Redemption for the
“Mistake on the Lake”

Part III: Incorporating the History

We saw in Parts I and II how Collaborative Studio helped United Methodist Publishing House find and repurpose a new home that would better fit the company’s new culture in a world going paperless in a hurry.

The United Methodist Publishing House’s history goes all the way back to 1789 in Philadelphia when it was established as the Methodist Book Concern. The Nashville operation began in 1854 as the publishing house for the Methodist Episcopal Church South. In 1939, the three branches of Methodists in the U.S. at the time—the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Protestant Church, and the Methodist Episcopal Church South—merged, and Nashville was chosen as the headquarters for the united church. In 1957, it built a multi-story building at Demonbreun and 8th in downtown Nashville to house four large printing presses, a huge prepress department, and writers, graphic designers, and administrators.

The press in its heyday printed not only in-house publications but also was hired to print books and magazines for the Baptist Sunday School Board.

By the 1980s, it began to become clear that it no longer made sense to own its own printing presses.

As described by UMPH CEO Neil Alexander, “The very assumption that it made sense for a publisher to also be a printer went from ‘of course’ to absurd.  That’s the two ends of the continuum.”

In 1989, UMPH sold off its presses and large parts of the building became vacant space. For the next two decades, the publishing industry continued to experience upheavals as more and more content became available online and new ideas such as print-on-demand and the paperless office took hold.

As new technologies came on board, the building accumulated past technologies such as hand presses and publishing equipment. It also housed an extensive library of historic books.

Fast forward to 2015, and now the headquarters has relocated to a contemporary space on a lakefront campus in MetroCenter. While the publisher was eager to embrace the efficiency and energy of its new home, it made it known to architect Jenny Campbell of Collaborative Studio, who designed the new space, that the best parts of the history would in some form move with the staff.  Campbell was tasked with incorporating centuries of religious publishing history into the new environment.

UMPH designed by Collaborative Studios Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015 in Nashville, TN.

Says Alexander, “Our aspiration was that the new building project a strong sense of a contemporary, forward-looking organization eager to embrace the tools of the digital age, but well-rooted and affirming the past technologies and efforts that built the foundation that made it possible for us to have this work to do.”

Campbell’s solution was a combination of placing interesting artifacts like the hand-cranked printing presses in nooks as fine sculpture, hanging black-and-white photographs of downtown Nashville, and coming up with inventive ways to celebrate the past.

Read more…

Redemption for the
“Mistake on the Lake”

Part II: The Physical Transformation

In Part I, we looked at the changing culture of United Methodist Publishing House and how architect Jenny Campbell, President of Collaborative Studio, helped the Nashville institution find a facility—and transform it—to suit their unique environmental needs as well as the technology needs of a paperless office. In Part II, we’ll look at what it took to make the building function and perform like a modern office building.


(above photograph taken before renovation)

There were serious challenges to making over the former retail space.

Most obvious was the roof. In addition to its Smurf-blue color, it leaked. And in the middle of the facility was the “circus tent,” an enormous cupola with double stacks of clerestory windows.

A product called Top Hat proved to be an economical way of fixing the roof leaks without the expense of replacing the roof. Top Hat was installed on top of the existing roof and in a single stroke fixed the roof and changed the color.

The circus tent was problematic. Originally the location of the mall’s food court, its roof size and double-stack of windows added to the solar heat gain that would have to be overcome with bigger air conditioning units. We hired domestic air conditioning Brisbane company to come repair the A/C unit. In addition, aesthetically it dominated the appearance with its height. Campbell decided the best plan was to strike the tent and remove it. A new clerestory in its place now provides beneficial natural light without the solar heat gain.

Another problem was where the many columns skirting the building connected to the balconies and roofline. Originally these round columns, built of a stucco-like material, were tied in awkwardly and finished off with a dose of caulk. Campbell saw the potential for future leaks and chose to wrap the columns in mill-finish aluminum. The result was an elegant solution to the water infiltration problem.

“Almost everything we did on the exterior that changed the aesthetics also solved a thermal or a moisture problem,” says Campbell.

Read more…

Redemption for the
“Mistake on the Lake”

A three-part series on the United Methodist Publishing House’s move from downtown Nashville to its new location in the repurposed Fountain Square property in MetroCenter. The building was dedicated on July 28.

Part I: Transforming the Culture

United Methodist Publishing House (UMPH), whose roots go back 150 years in Nashville, recently moved from its downtown location to a waterfront campus in MetroCenter. The religious institution’s new home is the former Fountain Square, an outdoor mall built in 1987 that never lived up to its promise to draw tourists and shoppers from miles around. As stores and restaurants failed and most of the building sat empty, it became infamously known as Nashville’s “mistake on the lake.” If you moved to Nashville in the past ten years, you might only remember the building for its distinctive aqua blue roof.

