The Rest Is History
Monday, September 29th, 2014
Text by Amanda Koellner
Photo by Patrick Williams of PWP Studio
Featured Company: A13 Architects
Location: Nashville, TN
Project Type: Hotel
Project Name: Hotel Indigo Nashville
When Winston Hospitality charged AI3 Architects with developing a “neighborhood story” to guide the design of the new Hotel Indigo on the world-famous Printer’s Alley, principal Lucy Aiken-Johnson and her team couldn’t have foreseen the narrative at their fingertips. Unfamiliar with Nashville, they learned of the city’s rich printing history, tales of 1800s speakeasies filled with the city’s “movers and shakers,” and the BYOB culture of prohibition. Full of new knowledge, the team set out to embrace the local fabric and celebrate the inherent beauty and details of their historic blank canvas of a building with- out using a theme or playing up the location’s history as a bank in a too-discernable way. Aiken-Johnson shares with us the inspiration and thought behind the design.
Design Bureau: What else did the AI3 team learn about the city during this project?
Lucy Aiken-Johnson: Had country music not come to Nashville, the city would have become the printing capital of the world, as it was home to more than 36 printers and publishers located on Printer’s Alley.
DB: How did you incorporate the area’s history into the hotel’s design?
LAJ: We created a finish palette and design details that would accentuate the dramatic windows and highlight the two-story view of Printer’s Alley—our conversation piece for the staff and guests. Throughout the lobby, restaurant, and guest rooms, we referenced printing machines and block-printing techniques to share the history. The dramatic backdrop of the guest-services desk is created by custom, large-scale wood-letter blocks, which are designed to emulate the printing block letters once used by the many printers located on Printer’s Alley. Large-scale images of printing machines create vibrant wall murals throughout the hotel, and bold fabric and custom carpet patterns were created to emulate printed textiles.
DB: What about the hotel’s bar area?
LAJ: To create the cozy, intimate environment for the bar and lounge, we drew inspiration from the 1800s phase of Printer’s Alley, which became a speakeasy for a mix of locals including businessmen and politicians. The Men’s District created a place that everyone wanted to frequent, and BYOB advertisements allowed patrons to bring tightly wrapped beverages in brown paper bags to sit on the back bar with their names written on them, now showcased in an art installation on the back bar.