Knoxville Science Museum

Through a design charrette in our office, BarberMcMurry’s architects and interior designers created seven conceptual designs for the proposed Knoxville Science Museum — three of which were chosen to proceed further through the design process. These design concepts are a visioning exercise, exploring the possibilities of what the Knoxville Science Museum could be like and how it might function.

Each of these concepts worked from the same set of parameters, and each is set on the same site. The buildings range from two to four stories tall. Each design contains exhibit space, classrooms, an auditorium or amphitheater, learning spaces, and indoor and outdoor dining. All designs include pedestrian access to existing parking garages, the existing Mary Costa Plaza, and the planned Urban Wilderness connector.


Concept 1

In recognition of East Tennessee’s traditional building materials, this design incorporates stone, metal and wood into its two-story design. Two major components of this design are the expansive walkable green roof and the glass tower. The living roof allows the building to be constructed into the existing slope of the site. Visitors could walk along the roof, exploring the teaching gardens while looking down into the museum through clerestory skylights. The 200-foot-tall glass tower will have breathtaking panoramic views, and could accommodate a future virtual or augmented reality exhibit.

Concept 2

This design is inspired by Knoxville’s Maker City designation. It is constructed of locally-sourced Tennessee marble, patinated metal, perforated terracotta screen. With three stories of exhibit and learning space, this design also has a two-story maker space with views of downtown. Both the interior and exterior spaces of the building are terraced down the sloped site, eventually breaking into an expansive outdoor lawn — open for outdoor exhibits and events. Inside, an atrium brings in natural light and visually connects all three floors of the museum. Outdoors, a greenhouse on-site allows for agricultural and biological learning opportunities while an indoor-outdoor café has views of downtown, the riverfront, and the mountains.

Concept 3

This design is influenced by the iconic massing of a TVA structure, and is themed around the elements: air, water, earth, fire and void. Constructed of stone, metal and glass, the unique features of this concept include a green roof and social terrace as well as a “treehouse” inspired by the nearly-extinct American chestnut. The building’s four stories divide the exhibit space to inspire exploration of the whole facility. The interior’s multi-story atrium brings in natural light and allows room for full-scale aerial exhibits. Flowing like a river through the site is a wandering pedestrian walkway, which allows access to public and ticketed outdoor exhibit and event spaces. Views from the treehouse and rooftop social terrace are panoramic, reaching all the way to the mountains.

Type: New Construction

Location: Knoxville, Tennessee

Building Area: 150,000 SF

Services: Architecture, Interior Design

Use: Recreational

Related Projects