The Nashville Food Project


Nashville, TN


Architecture, Engineering, Interior Design, Site Development


2020 AIA Gulf States Region Honor Citation Award in New Construction

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The Nashville Food Project, a non-profit focused on cultivating community and alleviating hunger in the city, had outgrown its space. Gresham Smith cooked up a solution that would reflect the growing organization’s strong brand identity and commitment to being an integral and welcoming part of the community.

square feet
meals per week prepared in the HQ kitchen
volunteers each week in the kitchen
The exterior of the Nashville Food Project with a man walking in front of it

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

The Nations, the Nashville neighborhood where the headquarters is sited, is a historically low-income and industrial area. The design needed to stich the community’s disparate identities. Nashville Food Project wanted a welcoming space that fit seamlessly into the community, so we responded with a design that was open, light-filled and grounded with authentic and contextually appropriate materials.

The building massing was heavily influenced by the neighborhood, which was historically low-income housing and industrial sites. Clad in standing seam metal, a typically utilitarian material, the building nods to its industrial neighbor while the house-like shape feels familiar and welcoming. The high level of transparency creates a glowing effect and acts as a beacon to the community, drawing people to the mission of the Food Project: to Grow, Cook and Share.

The Nashville Food Project kitchen area with tables and colorful chairs

A Supportive, Inclusive Space

Public space for community meals, meetings and education are at the front of the house and create a welcome experience for visitors. Parking at the rear of the site sets up a common procession toward a single entry point for staff and volunteers keeping with the organization’s principles of inclusion. The office function is nestled adjacent to the kitchen and the community space and acts to support both. The office area houses several groups in charge of gardens, meal planning, sourcing and overall operations.

The exterior of the Nashville Food Project with grass and rocks

Responsible Design

With the rapid growth of the neighborhood, it was critical that the design support and reflect responsible development. Given the lack of stormwater infrastructure in the roads and the shallow site, we designed and installed public storm infrastructure including nearly 1,000 linear feet of pipe. The white color of the building skin and use of a “cool roof” cuts down on solar gain, lowers energy needed to cool the building in the summer and helps address the urban heat island effect.

The variable refrigerant flow (VRF) mechanical system provides better energy efficiency than a standard, package rooftop unit. The headquarters also features a myriad of sustainability-minded features such as low flow plumbing fixtures and LED lighting throughout. The interior finish materials and furnishings were regionally sourced when possible, and material transparency (healthy material selection) was top of mind when selections were made, keeping alignment with the organization’s mindful mission.

The interior of the Nashville Food Project people prepping vegetables at a table

Keeping the Mission Central

The heart of the project is the kitchen.  As the most central element to the Nashville Food Project’s mission, it was important to highlight the kitchen and prep areas and showcase them to the community. Extensive bands of glass form a purposeful transparency which creates a light-filled, engaging and highly functional space for staff and volunteers to prepare nutritious meals. This new commercial kitchen allows The Nashville Food Project to greatly expand their meals program while the directly adjacent community space furthers community outreach, allowing for community meals and additional programming such as cooking classes.