Passageways: Activating the Urban Alley through Architecture presented by AIA Tennessee and the River City Company is a community outreach project of the 2016 AIA Tennessee State Convention held August 24-26 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It is a public architecture exhibit focusing on the urban fabric that exists in the space between our city’s buildings. These forgotten and often times overlooked voids exist throughout our city. The intent of the exhibit is to exemplify the potential of these spaces and the benefits they have in creating a healthy urban environment throughout Chattanooga.

In order to realize the full potential of these auxiliary spaces, we must change the way we fundamentally think about them. Within the context of the American urban environment, alleyways are often disregarded as solely service corridors, lined with dumpsters, mechanical units and fire-escapes, with just enough room for a vehicle to pass between buildings. Historically though, alleys were thought of much differently than the contemporary model. The origin of the word alley is late Middle English, stemming from the Old French word alee meaning “walking or passage” or aller meaning “go”. In large cities predating the automobile, these “passages” (or Passageways) were intended to create a path for the ambulatory human being. Often times the scale and design of these spaces was indicative of this and reflected in the rich activity that occurred daily within these spaces. Today, rarely do we find an alley that focuses on human scale or of walking through from one place to the next. Even rarer is it that these pathways are a place for human activity.

The purpose of Passageways is to re-imagine Chattanooga’s alleyways; to breathe life into these auxiliary spaces, to create a place, a destination in itself, and to demonstrate the value, the importance, and the potential of these between spaces and the significance they have to our built urban fabric.



AIA Tennessee and River City Company are pleased to announce an open invitation to architects, designers, engineers, and artists from around the world to take part in the Passageways: Activating the Urban Alley through Architecture design challenge. The competition is an investigation into the importance and the potential of auxiliary pedestrian spaces throughout Chattanooga, and the creation of space within our existing connected alleyway network.

The overall program of the competition is meant to be free and open to anyone. We are asking that you design a spatial installation that is habitable and can be adapted for use as a small public event space. The design must be safe for public use and have the ability to be installed within a week’s schedule. Off-site prefabrication of any component prior to the week of installation is welcome. Certain elements of the exhibit must be able to be left standing for a minimum of at least one year while other elements may be deemed temporary and removed shortly after the events planned around the AIA Tennessee State Convention, August 24-26, 2016.

The design proposal should intelligently and creatively optimize the surrounding urban context of the site to create a thoughtful, engaging, and well-designed space. Participants should consider the constructibility of their designs along with schedule and budgetary constraints. Each submission selected as a funded installation will receive between $5,000-$10,000* for the construction of their design. Our selection committee will be looking for proposals that best utilize the surrounding context and best meet the design criteria.

The winning Design Teams will also be required to be present during the AIA Tennessee State Convention, August 24-26** with a public opening the evening of the 24th.


*The exact amount of funding for each individual installation is dependent on the complexity of the design and will be at the discretion of the partners and competition coordinators. Should an entrant be selected as a Part 1 finalist, they will be asked to provide a preliminary budget for their project.

** Finalists will be expected to cover their own cost of travel and accommodations.



We invite any and all to participate in the Passageways: Activating the Urban Alley through Architecture Design Challenge. While teams are not required, multi-diciplinary teams are highly encouraged including, but certainly not limited to professional architects, architecture firms, students, designers, engineers, builders, and artists.


Sign up to stay informed and get the latest competition updates from our team! There are no fees required to participate and submitting a design is FREE!



All competition questions can be directed to the Twitter handle:


To join the conversation use:


participants may also submit questions to the following email:


All relevant emailed questions / responses will be posted to our Twitter feed for all participants to read





Digital submittals only – no hard copies will be accepted. Entrants must upload their submission no later than May 31, 2016 (11:59pm EST). Fill out all contact information in the registration form and follow prompts and instructions on-line. Proposals will be evaluated on their submitted design board.



Project submission must include one portrait oriented 24”(w)x36”(h) board saved in .jpg format. The resolution must be 72dpi.
NOTE: Should you be selected as a finalist, you will be asked for a 300dpi version of your board for printing.
The board must include the following:

• Drawings as required to understand your design intent including, but not limited to , plans, sections, perspectives, renderings, etc

• A project statement of no more than 500 words

• Board must be free of personal identification markers other than as specified  at registration

• digital files should be saved as instructed at the time of registration




The evaluation process will consist of two parts.


After the submission deadline, all entries will be evaluated by our design Jury based on the submission’s response to the design criteria and overall clarity of the presentation board. As many as 20 finalists will be selected and contacted to submit a brief written summary of the constructibility of their project and a short budget proposal. These brief summaries will be evaluated and a short-list will be compiled to move on to the second part.


All selected Part 2 participants will have their submissions go before a local committee of community leaders and artists to select the design finalists.


01_Paul Lewis Portrait

Paul Lewis


LTL Architects   |   New York City, NY

Paul Lewis is a Principal at Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis (LTL) Architects based in New York City. He is currently an Associate Professor and Associate Dean at Princeton University School of Architecture, where he has taught since 2000. He received a BA from Wesleyan University and a M.Arch from Princeton University. His New York based firm has completed academic, institutional, residential and hospitality projects throughout the United States. LTL received a 2007 Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award, has received multiple AIA design awards and exhibited in Rising Currents at the Museum of Modern Art.

