Soundwaves at Gaylord Opryland (Nashville Waterpark)

The project is a contemporary indoor/ outdoor water park at a large convention center and hotel. The client wanted to strengthen their appeal to the family and leisure market by adding a first of its kind waterpark facility to supplement the hotel occupancy that is driven by their convention business. At the same time, they were concerned that a traditional water park had the potential to lower the perceived quality of their very valuable asset, so they wanted a product unlike any other in the market

Design Challenge

One of the goals was to create a water park that would appeal to adults. Every other water park in the US is geared toward children, but having a water park that was sophisticated and beautiful would appeal to a larger audience, be an exciting differentiator and be an asset, rather than a detraction to the client’s core business. Careful attention was paid to every design choice because the industry standard approach would have resulted in the industry standard product. Sculptural walls and forms with waterfalls, natural wood and lush landscape, highlighted by the daylight streaming in became the vocabulary for the interior environment. The chlorides in the water features create an indoor atmosphere that is harsher on materials than that of a coastal environment. The mechanical system was also designed to minimize guests’ exposure to chlorides. Air is pushed across the water surfaces to move the chloride laden air into large return plenums to immediately filter it, increasing the comfort level of guests. Glulam wood beams were used as the main structural members in lieu of steel for their resistance to corrosion. They provided the added benefit of adding warmth to the space. ETFE pillows were used instead of glass skylights because it results in a much lighter roof system, requiring less structural material to support it. The three-layered construction of these pillows, organized in 100’ long panels allow it to act as an independent structural diaphragm while still allowing natural daylight inside for the landscape and guest experience.

Physical Context

The water park is located inside the largest, non-gaming hotel in the United States, known for its lush, daylight filled glass covered atriums. That context was used to establish the vocabulary of the water park architecture. Vertical green walls were introduced to recall the lush landscaping in the rest of the hotel. Not only did they create a beautiful and memorable environment, they did it without taking up precious floor space. They were positioned throughout the water park and used to conceal the typically unattractive elements, like the slide tower stair. Much of the overall planning and the compactness of the water park was due to the location of a blue line stream, on the northern edge of the site. The piece of property available for the water park was much larger than what was ultimately used. The goal of preserving this stream led to the unique, three-level arrangement. The vertical stacking of the three levels was used to create spaces for active play, areas for younger children and ultimately, at the top, a perch with an adult only bar, pool and outdoor terrace. The three-level design also allowed for the interweaving of the water features, the ability for guests to have unique vantage points of the whole facility and the creation of smaller sub-spaces, each with their own personality.