Memphis Slim (Peter Chatman), the famed blues singer and pianist, drew attention for his punishing performing schedule and unorthodox lifestyle. Extreme poverty characterized much of his life, but also created a personality which was uncommonly resourceful. His life embodied the paradox of his music: A hard life and rough experiences were transformed into musical energy that is upbeat and full of life, the essence of triumph.
The Collaboratory is meant to remind us of the everyday yet not be encumbered by it as we reach for the extraordinary. This reflects the paradox that is Memphis Slim’s life and music. His boyhood home was typical of many in the low-income neighborhood in which it is located. Like the others, it reflects the character of the individuals in the community, including Memphis Slim: strength, survival against overwhelming odds, and resourcefulness. Key to the Memphis Slim Collaboratory project is to maintain that sense of success against adversity, to inspire future musicians to achieve despite potential setbacks, while simultaneously generating something new and more open to the community.
The concept revolves around taking elements of the house - like the front porch where Memphis Slim entertained soul legends Rufus Thomas and Isaac Hayes - and celebrate them. Elements of the home are pulled out towards the street to welcome the community, converting a “porch” into an exterior stage. Small areas of the re-built exterior façade are carved out to reveal the wood structure beneath and create views through the structure to the interior spaces.
All pf the framing from the existing house was saved and reused for new framing interior wall finishes and furniture. All of the Brick from the original fireplace and chimney was saved and reused to build the new ceremonial fireplace. Solar panels are utilized on the back portion of the house and the roof angle was designed to maximize summertime solar gains.