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passageways blue signCHATTANOOGA. In conjunction with the AIA Tennessee State Convention held this week in Chattanooga (Aug. 24-26), member architects partnered with River City Company to reimagine urban alleyways. “Passageways: Activating the Urban Alley through Architecture” installations will remain in place in the months ahead.

AIA TN explored how alleys can connect a city with unique art and architectural elements. Each public urban space offered a variety of offerings including live music, dance, cold beverages, and children’s activities.

In the spring, an international call was made to encourage architects, designers and artists to propose transformative alleyways which could remain in place for up to one year and foster community use. Nearly 70 total submissions were received with 24 international submissions from places like China, Japan, India, and Brazil, along with 19 U.S. submissions and 23 submissions from Tennessee teams.

“The caliber and breadth of submissions received were exciting and made the job of the juries very difficult,” states Jared Hueter, Chairman of the AIA-Tennessee Convention, Co-Director of Passageways, and Architect at Cogent Studio. “These installations will provide something very special to our city, and I’m excited for this year’s AIA-Tennessee Convention theme of ‘Impact’ to become a reality.”

The five projects that were selected include a collaboration among architects and artists in Tennessee with those from New York City, Brooklyn, and Syndey, Austrailia:

Grass Garden Inversion
turned an alley off Cherry Street into a bamboo wind chime installation. Locally sourced bamboo stalks were hung from high tension cables spanning the width of the alley. The lower portion of the bamboo hangs freely, producing movement and sound. Added lighting produces a dynamic shadowing at night. Chattanooga partners included Brad Shelton, Matt Sears, Nate Penman, Craig Peavy and Patrick Ryan. Location: 720 Cherry Street.

Urban Chandelier makes a very small alley grand and was developed by architects from Sydney, Australia.  More than 85 individually trimmed carbon fiber rods are suspended above the alleyway with 6,000 reflective styrene triangles designed to reflect the natural daylight and artificial night light. Desigballet at Stargazeners included William Feuerman and Dane Voorderhake. Location: 711 Cherry Street.

Stargaze taps the technology of NASA and was the concept of Jeian Jeong, Ryan Whitby and Adam Paikowsky of New York. Through a movement of interconnected light beacons suspended above and all along the alley the structures glow and mimic the stars of the night sky. The NASA Star API and the American Museum of Natural History’s Digital Universe Data are used. This installation is just as beautiful in the daytime with its playful geometry, but do not miss it at night. Location: Next to Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union between Market and Broad, 715 Market.

Stage Genies shares the alley with Stargaze and creates a musical soundscape in the alley by tracking the movement of pedestrians. A network of cameras, speakers and computers programmed by local students makes this happen. This installation is the genius of Kathryn Warren with Art 120 and Studio Mindstride with Dan Mailman, Mike Harrison, Nicole Post and Stephanie Chang. Location: Next to Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union between Market and Broad.

Neural Alley seems like a wall of playful blocks, and that in itself is cool; but there’s more happening here. This installation is an interplay of analog and digital processes that support a collective narrative about the Tennessee River before the TVA dam. Move the pixelated blocks to explore a narrative that will be digitally captured throughout the life of the exhibit. Designers from Brooklyn include Jennifer Hiser, Carson Smuts, and Noa Younse. Location: 729 Broad Street.

In addition to River City Company and AIA Tennessee, Passageways partners include The Benwood Foundation, The Lyndhurst Foundation, Cogent Studio, Causeway, Mozilla, the National Science Foundation, Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union, and ArtsBuild.

Star Gaze with cranes

Stargaze installation with cranes in the background being used on a downtown mixed-use infill construction project along Market Street.

bamboo intallation

Grass Garden Inversion with locally sourced bamboo creates an aesthetic of wind chimes off Cherry Street. 

bamboo cornice

Adding new elements makes you look at existing urban fabric differently, and with appreciation for what has been overlooked. 

urban chandelier edge with view

Urban Chandelier glimmers in the daylight.


Neural Alley is highly interactive. 


Music animating the alleyways project. 

blocks with guy

Moving things about creates a visual narrative for any city; here the interaction is recorded as part of the interactive Neural Alley project. 

bamboo Grass Garden Inversion

A stunning display of texture in this ramped elevation alley off Cherry Street. 

Urban Chandelier

The Urban Chandelier off Cherry Street shimmers. 

Megan Emery Schadlich

Librarian Megan Emery Schadlich yarn bombs a fence at Party in the Passageway to highlight the Chattanooga Public Library’s new sewing lab. 


River City Company and American Institute of Architects (AIA) of Tennessee collaborated on this successful project. Hundred came to the opening party Aug. 24. 

orange and yellow blocks

Neural Alley detail off Broad Street Jeff Joyner Randy Steele

Chattanooga’s Randy Steele on guitar is joined by Jeff Joyner on mandolin and Justin Hupp on bass, adding to the alleyway animation near the cold beverage tent. 

cherry street long view

Cherry Street with bamboo entrance to Grass Garden Inversion

star gaze maclelland building and ginko

A view from the Stargazer alley of a Chattanooga architectural gem and 19th century ‘skyscraper’ known as the Maclellan Building. 


Saxophone sounds add to the mix near the Grass Garden Inversion gathering spot.


Experiencing something new in a familiar place is joyful. 

star gaze with wires

Engineering marvel where Stargaze meets Stage Genies between Market and Broad Streets

bike and barbecue

Bicycles and barbecue. Summer in Tennessee

selfie an Neural Alley

The new measure of a successful public realm may be how people make memories there, and make the place a part of their personal narrative. 

Photography by Laurie Perry Vaughen.