Knoxville + Modernism = 144,000 Returns

Pseudo. New. Urban. Living. (vs. TVA modernism)

This image, and the ones that follow, are some I took on a recent trip to Knoxville, Tennessee, home of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and honored, back in the mid 20th century, as the ugliest city in America ("intense, concentrated, degrading ugliness"). This was my first time in the South proper, with much to confirm my vague imaginings (brilliant barbecue, more blatant Christianity than I can stomach, far slower cadences of speech than I am used to, the general air of slow decline and spacious crumbling).

What struck harder, though, was the sense of a city stuck in time: not in the sense of antiquated or outmoded, but the opposite, of being pulled in opposite directions to the point of fraught stasis, an unfolding and uneven intersection that seems to put very much at stake the feel of the town and the shape of the lives of whoever lives there. A rather quiet war, not so much taking place there as embodied there, between the loft apartment future of pseudo-urbanity and the lost future of the clean concrete and planning of what I'll call here "TVA modernism."

— Evan Calder Williams,, May 4, 2009