Famed American pianist, blues singer and composer Memphis Slim’s lifelong work and personality was celebrated by re-imagining his boyhood home as a music collaboratory, a place for musicians to come together and work in collaboration. Rehearsal rooms, a recording studio and a computer lab ensure the spaces are prepared for any ideas, while workshops and career training opportunities extend the reach of this creative space to the community it serves. This is what the architects had to say about their finished project: “Peter Chapman, the famed blues singer and pianist better known as Memphis Slim, drew attention for his punishing performing schedule and unorthodox lifestyle. Extreme poverty characterized much of his life, but also created a personality which was uncommonly resourceful. His life embodied the paradox of his music: hard times and rough experiences were transformed into an upbeat and lively musical energy, the essence of triumph.”
Spreading over 2,100 square feet, the music collaboratory photographed by Ken West can be found at 1130 College Street in Memphis, Tennessee. Lighting up and inspiring the whole neighborhood, this modern display of materials embedded into the original history has a positive cultural effect as well as an aesthetic one. A brainchild of brg3s Architects, the vibrant contemporary construction honors its inspiration’s gift to the world: “The collaboratory design takes elements of the original house and celebrates them. Carving out sections of the re-built exterior façade reveals the reclaimed wood framing of the structure. The fenestration creates long views through the structure to the interior spaces, opening up to the community. Enlarging the original home’s porch- where Memphis Slim entertained soul legends Rufus Thomas and Isaac Hayes – forms an exterior stage for the collaboratory. The cedar rain screen relates to the original materiality of the home’s lapboard siding, and the use of vernacular materials throughout the project celebrates the neighborhood’s character.” Envisioned as a reinterpretation of qualities seen in a low-income neighborhoods – strength, resourcefulness, surviving overwhelming odds – Memphis Slim’s boyhood home was transformed into an architectural statement inspiring musicians to achieve their dreams within any given circumstance.