The Memphis Slim Collaboratory has a strong social component and distinctive street presence. Located in a struggling neighborhood, the boyhood home of famed blues musician Memphis Slim (aka Peter Chatman) is now an educational facility, recording studio, and community hangout.

“As we pulled the layers away, we realized we couldn’t salvage the house,” says architect Jason Jackson. “The community agreed that it should be a new thing, but it was important to rebuild in way that people would recognize: Oh, this is the living room where he spent part of his childhood, this is the porch where he played with Isaac Hayes and Rufus Thomas.” The Collaboratory’s two-story volume mirrors the footprint and dimensions of the old house, but the architects extended the front porch to welcome the community and create a stage. A one-story portion expands the building to the rear.

If the cedar rainscreen is a nod to the original lap siding found under asphalt shingle cladding, the metal siding hints at the home’s reuse as a recording studio. “We wanted to keep to local, accessible materials and the idea of resourcefulness,” Jackson says. “We didn’t want it to look like a house, but relate it to the neighborhood.” Inside, the original framing is repurposed on walls, finishes, and furniture.

Our jury noted that this project expresses the tension between Memphis Slim’s hard life and the triumph of his music. “It’s creatively done inside and out,” a judge said. “For a small structure, it has a big personality.”

On Site The cantilevered canopy contains a steel beam, eliminating the need for columns and opening the building to the street

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Memphis, TN.