Telling the stories of D|AAD.

A Glimpse into Building a Custom Experiential Hotel

You can find the original article here.


Noelle, an experiential hotel opening in downtown Nashville later this year, is returning to its original prestige, having once been the location of Noel Place, a luxury hotel dating back to 1929. Rockbridge, an investment platform in Columbus, Ohio, and Makeready, the Dallas-based hospitality development firm, who are partnering to lead the project, have engaged local talent throughout the hotel's ecosystem. From the architecture firm responsible for the design to the makers tapped to create art, furniture and textiles, the project showcases the best ofNashville's creative community.

The result is a multi-faceted venture that features unique takes on traditional amenities. These include a restaurant, Makeready Libations & Liberation; a boutique, Keep Shop; and a café, Drug Store Coffee. Guests and visitors will also be pleased to discover unexpected initiatives like Little Prints, a retail store with a working printing press to be operated by local artist Bryce McCloud, who will serve as curator of Noelle's robust visual art program highlighting Nashville artists.

Here, two members of the Noelle team reflect on the hallmarks of the progressive initiative, while honoring its history. Learn more about the groundbreaking hotel by visiting and on Instagram at noelle_nashville.


How was the location for Noelle selected?

Christine Magrann, COO, Makeready: The building itself was an important influence. We felt a connection with the rich history of Noel Place and recognized an opportunity to celebrate the heritage of the building while layering in modern design influ­ences to create a platform for a brand that will simulta­neously pay homage to the city's history and push its narrative forward. 

The project tapped primarily Nashville natives or locals – was this purposeful?

C.M.: As we create a venue that's a gathering place for the city's most interesting voices and makers, we have been thoughtful to promote and champion their brands alongside our own. We want to create a brand that's more than the sum of its parts. Noelle will bring people together by showing them warmth and richness that one experiences when people treat others thoughtfully and with care, and what happens when creativity is given a home in which to grow. 


There's a resounding sentiment of community within in the city. How is this realized in Noelle?

Libby Callaway, cre­ative consultant, The Callaway: As Nashville grows, there has been a major movement toward preservation, not only of our historic structures and traditions, but of how we as residents interact with each other. Changes in local geography coupled with the isolating nature of technology mean that there are fewer chances for us to have personal interactions. Noelle was designed to appeal to both solace-seekers and those who want to connect. Every one of the 12 stories offers visitors opportunities to interact, like seating areas in the rooftop bar, Rare Bird, and in the Trade Room on the first level to the water centers located on every guest floor hallway, which we expect will create an additional opportunity for guests to encounter their neighbors as they fill their room's carafes with still or sparkling water. We're also planning creative programming designed to bring the Nashville community back to Noelle repeatedly. We want them to think of it as a warm gathering place that's welcoming to all.

Nashville is increasingly becoming a destination for coastal ex-pats, what's drawing them to the city (and why now?)

 L.C.: Space. And by this I mean room to spread out physically, of course, but also to expand creatively. New York and Los Angeles have become expensive places to do business, especially for artists. Thanks to its relative affordability, Nashville offers a strong alternative to the coasts. The music business has provided our city with its longtime identity as a safe haven for creatives – of all types. Over the last few decades, the definition of a Nashville artist has expanded to include more than just musicians: we have visual artists, chefs, dancers, writers, fashion designers, and makers of all kinds. People aren't just moving to Nashville to write songs; they're coming to design clothes and choreograph ballets and open restaurants.

 Beyond that, I think people are coming to Nashville because they want something different. The buzz we've gotten lately in the press has been incredible, so a lot of people want to see "It City" for themselves. The clincher is a visit. And people come to satisfy their curiosity, more times than not they're charmed by Nashville's cultural offerings and our daily existence, which for a healthy part of the population is dedicated to creating – making art, building community, or both simultaneously.


How will guests of Noelle enjoy an exclusive experience of the city?

 L.C.: Noelle offers guests a singular opportunity to experience the Nashville that locals know. From the start, the hotel's mission has been to honor the city's past while spotlighting the creative best of its present. The hotel team is doing this in all areas of the physical hotel and through its amenities, whether we're working with local artisans to preserve the architecture of the original hotel, Noel Place; contracting local artists and makers to produce exclusive products for our store, Keep Shop; sourcing food from local vendors for the main restaurant, Makeready Libations & Liberation; or installing a working press as an homage to the namesake industry that once dominated Printer's Alley, the historic district that runs along the back of our building. 

