Behind the Scenes: Kem Hinton

In addition to being a highly respected, award-winning architect, Kem Hinton is an author, historian, graphic designer, photographer, lecturer and visual artist. A co-founder of Tuck-Hinton Architecture & Design, this Renaissance man is responsible for some of the area’s most exceptional structures. He served as lead designer of Nashville's Bicentennial Capitol Mall, and his projects include the Vanderbilt University Undergraduate Admissions building, Tennessee World War II Memorial, Civil Rights Room in the Nashville Public Library, TSU Campus Center, Cumberland Valley Girl Scout Center and noteworthy private residences. After passing ownership of the firm to the next generation, Kem is not slowing down. Under the name Kem Hinton Design, he is the lead designer of multiple upcoming projects — notably Tennessee State Library and Archives, Tennessee Gulf War Memorial, Wings of Liberty Museum at Fort Campbell and Votes for Women Room at the Nashville Public Library.

Name: Kem Hinton

Profession/Title: Architect

Hometown: Born in Nashville, raised in Murfreesboro

Zip code: 37221

Number of years in Nashville: 42

Weight of granite globe in Tennessee World War II Memorial: 8 tons

What’s one of the first buildings you designed in Nashville? Renovation/expansion of Deepwood, for Connie and Tom Cigarran. This white International Style house was designed in 1936 by the preeminent architect Edwin Keeble. He later designed Nashville’s finest skyscraper, the L&C Tower.

What’s an interesting fact most people don’t know about Bicentennial Mall? Not a fact, but hilarious: the idea promoted by "historian" William Henry that the mall was inspired by — and is a copy of — the mythic Hindu temple Mount Meru.I’m not making this up.

What’s your favorite historic building in Nashville? The Parthenon. Incredible.

As a LEED accredited professional, what do you feel is the greatest challenge when it comes to designing for environmental sustainability?Receiving the full commitment of the client(s) to do the right thing

Who or what inspires you?The memory of my parents Nora and T. Earl Hinton 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? From architect Robert Venturi in 1981: “Keep original or keep thinking until it is. ... Be careful with your ideas; some may be stolen. ... Speak for the little guy ... and honor the past while striving for the future. More is not less.”

When you have out-of-town guests visiting, where do you take them? Frist Art Museum, Country Music Hall of Fame, State Capitol, Tennessee World War II Memorial and big granite map at the mall and then Centennial Park 

What’s your favorite place to go for dinner?Any place run by Tom Morales

Where do you like to go for cocktails?Any place with Robert Hicks, Bill King or Keel Hunt

What’s your favorite local event? Symphony and rock concerts. The recent “Get the Led Out” at War Memorial Auditorium was fabulous!

What’s the best place in town to bike, hike or picnic?Warner Parks

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Designer of futuristic cars

What three people would you love to have as guests at a dinner party? Elon Musk, Denise Scott Brown and Henry Louis Gates Jr.

What’s the one thing you hope never changes in Nashville? The city’s appreciation of its past and a commitment to preserve its historic structures, places and landscapes.