Knoxville has a stable economy and a location attractive to businesses. Growth has been steady in a variety of sectors including transportation, trade, commerce, and utilities. Telecommunication and tourism are booming industries in the city. Located in the Great Appalachian Valley and with the Tennessee River cutting through downtown, many visit the city then want to come back and make it their own.
When it comes to building exceptional commercial structures, our editors have gathered 13 of the best architects in the area. These architects are well-recognized by peers and institutions, earning awards and features in different publications. All members of the American Institute of Architects, most are focused on sustainable practices as evident in their affiliation with the US Green Building Council and LEED. In the business for one decade to a century, all are experienced architects with extensive portfolios.
McCarty Holsaple McCarty Architects and Interior Designers
550 W. Main Street, Suite 300, Knoxville, TN 37902
Founded in 1965, MHM is a five-decade-old firm that employs a collaborative approach. It believes that the key to any project’s success is an efficient collaboration between clients and its design team. It takes this approach to all the services it offers including planning, design, and documentation. The client’s vision meets the client’s expertise, then it’s all backed with research and careful introspection. The results are wonderful structures that consistently exceed expectations.
A sample of the firm’s successful work is The Tennessean. A luxury hotel located in Knoxville, this massive 112,000-square-foot property earned the 2018 AGC Award – Knoxville for Southern Living’s South’s Best Hotel. The project is a conversion of a three-decade-old office building into a stunning hotel property. Inspired by old Hollywood glamor, the sleekness seen in the interior and exterior of the building mimics a tuxedo. Black, white, and gold accents are peppered throughout the entire property, adding sophistication to the overall look. While creating the hotel’s luxury brand, the firm focused on energy efficiency and the use of sustainable materials in building the property.
Leading the team in providing thoughtful design solutions to clients is Doug McCarty, FAIA, the firm’s Chairman Emeritus. Overseeing the design and management aspects of the firm, McCarty is a well-experienced architect respected by his team and peers. As a leader, he has always valued relationships with colleagues and business and civic leaders in East Tennessee.
Sanders Pace Architecture
514 West Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37902
Sanders Pace Architecture is a master in designing complex and diverse projects. Practicing in East Tennessee, the firm is surrounded by clients in either the countryside or the urban center. As a result, the firm has experience designing different structures on different sites. It has become an expert in exploring the unknown, creating new opportunities and design solutions in unexpected places. Because of this, the firm gets to create new exciting structures that link to a site’s history. Its designs are a blend of the old and the new, using advanced tools and materials to preserve and enhance a place.
Displaying Sanders Pace Architecture’s unique take on designs is the Elst Brewing Company. For the project, the firm transformed an 80-year-old building into a trendy craft brewery. Located in a historic neighborhood, the property is designed to fit well into its environment. Bricks were used in the exterior, unifying the building with other existing structures in the area. Inside, the design includes office space, a tasting room, and brewing and cooler areas. This successful project collected two major awards including the 2020 AIA East Tennessee Citation Award.
The geniuses behind the firm’s inspiring designs are Brandon Frazier Pace and John Lynch Sanders. Both members of the AIA and LEED APs, Pace and Sanders have collaborated to put the firm at the top. Under their supervision, the firm has collected many design, planning, and preservation awards. Pace holds a master’s degree from Yale University while Sanders is a proud alumnus of the University of Tennessee.
505 Market St., Suite 300, Knoxville, TN 37902
Established in 1915, BarberMcMurry Architects is the longest-running firm on the list. As one of the most experienced architects in Tennessee, this century-old firm has created many award-winning designs. The firm’s sustainable, functional, and creative outputs have resulted in a number of awards. Throughout its 106 years in the industry, the firm’s goal has remained the same: to create lasting structures that facilitate a positive working and living environment.
One of the firm’s highly-acclaimed designs is its very own BMA office housed in the historic Arnstein Building. The project earned four major recognitions including the 2014 AIA Tennessee Excellence Award. For the 2014 AIA jury, giving the award to the project was easy: they were moved by the firm’s bold use of an all-white scheme that made the office space brighter and bigger. The use of blue on carefully selected areas are delightful accents that give dimension to the space. Overall, the firm created an office that fosters creativity and efficiency. The firm also employed sustainable construction and design methods, earning a LEED Silver certification for the project.
