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Home arrowInclusiveness arrowInterview with Brian Tibbs

Interview with Brian Tibbs, Architect and Chairman of the Metropolitan Historic Zoning Commission, Nashville, Tennessee

Brian Tibbs has been with the architecture firm Moody Nolan, Inc. for 20 years. He was the Nashville project manager for the Music City Center architectural design team. In his role, Tibbs worked closely with architects from Atlanta-based Thompson, Ventulett, Stainback and Associates and Nashville-based Tuck-Hinton Architects. He recently completed the Meharry Medical College Cal Turner Family Campus Center project, the first new construction on the Meharry campus in 40 years.

A native of Huntsville, Alabama, Tibbs is a 1991 architectural graduate of the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Since coming to Nashville in 1997, his work includes the historic restoration and renovation of Cravath Hall at Fisk University, which received the prestigious Historic Preservation Trust Honor Award. He has also managed the architectural design and construction of student centers at Jackson State University in Mississippi and Winston Salem State University in North Carolina and East Tennessee State University. Other projects include the indoor practice facility at Oklahoma University and the baseball stadium at Middle Tennessee State University. He was also the project manager of the New Orleans Revitalization of B.W. Cooper, one of the neighborhoods ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.During his 24 years in the industry, Tibbs has also worked with a variety of architectural building types ranging from small university and institutional renovations to large campus and municipal projects. He previously worked with an on-site firm at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.

Tibbs is a member of the American Institute of Architects and chair of the Metropolitan Historic Zoning Commission in Nashville. He is on the board and past president of Historic Nashville Inc., Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation Board of Directors, the University School of Nashville, State of Tennessee’s Architects and Engineers Licensing Board, Land Trust of Tennessee, Metro Planning Commission, Arts at the Airport Board, the Rotary Club of Nashville, former Nashville Life Church Leader, and an alumnus of Leadership Nashville.

What led you to your field?
I designed a historic renovation/restoration of a historic landmark, and it created a passion. I thoroughly enjoyed studying the history of the building and using that information to really influence and impact the restoration and renovation decisions.

How does what you do relate to historic preservation?
I’m an architect, so when the opportunity arises I get to directly impact historic restoration and renovation. But on a regular basis, I am the chairman of the Metro Historic Zoning Commission which manages historic overlay districts.

Why do you think historic preservation matters?
A community is made up of diverse moments in time that architecture plays a specific role, both in its architecture and its place. Communities that are devoid of their past lack their personality in the bigger sense. Too often when places are driven out by new, the community never develops, or it develops but then something tragic happens where it is wiped out. I think all communities, new and old deserve to have a story.

What courses do you recommend for students interested in this field?
History, Urban Planning, Architecture, Public Policy, Law

Do you have a favorite preservation project? What about it made it special?
Cravath Hall at Fisk University. It was a building that was conditioned and it involved an extensive murals restoration. Investigating the original drawings to design inconspicuous places and spaces to hide the mechanical equipment was challenging but also rewarding.

Can you tell us what you are working on right now?
Nothing historical related at the moment, but I still serve on the Commission, so once a month I am reviewing cases.

How do you think the national historic preservation programs help your community?
I think by setting the standard. If it is a recognized standard that is national, it gives more credence to the perspective causes.

Do you have advice for novice preservationists?
Learn more than the period in history the building is from an architecture perspective. Learn about the people who used it. Learn their stories and experiences.

The ACHP’s mission is “preserving America’s heritage;” can you give us an example of how your community is preserving its heritage?
I think Nashville, as with a lot of successful cities, there is a struggle to continue to promote growth and development but also keep a watchful eye on historic properties. The City has an instrument with the Metropolitan Historical Commission, but we also have a non-profit group, Historic Nashville, a non-profit that leads and partners with other neighborhood groups to keep the community aware.

How does local government play a role in promoting historic preservation?
Typically this is accomplished through the Metro Historical Commission. This Commission leads two different commissions:
The Metropolitan Historic Zoning Commission reviews applications to create new historic overlay districts and reviews and approves preservation permits in historic and conservation districts for new construction, alterations, additions, repairs, and demolition. I serve on this one.
The Metropolitan Historical Commission is a municipal historic preservation agency working to document history, save and reuse buildings, and make the public more aware of the necessity and advantages of preservation in Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee.

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