AIA Best Construction Detail Project - Cogent Studio
With a collection that focuses on vintage guitars and their role in shaping modern music, the Songbirds Guitar Museum’s design strives for a vibe that balances the security and reverence these instruments command with a relaxed, accessible rock-n-roll feel.
Located in the upper level of an old wing of the station, now the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel, Songbirds’ design respects such character-defining features of the 1909 structure as riveted beams and columns and original brick detailing. New elements, made primarily with steel, glass and dark wood, fit seamlessly into the historic structure. The Songbirds’ organization progresses through three distinctive spaces: the main exhibit hall, which contains the ticketing and gift shop areas, exhibit space and a stage for live performances; the Green Room, a more intimate, lounge-like space with exhibits of guitars and amps; and the Vault, a highly secured space housing the museum’s most extraordinary guitars. Each space feels more special than the one preceding it, due to not only the increasing value and importance of the guitars exhibited, but also because the design takes advantage of the space, which narrows in width as it approaches the apex of the Vault. Given its upper-floor location, the design includes an elevator and a second, exterior egress stair to supplement an existing stair off a first-level shared lobby. Station Street, which runs alongside the building, was redesigned to be more pedestrian friendly and can easily be closed to automobile use for occasional music events hosted by Songbirds.