I’ve had this in mind to talk about all weekend, and just didn’t get a chance to sit down and write it. This isn’t something in which I really plan on complaining about Disney’s lack of, well, anything really in regards to current Epcot. It’s not really something that they probably have put a lot of thought into, it’s fairly static. There is a little complaining of course, not everything is rosy, but overall not much.
Today I want to talk a little about the overall aesthetic of the park. The design of the buildings, the walkways, the greenspaces, the water, just about everything. I’m going to steal pictures from online to show some things, if you notice some watermarks on the pictures, just remember to visit their lovely sites as well. I’ve not had time to dig deeply through my childhood pictures to look for photos of my own (which I will be doing at some point), so theft is my main option here. There are likely going to be a lot of pictures in today’s post.
For a discussion on the overall design of the park, I’ll admit that I’m skipping over some of the genesis of what the park was when it started on Walt Disney’s watch. The park that was once his brainchild was vastly different than what opened on Oct 1st 1982. I think comparing this over time is just not very relevant, though I’m sure many people have, and maybe someday I will myself.
I’ll also likely skip over some of the early versions of the park that were modified over time as the designers worked to take Walt’s vision and turn it into something that would work as a theme park. I likely will cover some of this later as well when I get to talking about a major change I’d love to see made in World Showcase. It is such an interesting thought that the designers originally had World Showcase as the entrance, with Future World sitting in the back of the park, working your way narratively from present to future. The design changed multiple times over the years to eventually reverse it to what we know now with Future World being the main entrance. The model below shows a middle-point, with Future World in front, but the American pavilion serving as the grand entryway to World Showcase.
It is though interesting to look at the design of the park that was created and look at where it stands today in comparison.
The original park seemed so unique and original when you first walked up to it’s gates. With the grand geodesic sphere of Spaceship Earth towering over the monorail station, you could see some of the design choices that would echo throughout the entire park. You saw that this park was not going to be themed entertainment like existed previously in Magic Kingdom or Disneyland. No castles, no jungles, not even the rocket ships of Tomorrowland. The World Showcase might be traditionally themed, but Future World was different. From the opening gates, you could see the recurring theme of the long, curved lines, the lighter color palate using silvers and light colored concrete.
The architecture seems to have one foot in the brutalism architecture movement, lots of large cement structures, one foot in modernist architecture, with it’s sweeping curves and vaguely futuristic viewpoint. (Architects take note: I’m not an architect and likely just made a massive hash of different architectural movements, I’m just going off of my vague understanding and quick confirmation on Wiki). There were not many straight lines in early Epcot, everything had interesting angles, curves, waves, and everything had an interesting design that looked different than what most of America would be used to seeing at that point in time.
Even the walking paths were not straight lines, dealing with arcs and waves. The entrance left the ticket booths and brought you in curving paths towards Spaceship Earth. The gateway to Future World. The entrance was not cluttered, plants, grass, trees, water, and the crystal statue all brought us towards the future.
One thing that comes to mind when I think about the design of the buildings within Epcot Center is the scene in Horizons when we first meet our hosts, sitting in their futuristic living room. If you look out the window at the city scene behind them, you’ll see very similar design styles. While their view is upon a “city” and Epcot Center was a set of pavilions, the same angles and curves are present. Horizons was looking into the future, and Epcot Center’s design was as well.
I feel that the design work on Epcot Center was meant to reflect the future that the designers saw coming. With large cement structures, environmental impacts of construction were being lowered, and the light-reflecting colors were looking for methods to reduce the environmental impact required to cool the large buildings. Lots of light reflecting materials, photovoltaic cells on top of Universe of Energy, greenspaces in between buildings, all of these a vision into the designer’s view of the future.
Over the years, there have been little tweaks to the overall design, but no truly massive changes. The biggest (worst) was the introduction of the odd diamond shaped canopy thing in the middle of Innoventions. Not large enough to truly provide shade, not small enough to block views, it just seemingly doesn’t fit in the location that it is in.
There have been other modifications of course, pathway changes, planters being added/removed, but mostly the general feel of the park remains today when being looked at from the outside. That is aside from the massive crowds of people who are streaming past Future World and only into World Showcase of course.
As I make my way forwards in this Manifesto, I’m going to be working with one design goal in mind. I want to have an overall aesthetic change to Future World, but I don’t plan on making any massive structural changes to existing buildings. Instead, I think that there are many ways that they can be worked with and updated to reflect a new vision of the future, while keeping most major structures intact. Suggesting we reshape the buildings for no real reason at all would be just a giant waste of my non-existent budget.
I do however think that we could make some fairly substantial changes to the visual impact and meaning of the entire Future World section of the park. To bring it forward once again. If Epcot Center was a vision of the future in the late 1970s, we can update the park to a futuristic view of the park from the late 2010s. Next time, I set out the visual direction of the park update.