A Memphis Landmark Finds New Rhythm

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June 24, 2014
The storied residence of blues musician John Len Chatman—aka Memphis Slim—kicks off its next chapter as a creative hub. Read Full Article
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  Architect Jason Jackson recast the Memphis, Tennessee, home of blues musician John Len Chatman into a music collaboratory—a place equipped for career counseling, recording, workshops, and community events.  Photo by: Ken West
    Architect Jason Jackson recast the Memphis, Tennessee, home of blues musician John Len Chatman into a music collaboratory—a place equipped for career counseling, recording, workshops, and community events.

    Photo by: Ken West

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  Before the Memphis Music Magnet Program's adaptive reuse project, John Len Chatman's house was decaying on its lot. Charlie Santo, head of the Memphis Music Magnet, has been working to revive the Soulsville neighborhood in which the house is situated by forging a creative hub tied to its cultural legacy. "In this city, the music community has always been as important as the music business, and music has often existed at the nexus of creativity, diversity, and place-making," Santo says. "Soulsville USA embodies that heritage and our work there seeks to build on existing arts assets in a neighborhood that is truly reflective of Memphis.”  Photo by: Ken West
    Before the Memphis Music Magnet Program's adaptive reuse project, John Len Chatman's house was decaying on its lot. Charlie Santo, head of the Memphis Music Magnet, has been working to revive the Soulsville neighborhood in which the house is situated by forging a creative hub tied to its cultural legacy. "In this city, the music community has always been as important as the music business, and music has often existed at the nexus of creativity, diversity, and place-making," Santo says. "Soulsville USA embodies that heritage and our work there seeks to build on existing arts assets in a neighborhood that is truly reflective of Memphis.”

    Photo by: Ken West

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  The Memphis Slim Collaboratory is divided into two floors. In renovating the space, Jackson kept the original footprint of part of the house and created a modern addition.  Photo by: Ken West
    The Memphis Slim Collaboratory is divided into two floors. In renovating the space, Jackson kept the original footprint of part of the house and created a modern addition.

    Photo by: Ken West

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  The new design is clad in cedar and corrugated metal. The front porch is a key space as it "engages the street and creates a public space that everyone can take ownership of," Jackson says. "Simultaneously we opened up the front elevation to create views into the recording spaces from the exterior, welcoming in the community."  Photo by: Ken West
    The new design is clad in cedar and corrugated metal. The front porch is a key space as it "engages the street and creates a public space that everyone can take ownership of," Jackson says. "Simultaneously we opened up the front elevation to create views into the recording spaces from the exterior, welcoming in the community."

    Photo by: Ken West

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  "To reflect the character of the house, we rebuilt the two story portion to the exact dimensions of the original home as well as the interior stair and fireplace," Jackson says. "The single story recording studio portion that extends to the back is a completely new addition, so we wanted a material that was vernacular to the neighborhood but would represent the new nature of the facility; therefore, the corrugated metal."  Photo by: Ken West
    "To reflect the character of the house, we rebuilt the two story portion to the exact dimensions of the original home as well as the interior stair and fireplace," Jackson says. "The single story recording studio portion that extends to the back is a completely new addition, so we wanted a material that was vernacular to the neighborhood but would represent the new nature of the facility; therefore, the corrugated metal."

    Photo by: Ken West

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  Wood salvaged from the original house covers the staircase. "It took a bit of effort to surgically deconstruct the house to save as much material as we could and clean it up for reuse," Jackson says. "I think it’s inspiring for the guests to the Collaboratory to know that the fireplace is in the exact same location, and consists of the original brick, as the original house, so that they can experience a space that’s still evocative of the home in which Memphis Slim lived." ViktorHall Construction carried out the deconstruction.  Photo by: Ken West
    Wood salvaged from the original house covers the staircase. "It took a bit of effort to surgically deconstruct the house to save as much material as we could and clean it up for reuse," Jackson says. "I think it’s inspiring for the guests to the Collaboratory to know that the fireplace is in the exact same location, and consists of the original brick, as the original house, so that they can experience a space that’s still evocative of the home in which Memphis Slim lived." ViktorHall Construction carried out the deconstruction.

    Photo by: Ken West

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  Molded plastic shell chairs and a tulip table outfit one of the gathering spaces.  Photo by: Ken West
    Molded plastic shell chairs and a tulip table outfit one of the gathering spaces.

    Photo by: Ken West

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  Acoustics were the most challenging aspect of the project. "We met with many recording studios and found that there really is no one way to design recording spaces," Jackson says. "Everything from the proportion and form of the space to the materials and details all effect acoustic performance. We designed the recording spaces based on the ratio of the golden section 1:1.61 and angled walls to eliminate reflections. All of the windows needed to be two layers of glass with different thickness and a minimum two-inch airspace for soundproofing."  Photo by: Ken West
    Acoustics were the most challenging aspect of the project. "We met with many recording studios and found that there really is no one way to design recording spaces," Jackson says. "Everything from the proportion and form of the space to the materials and details all effect acoustic performance. We designed the recording spaces based on the ratio of the golden section 1:1.61 and angled walls to eliminate reflections. All of the windows needed to be two layers of glass with different thickness and a minimum two-inch airspace for soundproofing."

    Photo by: Ken West

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  The Globe pendants hanging in the stairwell are from West Elm.  Photo by: Ken West
    The Globe pendants hanging in the stairwell are from West Elm.

    Photo by: Ken West

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