International Storytelling Center

Jonesborough, Tennessee

Project Details

Project Partners
Robert A.M. Stern
Gary L. Brewer

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The International Storytellers Association is synonymous with its home in Jonesborough, the well-preserved historic Tennessee town. The International Storytelling Center is dedicated to the preservation and promulgation of the oral tradition of storytelling. The Center will be realized in stages, eventually to contain a broad range of educational, research and entertainment facilities. At full build-out the Center will be fully integrated with the town, occupying various existing buildings on Main Street.

The first phase building, located at the edge of the most urban stretch of Main Street, together with the historic Chester Inn, defines a plaza that is the principal outdoor focus of the Center. The Chester Inn houses offices, meeting rooms, and a book store; the new L-shaped building is made up of large simple rooms that will allow flexibility as the Center grows. First-phase uses include a café/retail shop on the ground floor, a storytelling theater capable of accommodating busloads of visitors, a lounge that can be used by individuals for private listening to tapes or videos of notable storytellers, and a restaurant that combines storytelling entertainment with dining. The Center also serves as a gateway to a Storytelling Park which is be open to the public throughout the year and capable of housing the large tents used for Storytelling festivals.

A tower marks the fulcrum of the building and becomes an icon for the center. The casual painted wooden shingles and metal roof of the Chester Inn give the Center its primary architectural cues; additional cues from the classicism of Jonesborough’s more civic buildings result in a structure that is at home with the folksy traditions of storytelling but also has the demeanor and presence to make it a respected addition to the delicate fabric of this historic town.

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