The last time I was in Nashville, it was for a Convene Forum program at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention — which is a beautiful property, but so large and well-equipped that during our four-day event I never once left the Gaylord’s sprawling campus to explore the city. Now I’m back in Nashville, for ASAE’s 2014 Annual Meeting & Exposition, but this time the venue is the stunning Music City Center, which opened less than a year ago in downtown Nashville, followed quickly by the equally striking Omni Nashville Hotel directly across the street.
In things like design and technology and development, we usually have the advantage of riding a learning curve that bends toward the light. Through trial and error, use and feedback, things get better, stronger, faster, smarter; and my (entirely personal) sense is that’s what’s happened here in Nashville, where trends such as the revitalization of our downtowns and the growing importance of an aesthetically pleasing natural environment in adult learning have been fully exploited in this game-changing convention venue. Sunlight pours into every corner of Music City Center (even its exhibit halls), there are small and large outdoor terraces throughout the facility where attendees can enjoy an interlude of cool breezes and fresh air, original paintings and sculptures adorn the walls and dangle from the ceilings — and ASAE is making full and smart use of the building, with comfortable open-air spaces on every floor encouraging people to stop, sit, and talk. And work — I’m writing this blog post in ASAE’s Engagement Lounge, in a bright expanse of prefunction space just outside the expo hall. (Important note about the photo above: It’s Tuesday, the morning after some big parties, so the Engagement Lounge is much quieter that it’s been all meeting.)
All of this is a street’s width away from the Omni, a major-league conference hotel and its own stylish triumph — and together the properties sit just a few blocks from Broadway, Nashville’s historic street of honky-tonks, where an irresistible mashup of live music (country, western, blues, rock) pours out the windows pretty much around the clock. I ended up there last night, during on of my patented new-destination walkabouts: dinner sitting at the bar at Rippy’s, a stroll on and around Broadway, ending up on the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge, where I took the photo of Nashville’s skyline that’s at the top of this post. And now a little piece of Music City belongs to me. Kudos to Nashville for making that so easy, and to ASAE for taking full advantage of its destination.