Additionally, Noelle will publish an in-house newspaper three times a year that highlights the parallels between Nashville's history and its present by profiling the people who have shaped or are shaping our culture, whether through creative, business or civic leadership. The team is paying special attention to the historical and cultural topography of Nashville with maps and other imagery. In that way, the paper will give visitors a chance to experience a city that they're not going to find in a typical guidebook, yet that's right outside Noelle's front door.

 It's apparent that Nashville creatives are never far from acknowledging the city's roots and history – what in this project recognizes this?

 Nick Dryden, architect and owner, Dryden Architecture & Design (DAAD): The overriding design narrative for Noelle is a reflective approach to the original Noel Place's contribution to Nashville's downtown history.  Reinventing a 1930s hotel with a rich collective of Nashville's most creative partners including designers, architects, artists, musicians, writers, curators and storytellers is a provocative approach to place-making and a galvanizing effort to offer visitors to Nashville a home to engage locals in authentic dialogue with our city's history and what is happening now.  

There's a tension between the fear of over-development and new, creative progressions. Where does Noelle lie in this and how does it strike this balance?

 N.D.: I think it's important to understand a place's history and a city's patterns of development. It is essential to respect a built environment's fabric and the stories that shape a community.  Now is an important time for Nashville during this cycle of growth to find a balance of adding new layers to the bedrock of place. Design and narrative will continue to play a big part of maintaining a healthy flora within the Nashville community and we feel Noelle is a narrative that will show how this can be done sustainably.  


Noelle hotel guest suite.

Noelle hotel guest suite.

Article and photo credit: WWD

Noelle Release

We are proud to share this exciting project that we have been working on for the past two years that was recently officially announced.  

We were hired to lead the design team and produce a unique experience for this hotel concept in Nashville.  We also have been responsible for enlisting a rare local team of creative partners, including art programing curation, local food and beverage partners, branding, PR, furniture fabrication, textile design,  etc.  Every detail inside this project and each part of a guest’s experience will be the result of a collection of DAAD’s most valued creatives in the Nashville community.   A truly fine-tuned design process and complete localized experience.  We can’t wait to share the final product.


Nick Dryden



Being the only non-designer in an award winning design firm, it is easy to be inspired by the people and the projects in our office every day.  I often find myself peeking over the shoulders of everyone here to see what they are working on, whether it is a new house or new design element in one of our hospitality projects; there are endless opportunities here for me to find great inspiration.


In looking outside our office for inspiration, I recently found the blog of someone I know well and think quite highly of -- Laura Jenkins.  We both grew up in Cleveland TN. She is the youngest sister in a great family that I have been fortunate to have as friends for many years. It is easy to be inspired by Laura's personal story; she defeated leukemia while she was still in elementary school.  Now I find even more inspiration in her brilliant work that she is sharing with all of us.


Please check it out here-


An entry from Laura's blog.

An entry from Laura's blog.

An entry from Laura's blog.

An entry from Laura's blog.

Thanks to Chris Hilton at D|AAD for contributing this post. 

95 Years of Architecture in Tennessee

95 Years of Architecture in Tennessee (and counting) - 1922 - 2017 (present)


My grandfather, Allen N. Dryden, Sr.  was born May 26, 1895, in Chicago, Illinois. From an early age he showed a stunning aptitude for both art and music and when the time came, there was no doubt where he would direct his scholastic energies. He attended The Art Institute of Chicago in pursuit of a degree in Fine Art. He then went on to study Architecture under Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright.  In 1917, in his final year at The Armour Institute, Dryden won the international Rome Prize (considered the most coveted prize offered a senior architectural student), offering him the opportunity to study abroad. However, World War I was raging and he wasn’t able to travel overseas. That same year, looking for a way out of Chicago for the summer, Dryden connected with a classmate from East Tennessee and decided to visit him.  While there, he fell in love with the landscape and sensed the opportunity to be a part of building the blossoming town of Kingsport, Tennessee.