BarberMcMurry has six equity partners: Chuck V. Griffin, AIA, NCARB; Kelly L. Headden, AIA, NCARB; Ryan K. Dobbs, AIA, NCARB; Chad P. Boetger, AIA, LEED AP, WELL AP; Michael T. Dooley, AIA, NCARB; and Heather N. Beck, MBA, APR, WELL AP. The full-service firm offers architecture, interior design and planning services with an eye for progressive but classic design and a focus on good stewardship and excellent client service.
2240 Sutherland Avenue, Suite 105, Knoxville, TN 37919
Established in 1994, Johnson Architecture designs with rhythm and purpose. Its style brings a positive flow of energy into the spaces it designs, whether it be commercial or residential. This energy comes from the synergy of client vision and the firm’s creativity, producing one-of-a-kind structures. Uniqueness is seen in every restaurant, hotel, church, and school it designs.
Showcasing the firm’s unique architectural voice is the Vida and The Vault project. Winner of the 2021 East Tennessee Preservation Award, the project involved the conversion of two floors of a former bank into a restaurant and cocktail bar. In preserving a 108–year-old historic landmark, the firm retained many historical elements while adding modern comforts. It preserved the former bank’s existing marble staircase, becoming one of the main features of the bar. But the main accent is the original bank safe door that serves as the bar’s entrance. The food and beverage establishment is truly a unique product of the client’s vision and the firm’s expertise.
Guiding the firm in overcoming challenging projects is Daryl Johnson, AIA, NCARB. President of the company, Johnson shares his expertise with his team and his clients. A proud alumnus of the University of Tennessee, Johnson is a master in design and planning, and he is completely dedicated to client satisfaction.
Lewis Group Architects
6512 Deane Hill Drive., Knoxville, TN 37919
Lewis Group Architects (LGA) takes a client-centric approach. Serving clients in Knoxville and Cleveland, the firm has established strong client relationships since 1982. Customers trust the firm for the excellent services it provides in creating retail, office, and public buildings. Over the years, the firm has displayed excellence in improving communities through architecture and design.
One of the firm’s excellently designed buildings is the Brookview Town Centre. In partnership with Blue Ridge Development, the firm built a 190,000-square-foot commercial facility in the middle of Knoxville’s Bearden Business District. The facility houses office, retail, restaurant, and accommodation spaces with a multi-level parking garage. This gigantic undertaking was executed flawlessly by the firm, creating a pedestrian-friendly town center that effectively facilitates all activities inside.
Founder Jerry Lewis has always known since he was a child that using architecture to impact communities is his life’s purpose. With that mission in mind, Lewis has made his firm one of the most influential firms in East Tennessee. Under his guidance, the firm won the 2005 Metropolitan Planning Commission Award of Excellence. His inspired designs have graced the Knox TN Today, the Knoxville News Sentinel, and The Daily Times of Maryville.
2607 Kingston Pike, Suite 5, Knoxville, TN 37919
Established in 1983, Cope Architecture has made success a tradition. Its team members work together to provide superior architectural services to clients all over East Tennessee. This tradition was started by founder Lanny Cope. Cope bases the firm’s success on client satisfaction. This principle is passed on to the company’s new generation of leaders headed by Cayce Smith, AIA. A University of Tennessee-Knoxville graduate, Smith is confident that the tradition of excellence will continue for decades to come.
Displaying the firm’s top-notch services is the Mercedes-Benz project in Knoxville. Complementing Mercedes-Benz’s classic brand, the firm created a facility that is elegant and timeless. The inspired architecture begins in the exterior façade, accentuated with Tuscan columns. The curved lines surrounding the façade add visual interest. Choosing an all-white color scheme, the Mercedes Benz logo pops, catching the attention of clients and passers-by. For the exemplary design, the project has won two awards including the 1998 Commercial Development Excellence Award.
