Responses by Christian Helms, founder and creative director, Helms Workshop.
Background: In Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains’ wild, imposing surroundings, the owners of international hospitality destination Blackberry Farm have opened a mountaintop establishment focused on wellness, outdoor adventures and culinary excellence.
Rooms take the form of cabins and cottages designed with nature in mind, places to unplug from the world and reconnect with others and oneself. The hotel’s two restaurants, Firetower and Three Sisters, have breathtaking cinematic views and serve nourishing, inventive creations, employing healthy ingredients, local flavors and worldly culinary techniques.
Design core: When you land on the site, you immediately get a sense of what it feels like to be on the Mountain: the sweeping, epic views; the vast, lush flora and fauna; and the dynamic energy of the landscape. It’s honestly supernatural.
Challenges: One hurdle was logistical. As we were building the site, the owners were finishing Blackberry Mountain on a parallel path. So we were often designing—and sourcing imagery—for structures, areas and restaurants that didn’t yet exist.
New lessons: Building the site came with a host of challenges. The mountain is a rich, immersive experience spread across 5,000 acres of the Great Smoky Mountains—so there was a lot to convey with the site. Beyond that, with a wealth of activities at your fingertips, it’s a choose-your-own-adventure experience. No two guest experiences will be the same. It was a challenge to convey the infinite possibilities for adventure without overwhelming folks or overcomplicating the site.
Navigation structure: We wanted to take advantage of a less traditional navigation structure of the resort and focus a bit more on an experiential presentation that lets visitors feel like they’re exploring the Mountain.