2023 Archives | AIA Atlanta

Virgin Hotels Nashville

The Virgin Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee is situated on the edge of Nashville’s famed Music Row and is positioned between Vanderbilt, the rapidly transforming Midtown neighborhood, and the burgeoning Gulch district. Designed in partnership with Hastings Architecture, our charge was to create a lifestyle hotel that conveyed the character of Nashville to its out-of-town guests, while also creating a living room style destination for local Nashvillians.

Albeit on the edge of a famous district, the site lacked substantial foot traffic to support our diverse program. We saw this as a challenge to draw in Nashville’s downtown hustle via an architectural solution. That solution laid in activating the entire length of building frontage with a series of different indoor/outdoor experiences. The hotel borders two public streets, Division Street and Music Square West. The visual prominence of this intersection was ample reason to extend the Commons Club outdoors, further activating the street. This exterior extension features lush plantings which create intimate seating groups along the perimeter while a large, communal tree table occupies the center the space. The outdoor space is connected to the interior through an oversized guillotine door that allows for a double sided, indoor/outdoor bar. Moving south on Music Square West, exterior café seating, the main hotel lobby, porte cochere, and large covered canopy for rooftop elevator queueing and inclement weather valet service further enlivens Music Square West. From the Commons Club terrace heading west down Division Street, an elevated dining terrace provides a perched spot for people watching on the street below. The Gathering Level above hosts an outdoor terrace running the length of the Meeting Room, while the Ballroom opens onto a large rooftop event lawn.

The hotel sits atop a topographic highpoint, with the upper levels of the hotel having commanding views in all directions. The rooftop experience is defined by a rooftop bar, infinity edge pool, and lower roof terrace. The rooftop bar is narrow and features floor to ceiling glass with dichotomic views of rolling green hills beyond historic Vanderbilt to the West and the ever-changing dramatic downtown skyline to the East. The lower roof terrace reorients the view corridor and connects guests with an unobstructed view down Demonbreun Street to downtown.

The exterior façade is inspired from the sentiments prevalent throughout early 20th century urban utilitarian structures , in particular large masonry publishing houses found throughout historic Nashville. The modern interpretation is expressed through an ordered façade of manganese iron-spot Norman brick and warehouse style, large-scale windows. Working off the light drawn through the large, scale windows, the interior volumes are as equally expressive as the exterior and create a blurred threshold between the two. By pulling the iron spot brick and blackened steel of the exterior aesthetic into the building, the design weaves the vibrancy of the street and the warm, interior experiences together into a cohesive and immersive guest experience.

Brevard House

Our clients purchased the property on which this house was built several years before design and construction began. The 36-acre mountainside property, which abuts Pisgah National Forest, was located adjacent to a family member’s land and offered ample opportunities for bike and hiking trails, as well as a private homesite surrounded by mature forests.

The client’s overriding goals for the project were to build something minimally invasive and appropriate to its environment, while taking advantage of the natural amenities afforded by the site. Parents of two teenage kids, and with privacy in mind, the clients wanted to separate the main living quarters from the guest and kid’s bedrooms. Given the wooded landscape surrounding the house, they also requested that the master bedroom be designed so that it would feel immersed in the landscape. Lastly, they wanted to orient towards the two prominent view corridors to the southeast and southwest of the property. With these prompts in mind, we devised a layout with the main living and master bedroom program located in one form and the guest and kid’s bedrooms in a separate form. We then pulled these forms apart and torqued them, creating an internal courtyard that opens to the southwest, facing Kagle Mountain. We shifted the forms slightly in opposite directions to create a degree of privacy and autonomy for the guest wing and to cantilever the master bedroom over a steep topographical drop-off, thereby creating the desired effect of the bedroom feeling suspended in the trees. The front façade design was determined by the use and typology of spaces on the interior side of the wall. The exterior rhythm and composition of the bays transmit the function on the interior where, for instance, a two-foot bay with no window would be a closet, while a five-foot bay with a window would be a bathtub, and so forth.

Movement through all interior and exterior spaces is subtly orchestrated with a spine of circulation marked by a continuous nine-foot cast-in-place concrete wall. The wall becomes the predominant organizing element in the design: extending to welcome visitors at the parking area, moving through the interior of the house, and continuing out to the rear yard. This axial feature, while clearly man-made, blurs the distinctions between interior and exterior spaces by existing continuously in both, visible throughout the property.

The earthy material palette consists of concrete, wood, and Corten steel in an effort to integrate the house into its environment. The materials are meant to weather over time, marking the same natural processes and unpredictable changes that occur in the surrounding forest. The asymmetrical layout and introverted courtyard, coupled with an abundance of glass, creates an interesting interplay of light on the building forms throughout the course of the day. The Brevard House is a unique spot from which to observe the passage of time.


