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Students in the School of Architecture participated in the Nashville Civic Design Center's Urban Design Studio Challenge to design a concept for a wood-framed high-rise multiuse structure.

Students in the College of Architecture and Design’s School of Architecture participated in the Nashville Civic Design Center’s Urban Design Studio Challenge to design a concept for a wood-framed high-rise multiuse structure in Nashville.

Students in the college’s Timber Tower Studio recently presented their work in the final review of the project, which was co-sponsored by Nashville-based LP Building Products. The studio is one of two affiliated with the UT–Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor’s Chair for High Performance Energy Practices in Urban Environments, housed within the college.

Timber structural systems hold the promise of creating tall buildings with much lower energy profiles and smaller carbon footprints than those constructed with typical methods, advancing a more sustainable urban future.

The students’ work explored conceptual designs for a 15-story wood structure at Church Street and Polk Avenue in downtown Nashville. Early this year, their concepts will be made available to the public through a publication and exhibition produced by NCDC.

“The opportunity to collaborate with community, industry, and technical experts on this project has been crucial to the students’ experience,” said Ted Shelton, associate professor of architecture. “These are just the types of partnerships that will be required if we are to design and construct cities that do more work while using energy that is as benign as possible.”

Over the course of the semester, the students paired their hands-on curriculum with input from industry professionals including Benton Johnson, associate director at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and a renowned influencer in the urban mass timber movement; Yugon Kim, co-founder of design firm IKD; Ben Skoog, vice president of growth and innovation for LP Building Products; and Nashville city officials whose responsibilities focus on affordable housing, sustainability, and related areas.

“As the construction boom in Nashville continues, sustainable urban building practices should be incorporated into every step of our urban planning and development,” said Gary Gaston, chief executive officer of the Nashville Civic Design Center and assistant professor of practice in the college. “The studio presents us with an opportunity to offer guidance on public policy and development practice in urban planning and design. We are fortunate to have found the intersection of the eager, emerging UT architecture students with industry experts and organizations like LP Building Products that will help the students prepare themselves—and ultimately our communities and resources—for the future.”

Skoog said his organization seeks to find forward-thinking individuals and was honored to be a part of this urban design studio challenge.

“The students are some of tomorrow’s best and brightest designers, and we look to them to continue meeting community needs through progressive approaches and sustainable building practices,” he said. “At LP, we help designers and builders find the solutions they need, so we admire the students’ innovative work to implement safe and sound building practices using sustainable wood materials.”

This year, NCDC anticipates further partnerships exploring innovative wood design and construction as the Timber Tower Studio continues to investigate wood in architecture.

The Governor’s Chair Studio provides a think-tank environment for students and faculty to explore additive manufacturing, 3D printing, urban design, sustainable products, and more. These studio experiences bring students shoulder to shoulder with design and industry professionals from across the country. Students are challenged to expand their ideas of design and architecture as they gain experience in applied research for the direct benefit of the citizens of Tennessee.


Amanda Johnson (865-974-6401,

Tyra Haag (865-974-5460,