Belmont University Research Symposium (BURS)

Publication Date

Fall 10-21-2022


O'More College of Architecture and Design



BURS Faculty Advisor

Anthony Monica

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation


The Nashville Trail of Tears Memorial honors the Cherokee Native Americans, implores its visitors to reflect on a challenging moment of our nation’s history, celebrates the resiliency of the Cherokee nation, and reweaves the broken social fabric by creating a place for all to gather in community with each other. Sitting on Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage site, the estate of the president who signed the Indian Removal Act into law, the memorial serves as a reminder of the journey the Cherokee took through Tennessee while on The Trail. The project specifically tasked students with highlighting the experience of a young Cherokee child, Atsila, and her mother, as they endured injustice on the trail (a fictional account for the project). This presentation will describe how research and design thinking informed the choice of material and control of sound to invoke emotion from visitors as they transition through the memorial. In Cherokee culture, cedar wood is used to honor those who have passed; Atsila’s exhibit is built from this wood engulfing the visitor in its powerful scent and the symbolism of death. Used in tangent with the cedar, Atsila’s room is completely soundproofed to envelop visitors in overwhelming silence. In contrast, the forest of corten steel sculptures surrounding her room are fitted with weighted chimes, allowing the wind to create an abundance of noise. The museum components are made of Tennessee limestone and are separated by glass boxes for moments of reflection as visitors move through the memorial. This presentation will further explain the unique uses of materiality, light, and acoustics, to tell a story of the injustices of the Trail of Tears. Exuding the weight and importance of the injustices the Cherokee faced during the Trail of Tears, the project used architecture as a vehicle to implore us to reflect, to grieve, and to commune together.

Trail of Tears.pdf (2223 kB)

Included in

Architecture Commons