A design/build delivery, Whistler sits on the SPI-16 zoning ordinance, which encourages minimizing the amount of vehicular parking and increasing the use of alternative modes of transportation and mobility. Originally designed as a podium with 6 parking levels, the team made a progressive, significant pivot and entire 284,839-square-foot property is served with just one level of basement parking totaling 25 spaces—an amount unheard of for a project this size.

Once the parking was reduced, careful consideration was given to the building’s base to give the illusion it has sufficient height to support the tall tower above it. The solution was a sleek, dark grey brick base of stacked amenities that animates the street both day and night. The design of floor-to-ceiling windows with vertical mullions draws attention to the base, making it appear taller than it really is. When looking at Whistler from a distance, the massing has a main body—a mid-grey tone that rises and eventually forms a clean rectangle at the top with “mini towers” off the corners. The team carved out balconies at several locations at a rhythm of every three levels that shift as you go up the building. Varying the tower elements and balcony levels helped give the building movement and break up the vertical repetition.

Warm and welcoming, the curated amenities are reminiscent of a boutique hotel. Entering the double-height lobby, residents have access to the on-site Daydreamer café with shaded outdoor seating to help with street presence and engage pedestrians. Walking up the stairs, ample private and group study spaces, podcast room, and dog spa can be found on the mezzanine level. Taking the elevator past the remaining residential floors, level 24 features penthouse units, sky lounge, saunas, and a rooftop deck with grilling stations, infinity edge pool, and hot tub overlooking the city. Accessible to all residents, an expansive fitness center encompasses the 25th floor and offers state-of-the-art equipment, yoga studio, spin studio and a unique fitness on-demand room with two interactive mirrors.

Challenges on the ground floor stemmed from the tight site and client wish to seamlessly incorporate the Daydreamer Café, which is open to the public, with the adjacent resident amenity spaces that are open 24/7. The solution was to push the café and lobby to the front of the building, creating a welcoming ‘front door’ along Spring Street and efficiently locating the parking entry, service access, and utilities along Abercrombie Place. Security measures were incorporated into the design so the café and kitchen can be locked down without interrupting the two-story lobby that includes mail, package, and a variety of work and study spaces. The fitness center makes up the entire top floor, and the unbeatable views of Atlanta are more than enough to keep residents motivated during their workouts but present a noise challenge when considering the units directly below. The design team worked to create a tight sound barrier so residents on the 24th floor can enjoy peace and quiet without noisy distractions from above.

The Summit House at Balsam Mountain

Balsam Mountain Preserve is a completely reimagined private club community in Sylva, N.C. When Balsam Mountain was developed in the early 2000s, plans called for a signature Arnold Palmer-designed course in the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains, equestrian center, pool/fitness center and overall focus on conservation considering more than 3,000 of the 4,500 acres were set aside as conservation easement.

After Balsam Mountain fell into financial troubles several years ago and changed owners, the new group kept the eco-development mindset but embraced an entirely new vision for the club’s future amenities/lifestyle after consulting our firm and land planner. Indeed, rather than borrowing yet another blueprint from traditional clubhouse design, our firm conceived a contrarian clubhouse design inspired by the property’s pristine mining history roots.

The innovative end result is a cluster of connected cottages and buildings called Doubletop Village that now serves as Balsam Mountain’s new “clubhouse” facility. The buildings are arranged as rural industrial structures constructed over time and recently renovated for our purpose – all organized around outdoor spaces with striking views of the surrounding Double Top mountains and newly designed Palmer Practice Park that goes with the club’s championship layout.

Among the popular new creative clubhouse attractions are Summit House restaurant and the Mine Tavern, featuring indoor-outdoor spaces that open to a shared courtyard of natural landscape with an outdoor fireplace and regional craft beers on tap. If anything, Balsam Mountain epitomizes the future of clubhouse design, where integrated outdoor courtyards, terraces, and lawns effectively replace and become the “lobbies and corridors” of the traditional large clubhouse structures of old.

The site overlooking the practice park, golf course, and the Blue Ridge Mountains beyond gave the firm design the inspiration it needed for the clubhouse. To thoroughly enjoy the mountains, one has to appreciate the outdoors and focus on the views in tandem with the experience within.

To achieve this new sense of place, the team “blew up” the clubhouse into multiple structures, leaving an outdoor courtyard of boulders, native plants and an outdoor fireplace in place of the traditional lobby. Around this courtyard are the other club components that efficiently serve the golf functions as well as provide attractive gathering spaces for members and guess.

