21c Museum Hotels has debuted its seventh art-centric property, in Nashville. The boutique brand has transformed the historic Gray & Dudley Building near Printer’s Alley in the city’s downtown into a 124-key hotel, which features 10,500 sq. ft. of contemporary art exhibition space and a locally inspired restaurant helmed by chef Levon Wallace.
New York-based Deborah Berke Partners—which was recently named the winner of the interior design category in Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s 2017 National Design Awards—redesigned the six-story building, preserving its early 1900s elements while creating a versatile new platform for exhibiting works. The project marks the firm’s seventh collaboration with 21c Museum Hotels, as well as its fourth collaboration with Pittsburgh-based executive architect, Perfido Weiskopf Wagstaff + Goettel. R.C. Mathews Contractor served as the hotel’s construction manager.
“We have had our sights set on Nashville for quite some time, and are excited to bring 21c to Music City,” says Steve Wilson, who co-founded 21c Museum Hotels with Laura Lee Brown. “With such a robust and exciting art and music scene, we felt the destination matched perfectly with our brand ethos, and we look forward to contributing to the area’s thriving cultural landscape.”
Erected in 1900, the building was first home to a wholesale hardware company. It showcases large arched windows, a masonry façade with terra cotta accents and a cornice at the roofline. The hotel’s entry on 2nd Avenue leads into a lobby gallery with historic cast-iron columns, a reception area, a boutique gift shop that doubles as a lounge, and a video gallery designed to showcase new media and digital art. The space also overlooks the double-height main gallery on the lower level.
Public restrooms feature mirrored tiles enveloping a video art installation. A gallery corridor leads to the Gray & Dudley restaurant, whose east dining room and lounge space features double-height ceilings grounded by a custom wood and blackened steel bar with copper and zinc accents. That venue’s west dining room imbues a more intimate feel with marble accents and soft materials. Large metal windows overlook Banker’s Alley, which features an outdoor dining area with custom catenary lighting. Two additional private dining rooms are also on tap.
A blackened-steel staircase with perforated-metal risers and leather-wrapped hand rails connects the public floors from the lower-level main gallery, up to the ground floor, and beyond to the gallery and meeting space on the second floor. That latter level is comprised of more gallery space, with works featured throughout an extended corridor that branches into separate rooms, each of which doubles as meeting and event space.
The hotel’s accommodations showcase wood floors and high ceilings, custom furnishings, expansive windows and floor-to-ceiling drapery. Three newly built light wells bring illumination into the core of the building, including the guest rooms facing its interior.
The property is also home to seven rooftop suites. The penthouse-level 21c Suite, which overlooks the Cumberland River and surrounding historic district, features apartment-style accommodations with more than 1,700 sq. ft. of indoor/outdoor space, including a master bedroom with a king bed, an en suite bathroom with a soaking tub and glass-enclosed shower, a separate powder room and an open-concept living and dining area with a folding glass wall.
As part of the brand ethos, 21c Nashville showcases rotating solo and group exhibitions, site-specific installations and a roster of cultural programming curated by museum director and chief curator Alice Gray Stites.
Among the 21c-commissioned site-specific installations are multimedia works that draw on such themes as technology, pop culture and the environment throughout the hotel’s public and private spaces. That series includes electronic artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s “Bilateral Time Slicer Intermix, 2017,” which uses facial recognition software to record an image of each viewer who passes by a screen. The image is then cut in half and spliced with images of other visitors, in a shifting kaleidoscope of hybrid portraits, which will also appear on screens in the public restrooms. Immersive works by artists Sebastiaan Bremer, Yung Jake and Adrian Grenier can be found in the guest suites and incorporate sound installations, photographs, videos and large-scale paintings.