Re-chartered in 1917, Kingsport was an early example of a "garden city." Part of it was designed by city planner and landscape architect John Nolen of Cambridge, Massachusetts. On his first visit to Kingsport, Nolen “found a wasteland, temporary town laid out grid fashion in contrast to some of the most verdant countryside he had ever seen.” He was impressed by the “unspoiled natural beauty” of the area. It was nicknamed the Model City from Nolen’s vision, which organized the town into areas for commerce, churches, housing and industry.  Most of the land on the river was devoted to industry. The Long Island is now occupied by Eastman Chemical Company, originally established by George Eastman as Eastman Kodak. As part of this plan, Kingsport built some of the earliest traffic circles (roundabouts) in the United States.


Kingsport began as a railroad nucleus and grew to an industrial town of 35,000.  The Kingsport Improvement Company was the overseer of the master plan.  Major building materials were locally sourced:  Corning Glass Works made the Pyrex glass from native sand from the river valley basin and local forest products were used for a majority of the early buildings built in the region.


Needing work after leaving Chicago in 1917, Dryden joined D.R. Beeson Architecture. It was while he was there that he caught the eye of Kingsport’s founder, J. Fred Johnson.  Johnson handpicked Dryden as “Kingsport’s architect” in residence. Dryden went on to set the standard for quality while designing a record number of houses and civic buildings rounding out the core of the city town center.  

In 1922, Johnson promised Dryden the Kingsport architectural business and it was then that he opened the office of Allen Dryden Architects.  For the next 50 years,  Dryden designed and produced hundreds of diverse buildings, including some of the regions most important structures; churches, residences, civic buildings and schools.


Some of the most notable buildings included Kingsport’s Civic Auditorium and Armory. With a seating capacity of 2,032, the arched-dome design was reportedly the only one its kind in TN and one of only three in the South at the time.  

Allandale (the “White House of Kingsport”) was built for residents Mr. and Mrs. Brooks around 1949. It is an Antebellum mansion and a classic example of Georgian Architecture.  


Signatures of Dryden’s architectural design include a variety of elements such as Tudor half-timbers, Roman loggias and American colonial boxes. He is credited for a dozens of Kingsport’s Tudor houses (and no two of these residences are alike). He believed in individualizing homes with personal touches, like monograms on chimneys and cut-out symbols on shutters. He also varied front entrances and boasted that of all his colonials, no two fronts were the same. Other of signatures included: protruding flues, copings and chimney pots. His houses had a sense of loftiness, as well. Vertical columns, pilasters and brick patterns contribute to his flawless proportion. He was also a master colorist and displayed an extreme sensitivity to it, preferring muted colors, citing that a home should be a refuge. Understanding ladies’ desire to have tea functions, Dryden’s traditional design consisted of a large central hall connecting the formal dining room and living room off which was a solarium and including a spacious kitchen and butler’s pantry.


Work of Architect Allen N. Dryden, Sr. in Kingsport, TN


A perfectionist, Dryden was known for having his red grease pencil on hand which he used on plans and walls alike. He was not beyond making an X on the wall of a construction site, so that an error must be remedied by tearing down and beginning again. 


Upon his passing in 1970, the Board of Directors of Kingsport Federal Savings and Loan Company (on which Dryden served) stated: “Numerous monuments of beautiful, artistic and functional homes, churches, schools and other outstanding buildings are true examples of [Dryden’s] devoted life. He truly was a master architect.”


Dryden’s son, Allen N. Dryden, Jr.  starting working for his father in 1950 as a “studio rat”.  He was put to work at an early age and naturally stepped into his father’s path.  Allen graduated from high school in 1955 and attended Georgia Tech Architecture School, graduating in 1960.  After working for a couple of architecture firms in Atlanta, GA, he returned to Kingsport to slowly take over the reins of a growing practice his father had built.  Allen N. Dryden, Jr. was inspired by a more modern hand but with a similar affinity of craft as his father.  As a young architect during the JFK era, he brought to the firm an affinity for modernism. During his time in Atlanta he was influenced by the early work of John Portman, but had the foundation of classical architecture from his father’s early work.


The work Allen focused on over the next couple of decades included Mason-Dixon Lines, Inc. and Crown Enterprises. He also continued civic work with the City of Kingsport, as well as with schools, churches, universities and healthcare facilities.  Dryden, Jr. also continued his father’s passion of designing private residences throughout the region, along with progressive residential communities like Crown Colony, a community inspired by Charles Moore’s Sea Ranch in California.