On its path to success, the firm makes sure to listen to its client’s needs and then responds to those demands via the team’s expertise. By collaborating, the firm successfully meets expectations and continues to earn customer loyalty.
Benefield Richters Architecture
902 N Central Street, Knoxville, TN 37917
The Benefield Richters Company loves helping clients find and create spaces that bring joy and success to businesses and people in their community. They serve clients by planning and designing projects to realize their clients’ vision and goals and turn their investment into a building they love and are proud to share with the community. Since 1999, the firm has made significant contributions to the industry, earning several awards including the 2020 Orchid Award from Keep Knoxville Beautiful and named among the Best of the Best in Commercial Architecture by CityView Magazine 4 years running.
One of the firm’s most notable projects is the ORAU Center for Science Education. Located in Oak Ridge, the 73,000-square-foot facility has been designed to incorporate sustainable and energy efficient design strategies and materials, resulting in a LEED Gold designation – the first LEED Gold Office building in East Tennessee. The building also features state-of-the-art spaces such as the “Classroom of the Future” and conference spaces that promote better learning. The ORAU Center for Science Education was designed as part of a larger effort in which the firm provided master planning services to reorganize and consolidate ORAU’s business offices into a single campus, renovation of the existing auditorium and conference center, and design of the surrounding landscape. Clients have been extremely satisfied with the firm’s work, appreciating it for creating a functional, high-quality building.
The firm is led by Amy Sherrill and Glenn Richters who were brought together with a passion for sustainable design and providing first-class customer experiences. The Benefield Richters team shares a commitment to investing in the growth and development of their clients and community, and take pride in the work they do to help businesses grow and flourish.
Studio Four Design
414 Clinch Avenue, Knoxville TN 37902
A firm composed mostly of University of Tennessee graduates, Studio Four Design was hailed a Top Ten Emerging Professional-Friendly Firm by the AIA in 2018. This energetic firm has received the award for welcoming young professionals and budding architecture experts. In honing these young architects, the firm instills one of its most important principles: design is a way of life. With this principle in mind, the firm works tirelessly to create out-of-the-box solutions while respecting client vision.
Showcasing the firm’s unique design perspective is Premier Eyecare. For this project, the firm designed an optometry center like no other. Facilitating foot traffic and accessibility, the firm has designed a spacious parking lot surrounding the shop. Spaciousness is a theme carried indoors, thanks to an expansive retail showroom. The room is even made bigger by using high-ceilings and floor-to-ceiling glass panels. The showroom is designed with a modern, industrial-style that attracts both young and experienced. Within the 11,000-square-foot facility, half of that impressive space is dedicated space for the shop’s team.
Studio Four Designs’ energetic team is led by Stacy Cox, AIA. Like most members of the firm, Cox is a University of Tennessee-Knoxville alumnus. She has been involved with the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program.
401 North Forest Park Boulevard, Knoxville, TN 37919
Founded in 1983, Wystwynd Designs is inspired by adventure and optimism. Its founder, Ric Mixon, has been inspired by his travels on the West Coast and in the Mojave Desert. Bringing the energy from these places back to Tennessee, Mixon built the firm with a fresh and approachable perspective. Its goal is to create moving places that exhibit excellence when it comes to design. While doing so, Mixon, a LEED AP, employs environment-friendly methods. He continues his dedication to sustainable efforts by joining different training programs including EarthCraft. An AIA member, Mixon is involved in East Tennessee’s community development through design.
With almost four decades of experience in the industry, WystWynd Designs have handled a variety of projects including retail, medical, and mixed-use developments. In the hospitality sector, the firm has handled the Holiday Inn Express and Suites project. The firm is inspired by the brand’s intention to provide simple modern comfort for its guests. Motorists seeking a place to rest can easily spot the building with its luminous blue lights and prominent Holiday Inn green and white logo. Guests can easily park at the hotel’s front lot. The hotel’s towering columns greet the customers and lead them to reception. For each unit, the window is an essential feature that allows the natural light to pour in.