Before-ext-far        After-ext-far

(the first photograph is from before renovation and the second is after renovation)

The blue roof is gone, thanks to Collaborative Studio. Its design transformed the unsuccessful retail venue into a corporate paradise with workers enjoying a modern office environment bathed in heavenly light and equipped with ergonomic workstations, screened-in porches, and strolling paths around the lake.

At one time considered worthy of the wrecking ball by its former owner, the late Bud Adams, Collaborative Studio saw the opportunities presented by the building’s elongated shape wrapping around a manmade lake.

“I saw how this eyesore for the city could be repurposed,” says architect Jenny Campbell, President of Collaborative Studio. “Its shape and the views were really nice, and it had the potential for a totally different feel.”

It also provided the right answer for what Neil Alexander, CEO of United Methodist Publishing House, envisioned for the publisher’s future.

Read more…

Chartwell Hospitality’s New Hilton Garden Inn Brings Unique Interior Environment to Downtown Nashville

Opening in time to accommodate the CMA Music Festival, the new Hilton Garden Inn in Downtown Nashville features custom public spaces unlike any other in the brand’s lineup of premiere hotels.

Chartwell Hospitality requested that Collaborative Studio adapt Hilton Garden Inn’s brand standard to the urban environment of Nashville’s SoBro area. Hilton Garden Inn’s signature is to provide its guests a garden-like natural interior experience. For the SoBro location, which promises to be a top performer for the brand, the owner wanted something different while staying consistent with the brand elements.

“The owner brought us the challenge of designing a custom space that is compatible with the brand’s concept.” – Jenny Campbell

Collaborative Studio answered the challenge by abstracting the local natural elements of Middle Tennessee and carrying those elements through the public spaces. The materials and finishes employed throughout the hotel blend the urban fabric of Downtown Nashville with the colors, shapes, and textures of the parks and natural areas in and around Nashville.

To achieve the goal of nature plus urban plus brand, Collaborative Studio looked to the sky, the earth, and the flora of Middle Tennessee and designed paths through the spaces that present to guests colors, textures, and images of Nashville’s nature while revealing the urban cityscape through the hotel’s expansive windows.

Specific elements abstracted included a starry night sky in the vestibule, a fire pit, stone paths, a sweeping sky, and pendant lights that recall sunlight streaming through clouds. The pavilion, a two-story space, is accented by a stunning photograph of one of Tennessee’s waterfalls. The two levels are organically connected by a grand oval stairway in the center of the pavilion.

Collaborative Studio carried the custom elements into the hotel’s eating areas (the Chef’s Buffet and the Grill), the reception desk, the bar, and lounging and gathering spaces (the Gazebo).

The World of OZ Comes to Life

OZ 11

“OZ is bursting at the seams with quality and finely chosen details.” – The Nashville Scene

In 2013, Nashville’s Ozgener family established OZ, a non-profit cultural institution, as a gift back to the city and country that have been so hospitable to them as first-generation Turkish-Armenian immigrants. Having sold CAO, their premium cigar business, they converted the 10,000-square-foot warehouse into OZ.

With the advent of OZ, Nashville’s reputation as one of the nation’s finest cities just gets better. On February 13, 2014, the inaugural season for Nashville’s first contemporary arts center begins with Far, a performance by Wayne McGregor’s Random Dance. Other performances coming this year include Peter Brook’s The Suite, a production of the Paris-based Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord; The Intergalactic Nemesis, a live-action graphic novel; and a concert by the legendary Phillip Glass.

This is obviously great news for Nashville and we’re proud to have helped bring it to life. Collaborative Studio has been working with Cano Ozgener and his son Tim for many years. We designed the unique headquarters for CAO, which included office and entertainment space, as well as the warehouse. Then last year we worked with the Ozgeners, artists, and patrons to convert the warehouse into the energetic space for contemporary art performances and visual art installations.

The high design of the headquarters needed little adjustment to convert those spaces to accommodate art exhibits. The warehouse, though, required a redesign to provide functional areas for performances,  additions of lighting trusses and theatrical lighting, and mechanical & electrical system upgrades.  Additionally, aesthetically-pleasing wood walls that flank the space have created the Grand Salon.  The end result is a venue that surprises visitors when they walk through the humble warehouse exterior into OZ.

Many people worked together to make this a reality. We hope you take advantage of this unique venue and give your full support to the Arts in Nashville. For tickets and other information, see


Forget the designer-client relationship you’re used to. And don’t sit around waiting for the solution to come down from the mountain. When you enter into a relationship with Collaborative Studio, you’re going to be part of the process. You’re going to be in the mix.

Our core values–there are only four–aren’t your typical dry stuff: 1) Excellence in work and life. 2) Creativity and innovation in all we do. 3) Idea exchange through collaboration. And 4) honesty and integrity. A simple but powerful list.