I was born along with my twin brother, Allen, on May 26, 1972 (the day my grandfather, Allen N. Dryden Sr. was born).  At an early age, I could be found following my dad to his office after school and on the weekends.  It was not uncommon to find me on a jobsite with my dad, wanting to learn everything I possibly could about building and design.


I entered Architecture School at The University of Tennessee (UT) in 1990, and incorporated everything I had learned from growing up in a small town deeply steeped in Urban Planning and fine-grain Architecture and design.  I studied in Eastern Europe for a semester and after graduating, worked as an assistant for UT’s School of Architecture in developing an urban design studio based in Kingsport, created to teach the groundwork that Nolen had started for the Model City, as well as the work that my grandfather and father created through their practice. Needless to say, I was profoundly inspired.


Though my work post graduation, I was exposed to Nashville, Tennessee, and could see the city was on the verge of reinvention. In 1996, I moved to Nashville to begin my own career.  I worked for EOA Architects for 5 years and was given many exciting opportunities, including churches, schools, civic projects, urban planning and residences.  It was an invaluable experience. In 2002, I started my own practice, as it was hard to not see myself doing the same work that my father and grandfather had done before me.  Their influence was profound for me and continues to be a source of both practical and intellectual inspiration. 


In 2017,  Dryden Architecture and Design (DAAD)  celebrated its 15 year anniversary. DAAD is an award-winning architecture and interior design studio based in Nashville, Tennessee, established in 2001. We are dedicated to making meaningful human places that mindfully engage local resources and operate simultaneously as habitat and create a lasting memory. In many ways, our firm has continued the same work started by my grandfather in 1922.


DAAD has completed a diversity of project types, ranging from neighborhood master- plans, mixed-use developments, adaptive reuse projects, private residences, boutique retail, restaurants and corporate offices. We have focused on projects that have significantly impacted neighborhoods and we help to contribute to a healthy flora of the communities we work within, at all levels.


Architecture requires an incredible sense of dedication and creativity. My father just celebrated his 80th birthday and continues to do the work he loves.  My son Emmett and my daughter Julia are already showing a familiar interest in ‘making’. 

95 years is a long time, and I hope that I can continue the same bridge that my father built for me to connect to my grandfather’s foundation and extend that to my own children, far into the future.



Nick Dryden



Drawing from 1926, for the house shown above, by Allen N. Dryden, Sr.

Drawing from 1926, for the house shown above, by Allen N. Dryden, Sr.

Drawing from 1926, for the house shown above, by Allen N. Dryden, Sr.

Drawing from 1926, for the house shown above, by Allen N. Dryden, Sr.

Drawing from 1926, for the house shown above, by Allen N. Dryden, Sr.

Drawing from 1926, for the house shown above, by Allen N. Dryden, Sr.


DAAD team members attended Street Fight, an event hosted by Nashville Civic Design Center on April 6, 2017 at the Music City Center. Janette Sadie-Kahn, a former transit commissioner of New York City, was the speaker that inspired designers, developers, and other movers and shakers who attended to think about what a pedestrian oriented  city could mean for Nashvillains.


Street Fight book Nashville


Nashville is growing, with people moving to the city every day. We can only expand the infrastructure so much, which means we must learn how to use our roads for greener and more collective modes of transportation. One of the ways Nashville is taking steps towards the future is by proposing 82 bike lanes across the city. 


Improving the pedestrian landscape of the city improves the quality of life for all citizens in addition to the environmental benefits. Pedestrian-focused design can improve the economy, safety, and spirit of the community.  A more walkable city will be better for business, as New York City saw 50% increase in sales along bus and bike lane corridors after implementing transit improvements.  With Vision Zero (a plan to eliminate roadway fatalities and injuries) being accepted in Nashville, we will be safer.  Also, city improvement isn't just about improving transportation but providing public art, where artists make murals, sculptures, or interactive works. This improves our interaction with our city and each other, allowing any facade or space to be a destination.


As Sadik-Kahn said at the presentation, "It isn't a question of engineering but imagination." We have all the tools we need to get this into action. Be bold, Nashville, and let's get creative!





Thanks to Amy Hardin at D|AAD for contributing this post.