Click here to find out more about Paul & LTL Architects.


Aaron Forest & Yasmin Vobis


Ultramoderne   |   Providence, RI

Ultramoderne is an award-winning architecture and design firm located in Providence, RI. Led by co-principals Aaron Forrest and Yasmin Vobis, the office is committed to creating architecture and public spaces that are at once modern, playful, and generous. The principals are driven by an experimental approach that leads to conceptually rigorous and well-executed designs.

Ultramoderne has recently been published in both ARCHITECT magazine and dezeen magazine for their winning design of a Lakefront Kiosk for the Chicago Architecture Biennial.

Click here to find out more about Aaron & Yasmin.

03_Ted Smith

Ted Smith 


Smith & Others Architects   |   San Diego, CA

Smith and Others Architects is an unusual practice where partnerships and sweat equity make possible exploratory architecture.  Beginning in 1981, the firm has designed, developed, and constructed a continuing series of experimental housing prototypes testing academic concepts in the market place. With long time partner Kathleen McCormick, Smith & Others has developed urban housing prototypes taking advantage of the same liberal interpretation of the definition of “unit”. These experiments have produced interesting alternatives to the status quo.  Smith has been teaching Architecture since 1988 and founded the Masters in Real Estate Development program for Architects at Woodbury University in 2004.

Click here to find out more about Ted.


Barbara Brown Wilson


Univ. of Virgina School of Architecture   |   Charlottesville, VA

Barbara Brown Wilson’s research and teaching focus on the ethics, theory, and practice of sustainable community design and development, and on the history of urban social movements. Her research is often change-oriented—she collaborates with real community partners to identify opportunities for engaged and integrated sustainable development.  Her current projects include understanding the actor networks reframing urban infrastructure in more climate and culturally appropriate ways across the globe, including alley greening, parklets, and other semi-public spaces, researching sustainable retrofitting strategies that preserve unsubsidized affordable housing along transit corridors, and elevating the standards of evaluation for community engaged design around notions of social and ecological justice.

Click here to find out more about Barbara.


Local Selection Committee Members:

Blythe Bailey  of   Chattanooga Department of Transportation

Chelsea Conrad  of   Causeway

Christian Rushing  of   Chattanooga Design Studio

Kim White  of   River City Company

Kristy Huntley  of   Benwood Foundation

Rodney Van Valkenburg   of   Artsbuild

Thomas Palmer  of   Cogent Studio


Passageways Team

01_Amy Donahue Portrait

Amy Donahue

Director of Marketing and Communication River City Company

Amy Donahue develops and executes messaging and marketing activities for all River City Company programs and projects. Donahue joined River City Company in 2012 with a background in finance and academia. Donahue holds a Master of Science in communication and information and a Bachelor of Arts in communication both with an emphasis in business from the University of Tennessee.

01_Jason Ennis Portrait

Jason Ennis

AIA Cogent Studio

A California native, Jason Ennis graduated with a Bachelors of Architecture from Cal Polly, San Luis Obispo in 2007. Afterwards, he spent summers exploring the backcountry of Yosemite National Park, where he lived and worked seasonally while traveling in between. While he enjoyed his time spent wandering the wildernesses of the world, his desire to construct and to create led him to Oakland, California where he worked in high-end fabrication. In 2014, Ennis moved to Chattanooga where he took a position with Cogent Studio to fell in love with the easy-going culture of the mid-sized outdoorsy city.

01_Jared Hueter Portrait

Jared Hueter

AIA Cogent Studio

A graduate of the Fay Jones School of Architecture at the University of Arkansas, Jared Hueter was actively involved in the rebuilding of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Hueter worked as the Program Manager of the CITYbuild Consortium of Schools, Design Corps Fellow, and Dean of the Priestley Charter School of Architecture and Construction. Hueter has served as AIA Gulf States Regional Associate Director, AIA National Associates Committee Director and Board Member of the Gert Town Revival Initiative.

01_Meagan Shinn Portrait

Meagan Shinn

Program Manager River City Company

With a solid background in community engagement and event managemen, Meagan Shinn oversees sustainable program development for River City Co. Shinn’s past experience includes positions with Partnership for Families, Children and Adults and the United Way of Northwest Georgia. Shinn is a graduate of the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.

01_Kim White Portrait

Kim White

CEO River City Company

At the helm of River City Company since 2009, Kim White is responsible for the overall strategic operations of River City Company and the adherence to the mission of working to keep Downtown Chattanooga working. Before leading River City Company, White served as president and CEO of the Corker Group as well as Luken Holdings, managing and leasing over 2 million square feet of real estate. Prior to these positions in Chattanooga, White had a successful 16 year career with Fortune 500 Company, ALLTEL Communications. White is a graduate of the University of Tennessee Chattanooga.



Up to five finalists will be funded* to construct their installations before the upcoming AIA Tennessee State Convention on August 24-26. All finalists will be recognized on the project website and will receive recognition throughout the year in multiple publications through both AIA Tennessee and the River City Company.

* Finalists will be expected to cover their own cost of travel and accommodations.