Melissa grew up in Southwestern Michigan and East Tennessee. She became interested in architecture and design at a young age, and developed her skills while attaining a Bachelor of Architecture at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Melissa was a Bicentennial Scholar, an honor bestowed by the university based on academic merit. She was also the president of Tau Sigma Delta Honor Society, and upon graduation received the Alpha Rho Chi Bronze Medal for Leadership, Service, and Merit.
Melissa returned to Michigan after graduation and accepted a position at inFORM studio, a boutique architecture firm near Detroit. While there, she also pursued her own interests and, along with a partner, participated in an international design competition sponsored by the World Architecture News Association and The Royal Academy. Their entry, entitled ‘Urban Projections: A Conversational Streetscape’ won the first place award, and was published and exhibited at the Royal Academy in London.
Following her time in Detroit, Melissa moved to Brooklyn to work with MADE, a design/build firm in Brooklyn specializing in high end residential architecture. She took this experience and, with a partner, opened HollerDesign, a furniture design and fabrication studio in Nashville. Additionally, Melissa has enjoyed positions as a lecturer at the University of Tennessee, College of Architecture + Design and as a fellow at the Nashville Civic Design Center.
Currently, Melissa is pursuing a Master of Architecture in Urban Design (MAUD) at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University.
Nashville Civic Design Center, Nashville, TN, US, Design Fellow
At the Nashville Civic Design Center I am contracted to manage special projects on a freelance
basis. Here I utilize a wide range of skill sets, including management, research, documentation,
writing, editing and graphic design.
HollerDesign, Nashville, TN, US, Partner
HollerDesign is a collaboration of Matt and Melissa Alexander, two southerners who have left home and returned with an imperative of what it means to be southern, and a desire to share that view with others.
Our office and workshop are located on Matt’s family farm in rural Tennessee. Here we focus on creating objects and spaces that are regionally influenced and culturally significant. Our work embodies a core of southern values, including resourcefulness, self-reliance, and just plain old ingenuity. We are inspired by the late demographer Calvin Beale’s view of the south: not “barefooted hillbillies given to moon shining and quite disinclined to work for a living,” but that we southerners are “inclined to self-sufficiency and simple living, [with a] widespread interest in environmentalism, conservation, alternative fuel sources, rural aesthetic values, home food production, and local self-government.”
The work of HollerDesign is inspired by rural forms and textures, yet is augmented by a lens of contemporary manufacturing. Our work is not simply a romanticized view of southern objects, but a reinterpretation and recreation based on both our unique design sensibilities, and the economies of contemporary manufacturing. Our objects exhibit a “love of making,” retain a subsequent intrinsic value, and utilize a production process that is inherently sustainable, but which is grounded more in the tradition of craft than in the ‘green-washing’ of current systems of manufacturing.
Smith Gee Studio, Nashville, TN, US, Designer
Smith Gee Studio is a design firm that is committed to improving the built environment through design excellence, collaboration, and community involvement.
MADE, Brooklyn, NY, US, Project Manager
MADE is a design/build/fabricate studio specializing in high-end interior renovations and additions in Brooklyn and Manhattan. My role as Project Manager included responsibilities for architectural design, development, and documentation, construction administration, and client relations.
inFORM studio, Detroit, MI, US, Designer
inFORM studio is an architecture firm performing traditional services such as programming, schematic design, design development, bidding and negotiation, construction documents, construction administration, etc. My role as Designer included responsibilities for architectural design, development, and documentation, and client directed graphic design. Additionally, I performed general graphic design and marketing for the office.
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, US, Masters, Masters of Architecture in Urban Design
The University of Tennessee - Knoxville, Knoxville, TN, US, BArch, College of Architecture + Design
Germantown Gateway Design Competition, 1st Place
The historic neighborhood of Germantown has led many lives: a destination for German immigrants, an industrial mill town, a community of resurgence. With a little imagination one can envision all of those lives being lived simultaneously: a mill worker trods home after a long day’s work. With his head stooped low he passes a young professional couple making their way downtown for dinner. The boots of a prosperous merchant fall heavily on the brick sidewalk, while a butcher looks on.
Somewhere a century’s worth of paint is being removed from a front door. It is at this intersection that we draw our inspiration for the design of the Gateway.