2575 Willow Point Way, Suite 105, Knoxville, TN 37931
A three-time winner of the Keep Knoxville Beautiful Orchid Award, R2R Studio is a highly-experienced firm operating for over 17 years. Founded in 2004, the firm has accomplished many projects, complex and small. It is composed of expert architects and designers all hailing from Knoxville. The firm has a culture of embracing the ideas and contributions of its team members as well as its clients. By embracing a wide range of voices the firm has developed remarkable designs.
Such remarkable design can be seen in the Babalu Knoxville project. Working with a return client, the firm was set on exceeding expectations and forging an unbreakable relationship. This desire is reflected in the way the firm expertly reimagined the restaurant with a modern industrial style. Within the 2,400 square feet space, textures are prominent in the walls, the ceiling, the floor, and the counters. It is the epitome of a trendy restaurant loved by many for its stunning interiors. But the firm’s design is a balance between form and function. The lighting fixtures set the mood for the place, increasing diners’ appetite and enjoyment. The curved counter provides extra space for visiting customers. With dining booths in one corner of the restaurant, the establishment is the firm’s modern interpretation of a classic diner.
Scott Osborn supervises the overall operations of the firm. Osborn believes that design and construction are a chance to interact and create solutions for clients. Focusing on business development, Osborn still undertakes architectural challenges. His specialization covers restaurant and kitchen designs. He is a proud alumnus of the University of Tennessee and the University of Technology in Krakow, Poland.
Smee + Busby Architects
2554 Sutherland Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37919
Smee + Busby Architects is built on a partnership. Gregor Smee and Scott Busby built the firm by using their combined 50 years of experience in the industry. Smee, AIA, LEED AP, is an influential architect with licenses in 40 states. His wide range of experience includes commercial, residential, and educational projects. A graduate of the California Polytechnic State University, Smee welcomed Busby into the firm in 2006. Scott Busby, AIA, is an expert in a variety of projects including healthcare, educational, and commercial projects. His talents earned him the 2000 AIA Young Architects Award. Busby is an alumnus of the University of Tennessee. Together, Smee and Busby lead a talented staff filled with design and technical expertise.
Using a collaborative approach, the firm has provided services for many business establishments in Knoxville. One of these is The Quarry. Completed in 2020, the project is a showcase of the firm’s expertise when it comes to creating simple, purposeful designs. The firm created a pre-engineered metal building to serve as a venue for different occasions including weddings and receptions. In both the interior and exterior, the building is painted white to create the neutrality and flexibility necessary to host any kind of event. Indoors, a wide hall is surrounded by large windows that bring natural light into the space. The establishment is surrounded by stunning landscaping featuring a giant artificial waterfall. Located in a deactivated quarry, the firm took advantage of the scenic views and created pathways around the structure. The firm’s outstanding work has been recognized many times, including as the 2017 AIA Critics’ Choice Winner.
Falconnier Design Co
4622 Chambliss Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37919
Established in 1992, Falconnier Design Co is a specialist in residential, commercial, and religious designs. Whether it’s a home, a church, or an office space, the firm believes that the best buildings start with a strong foundation. A strong foundation is required for client relationships as well as in a firm’s architectural knowledge. When all these boxes are ticked, exceptional, lasting buildings are created.
Over the last 29 years, the firm has provided expert services in different areas in the United States including Tennessee, Alabama, and California. Firm founder Damon Falconnier has licenses in a variety of states including Arizona, New Jersey, and New York. Falconnier, NCARB, LEED AP, has also provided environment-friendly services in Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington D.C.
One of the firm’s proudest designs is the Heritage Fmaily Dentistry in Farragut. This modern clinic carries a sophisticated and professional ambiance, outside and in. A well-lit space and state-of-the-art dentistry equipment warmly welcome its patients. The dentistry office features an open floor layout highlighting its private clinic spaces, comfortable waiting areas, and a coffee nook. In addition, the modern clinic used soft earth tones to further bring out its calm and modern look as seen through its use of wooden materials accented by metal fixtures.