To further enhance the viewscapes and spaces, these elements are scaled to allow them to expand and contract by opening and closing movable glass walls to the dining porch and indoor/outdoor bar. The first building houses the Summit House restaurant with its wine cellar and tasting room, and the General Store, which functions as the pro shop.
Meanwhile, the second structure houses the Mine Tavern bar, administration, and locker rooms. Together these spaces have become the new center of energy for the club community, places where resident members can enjoy an entire day.

1200 Ponce

1200 Ponce is a condominium development located at the intersection of Ponce de Leon Avenue and Briarcliff Road in Atlanta’s Druid Hills neighborhood. The original complex consisted of a Church, School, and Chapel Building along with a Gymnasium Building that was attached to a former Carriage House. To justify the purchase price of this key urban parcel, the developer challenged the design team to get as much residential density as possible on the site. The overall program was to create a community of for sale homes that would provide a unique option for residents who want to live in this prime location.

The layout of the site and the design of the buildings had to respond to the specific requirements of the Druid Hills Landmark District. Existing surface parking and entry drives in the front setbacks were required to be removed and replaced with green space to restore the Olmstedian vision of large landscaped front yards and parkways along the Ponce De Leon corridor. Proposed new buildings were also required to be located beyond the front yard setbacks. The scale and look of each of these new buildings have been designed to be compatible with the character of existing historic buildings and homes in the Druid Hills neighborhood.
The overall vision is to create a 51-unit residential complex with generous individual unit sizes ranging from 1,500 to 3,200 SF and an overall density of 12 units per acre. The development purposely retained the church and school building, which have been converted into 23 creative units that incorporate the special features of each of the existing buildings. The Church sanctuary was divided into 6 three story units, and an additional unit that occupies the former choir balcony. A third floor was added to the existing two-story School building, and 12 units total were in this structure organized along the original double loaded corridor. A new two-story addition containing 4 units sensitively connected to the School Building near the corner of Ponce de Leon and Briarcliff.

To achieve the maximum density, three additional new buildings will eventually be constructed on the site. Building B will contain 4 units and is located along Ponce de Leon between the Church and the adjacent “Green Gables” property. This building matches the scale and look of the historic houses located throughout Druid Hills. Building C will house 15 units over parking and is located on the site of the former gymnasium. Building D will have 9 units with below grade parking and is located along Briarcliff Road. The inspiration for the design of this building was the 1920’s walk-up apartment buildings located further north along Briarcliff Road. The site provides for 102 parking spaces to achieve an overall ratio of 2 spaces per unit.

The completed project will result in the respectful reuse of these important neighborhood buildings along with the addition of 3 appropriate new structures that will provide for a variety of unique housing alternatives in the highly sought after Historic Druid Hills community.

The Foundry

The Foundry successfully converts an obsolete 13-story, 600,000-square foot office building and into a meaningful 16-story mixed-use, multi-family building with 520 units, 25,000 SF of retail, parking, and significant amenities. Well-sited, the existing building is in Alexandria VA, one block away from the Eisenhower Avenue Metro stop, adjacent to the interstate.

The office building floorplate was nearly 47,000 sf 46,376 SF and 124’ deep x 374’ long, not intended for a typical double-loaded corridor seen in efficient multi-family developments. Fitting the required residential unit mix within the existing 20’ x 20’ column bays was a challenge solved by integrating both a façade and plan solution to allow for narrower units. Unique amenities, such as grocery cart storage, commercial dryers, and rentable storage units, were used to occupy core building area leftover from extra elevator shafts and utilities.

Small windows and an antiquated mechanical system led to the complete replacement of the skin and HVAC. Ultimately, a brick-faced precast concrete skin was selected over a traditional masonry wall, saving time and dollars on the overall schedule. Larger windows and exposed structure provided more daylight and taller volumes than others in this market.

With the original five-acre surface parking lot designated for the office building sold to another developer, the development needed to find additional parking. The design team studied the capacity of the existing structural system and was able to convert three levels of existing office floors into parking.

Working with the City and the neighboring development, the team was able to create a new retail place and sidewalk on Mandeville Street. The cross-section was modified, widening the sidewalk from 6’ to 18’. Thus, recognizing the future synergy that could be created in an underserved area, with significant future development on both sides of the street. The neighboring block’s development includes a Wegmans grocery store and new retail plaza, which creates synergies with a movie theater and restaurants to the south. Retail was also introduced to the base of The Foundry will support this activity, as well as provide transparency via a double-sided lobby.

Designed before the coronavirus pandemic, the facility’s outdoor spaces are valuable open-air opportunities for recreation, relaxation, and socialization. Interior amenities including a sports bar and game room spread across two levels at the property, a workshop room, and two rooftop entertaining spaces with views of the nearby Masonic Temple and historic Old Town Alexandria. Outdoor spaces feature landscaping with a partially covered terrace and other intimate gathering areas surrounding an outdoor kitchen, as well as a pool.