When we say “idea exchange,” we don’t mean just among ourselves. We really want the client to be a contributor. We have no interest in showing off how smart we are. We want to know how you tick, how you work and live, and what makes you laugh. Tell us when you are at your best or your worst.

How do we work? It depends on you. Because your needs are what we revolve around.

We won’t show up with a list of services. We show up with open eyes, ears, and hearts.

We want to know your ideas. You may think you have none or don’t feel like opening up. That’s okay. We have ways to make you talk. It will be fun. We guarantee that.

Journal Communications, Inc.


For Journal Communications, Inc., a progressive custom magazine publisher, design is discovering the hidden culture of the company and conveying this image throughout the facility, while changing the atmosphere for every employee and making a difference in their business.  To quote the client:  “The space is absolutely perfect — I know of no other offices as bright and welcoming.  They perfectly communicate what JCI is, and how the company operates.  As such, it’s a great, great sales tool.  Visiting Chamber of Commerce execs are blown away, and usually buy.”

How is design best illustrated through the project?

The design solution incorporates displays depicting the JCI brand and culture throughout all areas.  Examples of their product: magazines, photography, and website design are illustrated in the lobby area and on monitors in the walking gallery leading to the presentation conference room.  Personalized photographs of award-winning employees hang in the sales area; portrait and text from founding owner Alex Haley is prominently displayed at the end of the gallery; employee photography work is displayed like a filmstrip on the walls of the production area.  The employees and clients of Journal Communications, Inc. are always aware of the company’s mission and values.

What was the biggest design challenge and how was it solved?

During the initial design phase of the project, it became evident that there were definitely two distinct groups in the organization with different personalities.  The sales group was very professional and needed a more structured environment, while the production staff was more creative and wanted collaborative space.  The design addresses these distinctions while creating a cohesive aesthetic.  The sales team is located on one side of the gallery with a more conventional office arrangement, while the production team is on the other side in an open office teaming layout.  Community space is located between the groups to join them together.

What was innovative or unique about the design process?

Since Journal Communications, Inc. was moving from a disjointed, run-down, old office space to a new office environment, it was critical to determine the true needs and not dwell on the extremes of what they did not have in the old space.  By interacting early in the progress with a cross section of the organization, we were able to encourage them to think about the new space in an abstract context, which allowed for new ideas to surface.   The result was a space designed to truly meet their functional needs.

How did the design make a difference and what are the measurable impacts of your work?

The new offices for Journal Communications, Inc, in Franklin, Tennessee have changed the way that the employees interact with each other to improve their productivity and enjoy work.  Additionally, the space has become a sales tool, helping them win new business.

Do you do Churches?



That question came from the contractor. A nondenominational church in Franklin, Tenn., known as The Gate, wanted a space that suited their music-centered, heartfelt worship services, as well as room to gather, fellowship, and relax. Collaborative Studio had never done a church before, but in 2009, with no end in sight to the sagging economy, the answer was yes.

We paid a visit to the pastor, Steve Fry, and had our first look at the space. We found a former bridal store at grade, with a wedding chapel below, 9-foot ceilings throughout. Not promising.

Fry said they needed someone to help them choose carpet, paint, and tile. We asked him questions about how he was intending to use the space, and what he described was not a traditional church service.

He wanted to foster social interaction. He envisioned places for laughter and conversation. And a main assembly area where heartfelt worship and song would take center stage. These ideas sounded familiar to us.

“We had experience creating vibrant gathering spaces. Our corporate clients typically want spaces where employees enjoy gathering and talking, such as the HCA Cafe,” says Jenny Campbell, founder and lead architect at Collaborative Studio.

We showed the staff at the Gate photos of the HCA Cafe and other corporate spaces. They resonated. We dug deeper, and soon the project had evolved from a paint job to a full-fledged interior architecture project.

Now the problem was how to create the kind of place they wanted in a low-slung, hollowed-out retail store.

Just as we would do with a corporate floor plan, we divided the space up into areas and began to experiment with the space available. Curved forms divided common areas from the worship center.

In the worship center, the stage was placed along a wall, shattering expectations about how this rectangular space should be utilized. The result was a semicircle seating arrangement that focused the attention of the worshippers on the program as well as on each other. Out of an old bridal store, several hundred worshippers would find a sanctuary.

The ceiling was another challenge. The bottom of the roof joists were right at 9 feet, so there was no leeway there. The solution in the worship center was to actually lower the ceiling by hanging acoustic baffles, or “clouds,” and paint the ceiling black, thereby tricking the eye into thinking the ceiling rose high. The illusion worked.

“Divine intervention,” is how Jenny describes the solution.

By listening well, and by refusing to be limited by a challenging space, Collaborative Studio achieved something way beyond the client’s expectations.