, while leaving concrete landmarks of human ingenuity. TVA’s idea of reconfiguring nature with built elements is mirrored to become the conceptual basis for this project. Now water gives life to the green façade and services the building through collection and now the sun shapes the building and illuminates its spaces using photovoltaics and daylighting. The natural and the man-made become intertwined and inseparably related in this project, generating a fresh perspective for the 21st century TVA.

Site 3: Vertical Transition

Designing the new YVA headquarters began with studying how the dams were connected and the level of interaction they had with one another. Physically connected by rivers, lakes, and streams, the prospect of figuratively shortening the distance between the dams to create interactions became the primary narrative. With this idea, a series of connected atria were derived from the physical, technical, and ecological connections the dam system creates. Each main atria floor contains a variety of programs meant to actively engage employees of the TVA. Located on Gay Street in the historic district of downtown Knoxville, the site offered an incredible opportunity to engage the public and reinforce the educational and informative goals of the TVA. Most people interact with the TVA directly through power supply, but also through the outdoor activities provided by the lakes, rivers, and public lands the TVA has created.

Site 4: Interchange

This project was designed for the largest site which was also the furthest distance from the current towers. The team studied the geological formations of the region and created public space that ran across the site at ground level; strata of office program in a bar that wrapped the edge of the site, enclosing a public plaza; and a mid-rise tower that emerged from the core of the project. Large atria were carved into the tower to provide users with access to significant view corridors to Appalachia, Sharp’s Ridge, and Market Square.

Related Projects and Research:


Exploring Additive Manufacturing

AMIE 2.0: Urban Living In a Future Knoxville

Algorithmic Design for 3D Printing at Building Scale

Students Contributors:

Jeremiah Corbett, Dillon Dunn, Meredith Graves, Cody Grooms, Emily Lange, Kendall Maples, Joshua Murray, Casey Myers, Tori Placher, Kyle Prichard, Charles Staal, Gray Taylor, Mustapha Williams


The team of Williams, Placher, Dunn, Prichard (Site 4) won a Middle Tennessee AIA award at the end of term review.