American excess or architectural ingenuity?

I’m presently attending a large convention in Nashville, Tennessee. The event is being held in a gargantuan venue that calls itself the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center. Now that I’ve had a day to wander around in the place I thought I’d pass along the low-down.

American Excess
Most of me wanted to bemoan this structure as American excess. With waterfalls and boat tours under the expansive atriums it feels a lot more like a theme park than a hotel. Overpriced food in the numerous eateries — including restaurants, cafe’s, corner markets and lounges — only exacerbate that sense.

The resort owns 14 buses, boasts almost 2,900 rooms, has 52 acres under roof (more than the lake covered at the summer camp I grew up attending to) and three atriums. And, actually, Opryland used to be an amusement park immediately south of the resort. The park was torn down and replaced with a mall in the 90s. In the “Delta” a New Orleans-esque Main Street offers trinkets and ice cream. The pillars in the following photograph (from the hotel’s own website) are larger than life and grossly out of proportion.


Architectural Ingenuity
But as much as the whole spiel comes across as significant overkill, as a convention center it seems to work pretty well. Everything is under one roof. I flew into the airport, got on their bus (which wasn’t complimentary, to my surprise) and now that I’m in the resort I don’t have to leave until I head back to the airport. This keeps me from seeing other parts of the city that I might like to — although I don’t really have the desire to go exploring Nashville at this point — but it is, frankly, very convenient. I’m here to network with other people, and this setup facilitates a lot of interaction.

The place is, however, a bit of a maze. Created in multiple phases, learning your way around can be a trick. Personally, I haven’t had any trouble yet, but one of the ladies on the bus from the airport last night had stayed here before and found navigating the many atriums and lobbies frustrating. The driver suggested sticking to the second floor throughout the structure.

So which is it?
In the end, it’s probably a little of both. I’m not sure if the Gaylord intended to become a convention center, which may account for the somewhat chaotic finished product, but it is now and it mostly functions well.


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

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