The form of the gateway consists of a board-formed concrete and brick plinth. Rising above is a steel tower which houses the Germantown sign. The use of brick seamlessly fits into the neighborhood aesthetic, while the rich texture of the board-formed concrete references another important architectural material of the community: wood. The industrial steel superstructure is influenced by the water towers sitting atop the former Werthan Bag Factory and nearby Neuhoff Meat Packing Plant. Both the material (steel) and the form (water tower) reference the importance of Germantown’s industrial history.
Furthermore, the design of the signage exhibits an intermingling of two histories: industrial and residential. The residential, Victorian gingerbread decoration wraps around an industrial, all-caps typeface. During the day the use of contrasting materials makes the sign easily visible (white type on a Cor-Ten steel background). At night the gateway sign is back lit, serving as a beacon for the community.
The repetitive use of the gateway strategically placed throughout the community serves as a cohesive icon of this disparate neighborhood. It is our belief that the gateway will enable a diverse community to speak with a single voice.
Agents for Human Interaction Competition, 1st Place
Hosted by World Architecture News and The Royal Academy
Completed with Patrick Hazari
In 2006, World Architecture News and The Royal Academy hosted the Agent for Human Interaction Competition. The brief highlighted that contemporary urban societies offer numerous opportunities for casual encounters but do not necessarily provide the ability to create a network of meaningful engagements. Responding to specific local or shared global concerns, entrants were invited to propose an agent for human interaction. The design proposal could be a structure or device, a programme or a network, which could be permanent or perhaps temporary but facilitates and strengthens how people interact.
In our summation, today’s city is one of anonymity and impermanence. Despite the close proximity of it’s residents, our urban communities feel disconnected. Interaction with strangers is generally an unwelcome and sometimes dangerous occasion.
Our project facilitates the interaction of the public with the community. The mobile street architecture provides the opportunity for persons to contribute, either passively or actively, to a montage of words, thoughts, and phrases that express the general conversation of a community. This conversation is projected, quite literally, onto the community itself. In this way the project provides for public interaction in and with a constantly shifting community dialogue.
Urban Projections is a mobile concrete bench approximately 30’ long by 6’ wide with a canopy that projects 12’ over the sidewalk. The canopy contains microphones that pick up words or partial sentences of conversations. Using voice recognition technology, the words are then projected out of the end of the canopy and onto a building across the street. The words remain until new conversations are heard; the new words are projected and the old ones fade away. The intent is for Urban Projections to facilitate community conversation on streets in many cities, and is thus easily disassembled and transported to new locations.
Southpoint: From Ruin to Rejuvenation, Nomination
2005 Emerging New York Architects Competition
Completed with Patrick Hazari and Cheryl Maliszewski
This project investigates the similar condition of the artist and patient, with specific attention given to the cyclical nature of the path. A path is simultaneously a physical construction and a mental process. For both a patient dealing with therapy and recuperation, as well as an artist struggling through the creative process, the route to success lies within that person’s ability to both physically and mentally overcome his or her specific obstacles. For an artist, the cyclical process of creation involves alternating phases of creation and presentation (to peers, the public, and the general community), followed by reflection. This process is not finite: it does not end with each sculpture or finished painting. Rather, the process builds upon itself, each success and failure firmly imprinted upon the next work. For a patient dealing with physical recuperation, or learning to mentally accept a permanent disability, the process is equally as infinite and cyclic. Each travels through a period of self-reflection and personal growth, followed by sessions of therapy and insistence of acceptance by his or her peers. This insistence may present itself through art or performance or gardening: the physical manifestation is not as imperative as the insistence of acceptance by that person to his or her peers.
The organization of Southpoint, in this investigation, is based on this cyclic process of reflection followed by creation and presentation, followed by reflection, etc. It arranges both the required program, as well new programs that emerge as a result of necessity and proximity. The second arranging factor is the presence of the urban quality of the city all around the island, and the desire by the community for Southpoint to provide a fleeting moment of the natural and ephemeral against the hardscape of the city. The conceptual ‘bands’ are stretched east to west across the island and alternate north to south, dividing the creative and performance oriented programs from those that are more reflective and personal in nature. The final band lies at the southern tip of the island, at the viewing platform, where conceptually an important presentation be made to Manhattan, read here metaphorically as society.