Oak Ridge Gateway
Project overview
YEAR: 2016 CLIENT: Noon Rotary Club of Oak Ridge LOCATION: S. Illinois Ave, Oak Ridge TN VOLUNTEER(S): Nathan Honeycutt, John Wisinger, David Denton
  • A major road into Oak Ridge gets landscaping and signage
  • Science-inspired designs for bridge cladding
  • Major gateway is created welcoming people into the City
  • Public art is placed alongside road, enhancing the entire experience in the approach to Oak Ridge

A Gateway to The Secret City East Tennessee Community Design Center (ETCDC) was requested by the Noon Rotary Club of Oak Ridge to explore the development of an Oak Ridge Gateway. The gateway will improve community perception and increase community and corporate pride. The project includes the following focus areas: a new Oak Ridge Welcome Sign after the Solway Bridge, … Read More

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A Gateway to The Secret City

East Tennessee Community Design Center (ETCDC) was requested by the Noon Rotary Club of Oak Ridge to explore the development of an Oak Ridge Gateway. The gateway will improve community perception and increase community and corporate pride. The project includes the following focus areas: a new Oak Ridge Welcome Sign after the Solway Bridge, existing retaining walls along S. Illinois Ave/TN-62, UT Arboretum entrance, Centrifuge Way Overpass, and the grass islands at the intersection of S. Illinois Ave and Lafayette Dr.

Nathan Honeycutt, AIA with McCarty Holsaple McCarty Architects, John Wisigner, ASLA with Hedstrom Design, and David Denton, AIA formerly with Gehry Partners served as our professional volunteers on this project.

The process began with stakeholder meetings. ETCDC asked client representatives to identify current problems and opportunities along the corridor. Many commented that while Oak Ridge is an internationally recognized for scientific research, the city itself lacked identity. Visitors to the city primarily driving on S. Illinois Ave / TN-62 and pass through without recognition of where the city begins and where its downtown is located. This project attempts to represent Oak Ridge as a place where the world’s top technologies are being developed as well as a place where people choose to live because of its natural beauty. Integration of nature and technology become the overarching concept of the project. Beginning on the southern most end with Solway Bridge. The design team decided to address the bridge with modest improvements like LED lights and posts with banners to announce the entry into Oak Ridge. This bridge will also be enhanced with a greenway connection in accordance with the Knox County to Oak Ridge Greenway Master Plan.

Drivers then pass through an undulating field of ornamental grasses and flowers. The long, sweeping curves appear and recede throughout the corridor. Many spaces within the landscape could potentially have public art such as mechanical, kinetic pieces in contrast to the flowing grasses. A large bermed mound then emerges with signage welcoming drivers to Oak Ridge, topped with flags to represent the country, state, and city.

Continuing on the corridor visitors see an enhanced stone and wood entry to the University of Tennessee Arboretum. The arboretum is a hidden natural jewel, it is open to the public, but currently lacks visual interest at the road and consequently many visitors miss the entrance. With new stone-veneer and signage added to the existing retaining walls and a large wooden entry gate visitors will be invited to stop and explore the arboretum.

Centrifuge Way overpass has potential to become a strong visual landmark along the corridor. The existing concrete bridge is nondescript and unattractive. The proposal is to extend sweeping concrete walls from under the bridge and use vining plants or colored metal to create green walls. The bridge itself will be enhanced with an oblong facade of kinetic metal panels. The facade would have the effect of small pieces rippling in the wind. This facade could be equally interesting if made of static, perforated metal panels with an interesting pattern. Either option would include large signage welcoming visitors to Oak Ridge, lighting, landscaping, and innovative building materials incorporating new sustainable technology.

The northern most boundary of the project is at the intersection of Lafayette Drive and S. Illinois Ave/ TN-62. This area could become a focal point with similar landscaping, signage, and strengthened pedestrian connections that matches the proposed designs for the corridor.

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