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Old Briar

Applied Research at UT Knoxville


Dennis and Martha O'Dell


  • Structural Engineer: Mallia Engineering
  • Landscape Architect: Gregg Bleam Landscape Architect
  • General Contractor: Meadowlark Construction

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Project Description


Old Briar is a house and landscape in rural west Tennessee.  Its location, Lauderdale County, is the childhood home of the clients who, after twenty-five years of working and living in Chicago, are returning to share their agricultural heritage and values of stewardship with their children and grandchildren. They envision this house as being an anchor for their family, both present and generations yet to come.

The name of the project, Old Briar, arose from a childhood tale: Old Briar was the name of the client's grandfather's pick-up truck.  The name was fondly reassigned to each reliable "generation" of trucks as an old one was grudgingly retired.  Throughout the design process, we followed the more traditional methods of periodic submission, review, client feedback, and reassessment, yet it was stories such as these working in tandem with that process that provided the critical insight and inspiration. By understanding the more intimate details of the clients' personalities and use-patterns, we were able to more accurately specify potential activity and space needs.

As this is to be a place for generations to gather, universal design also became central to both the interior planning and to the overall concept of overlapping interior and exterior spaces. On the interior, flush thresholds, clearances, and other age-in-place accommodations are integral, though resolved so as not to be obvious. Primary interior spaces (entry, living, and bedroom) are paired with transitional exterior spaces (entry alcove, covered terrace, and east porch) that allow occupants to enjoy outdoor living, even if they are not able to negotiate the more natural agrarian grounds.
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