Designed to meet LEED certification, the development overachieves in it’s life cycle assessment by virtue of the extent of reused materials and resources, significantly reducing its carbon footprint.

Biggerstaff Brewing Co.

The name of the client’s establishment was inspired by family that once owned a farm. To recall this history, curated pieces and finishes rooted to southern farmhouses are included throughout. To tie in the rich history of the building, much of the shell architecture was preserved. Original concrete masonry units were left exposed and clear-sealed, and the building’s original steel structure was also left exposed and unpainted. Aspects of the raw, industrial shell were pulled into the finishes and furnishings in the space. A concrete masonry unit backed banquette was used as a division between the main dining area and the coffee bar; waxed steel and powder coated metals were used in the millwork and in furniture details throughout. Wood was used for the bar counter surfaces and faces as well as in the trim-work to bring some warmth into the space.

The name of the client’s establishment was inspired by family that once owned a farm. To recall this history, curated pieces and finishes rooted to southern farmhouses are included throughout. To tie in the rich history of the building, much of the shell architecture was preserved. Original concrete masonry units were left exposed and clear-sealed, and the building’s original steel structure was also left exposed and unpainted. Aspects of the raw, industrial shell were pulled into the finishes and furnishings in the space. A concrete masonry unit backed banquette was used as a division between the main dining area and the coffee bar; waxed steel and powder coated metals were used in the millwork and in furniture details throughout. Wood was used for the bar counter surfaces and faces as well as in the trim-work to bring some warmth into the space.

The biggest challenge with this program was cohesively combining the different program requirements. We did this by using furniture as subtle spatial divisions: a combined host-stand and banquette serve to divide the main dining from the coffee lounge area, while large standing-height communal tables divide the brewery bar and kitchen expo from customer areas.

Per client request, we needed to create high visibility from the dining spaces to the kitchen and brewery. We accomplished this by building a large opening with an expo table at the transition from the dining area to the kitchen and installing large windows into the brewery.
By keeping spatial divisions minimal, we achieved an open, fluid, and dynamic layout. This, with highly curated finishes combining southern farmhouse inspired decor with a historically rich and industrial building shell, creates a truly unique brewpub experience.

Elliott’s Restaurant

Office of Design approached the biggest programmatic hurdle of dividing the space into a restaurant and marketplace by creating an entry vestibule for the public. This allows each entity to operate independently of each other as needed. The layout also grants each space direct access to the kitchen. This allows the marketplace easy access to preprepared foods and to-go orders.

The addition of the private dining mezzanine created an opportunity to design a more intimate bar underneath. The lesser ceiling height over the bar makes this area of the restaurant feel cozier, which is compounded by the use of warm, natural wood finishes. When customers are seated at the bar, its circular shape places emphasis on the bartenders and on the back-bar display, which highlights the restaurant’s carefully curated beverage program.

Beyond the programmatic goals of the space, Elliott’s wanted to create an environment that felt elegant but comfortable to encourage their customers to stay a while. The desire for dining in comfort is mirrored in the restaurant’s cuisine, which: “celebrates the traditional flavors of Southern food while providing modern twists on classic dishes”.

Comfort and modern elegance coexist harmoniously in the restaurant. A nod to traditional beadboard has been upgraded by using sleek, vertically oriented planks painted in a regionally popular soft green. Greens and blues dominate the color palette to create a soothing and calming environment. Creamy whites applied to much of the upper half of the dining room’s volume make the space feel airy and bright where it felt rustic and dim previously. The introduction of a few splashes of color emphasizes the dichotomy between a traditional southern aesthetic and modern sensibilities, much like the restaurant’s cuisine.

Traditional picture molding creates a calming, simple motif along the walls and calls to mind many a southern formal dining room. The molding perfectly frames sound absorbing wallcoverings and playful wall sconces which create atmospheric, subtle lighting and serve as functional décor. Large, light-weight pendant fixtures help to humanize the scale of the high-ceilinged dining room while breaking up the more repetitive design elements used throughout.

Environmental comfort is a consideration in more than just the finishing of the space. Sound levels were a huge focus when planning the layout and selecting materials. We created barriers for sound by using partitions and level changes with biophilic elements to muffle noise between tables. Drapery is used for visual interest but the use of a dual-purpose sun-obstructing and sound-absorbing sheer fabric along the existing storefront helps reduce noise pollution and prevent unnecessary heat gain and glare. Drapery is also used to privatize the mezzanine area and to add color to the space.