A Greener Epcot

Earlier this week I spoke a little about the visual design of Epcot Center, it’s once futuristic look and feel that was different than any other theme park in the world at the time.  Since not much has changed in the last 33 years in this respect, an ugly canopy here, an ugly paintjob there, I think that when looking at trying to refocus Future World, it only makes sense to update the look and feel of the area.  A visual change will signal that the park is different.  A change towards the mission statement that will make sure that the message is heard loud and clear by visitors, and hopefully by management as they look to keep the park updated in the future.  Get ready for LOTS of pictures!

In thinking about updating the look and feel of Future World an idea immediately jumped out at me, one that I feel would fit very well with the park itself, and would signal a forward looking vision.  That is the area of Green Architecture.

ACROS Building in Japan - via inhabitat

ACROS Building in Japan - via inhabitat

I’ve done some digging around into this since the idea came to me and I think that it would be a great fit.  When we looked forward from the late 70s, we saw that large interesting buildings and thought that someday our cities might look something like this, at least in an aesthetic sense.  As we look forward today, I feel that using green architecture as a design element will feel the same way.   It shows an Epcot focused on finding real world solutions to global problems.

With the population exponentially growing, and the shifting of that population towards urban areas, not to mention the needed focus on climate change, I feel that we will start to see more nature integrated into city spaces.  It benefits the environment as well as the lives of the individuals that live in those areas.  Research is showing the benefits that nature have on the human psyche.  As more and more people crowd into urban areas, we will need to find ways to continue to have nature present in these cityscapes.

So I think that by choosing a single design focus and having it be one that resonates with people on an emotional level, as well as having a scientific basis, the Future World section of the park will keep a continuity and focus that it currently lacks.

Tree House in Singapore - via Inhabitat

Tree House in Singapore - via Inhabitat

Starting as we enter the park, the Leave a Legacy monoliths need to be removed/moved.  I know that there are contractual obligations to be kept with these pictures, but if I remember right there is nothing specified about the location in the front of the park being required.  We could easily find a place to make a little Legacy Garden with the monuments moved there.

In its place, I would like to see a return to the more simple entrance, but one that incorporates a more natural feel.  I think that landscaping and waterscaping should be both used to create this area.  Instead of a traditional fountain, I think that water should be flowing in this area, stream-esque waterways that break up the concrete paths. 

Flowing Water, not fountains greet us as we enter Epcot

Flowing Water, not fountains greet us as we enter Epcot

There should also be a more urban green parkspace feel to the entrance, bring back the large trees framing Spaceship Earth, but also have smaller green areas as well. 

As you pass under Spaceship Earth, you come to one of the largest projects I’d put into my entire redo of Future World.  As you pass into the area in between the Innoventions building, there would be a large change from what exists currently. 

U.G.L.Y.

U.G.L.Y.

While looking at different urban designs, I came across this proposal from a design studio named Influx Studios, and it was for an “Urban Oasis” in the middle-east.  I feel that this would be a perfect fit to replace the odd triangular canopies.  Instead of a large open pavement area, with a pin trading booth and the time board, if a canopy is desired, then we go with one that is inspirational.  If you look through the pictures, you see that the canopy is only one part of this, what lies underneath is more important than what is above.  Trees, water, landscaping, pathways.  A true oasis area in the center of the park. 

The interior is a lush oasis of both landscaping and water

The interior is a lush oasis of both landscaping and water

Obviously, the shape changes to fit between the buildings

Obviously, the shape changes to fit between the buildings

(note: it would likely be a problem dealing with rain dripping off the canopy, but I think it’s a solvable problem, one that design firms could help mitigate)

This impressive urban oasis section would give a truly stunning focal point for all of Future World.  From there, going out towards each pavilion, I think that we maintain the urban/green approach.  Taking Innoventions buildings as an example, I think that Innoventions West should actually open up it’s rooftop to guests, and on the roof of Innoventions West should be examples of urban rooftop gardening.  Show ways that nature can be integrated with urban areas on large and small scales.

Urban gardening both on a large scale

Urban gardening both on a large scale

And a small scale

And a small scale

Also, a new bistro could be added to the southwest corner of the new open roof system, one with stunning views of the Fountain of Nations as well as World Showcase.  From a purely financial standpoint, think of what they could charge for a meal package to watch Illuminations from the roof of Innoventions.  The bistro should have indoor and outdoor seating options, and provide an upscale bistro style menu, and should also focus on using ingredients gardened in Epcot, both Innoventions roofs and The Land.  I’d want The Garden Grill in the Land to be the real shining star of the Farm-To-Table movement, so the main focus of this bistro should not be this, but it should strive to show that it is possible to use small spaces to grow high-quality food.  I know that not all of the food for a restaurant can be grown on the roof of one pavilion, so it should be about highlighting a few options or ingredients grown there, not an entire menu.

Obviously, we'd need more capacity

Obviously, we'd need more capacity

Epcot could use varying new techniques to try and integrate real-world ideas for urban development into the grounds, like capturing and using rain-water for irrigating the landscape

 

The pavilions itself should try and integrate green architecture into their existing facades as much as possible.  Wonders of Life being an easy one to demonstrate:

Wonders of Life is much larger and should be more spectacular

Wonders of Life is much larger and should be more spectacular

I’d like to see more of the gold “shell” shine through, so I think that an interesting pattern highlighting different plants with the gold interwoven would be a fantastic visual update.

Other pavilions should work with their current building design, integrating plants as applicable.

Examples of this could be something like The Seas.  The Seas pavilion already echos it’s interior with the waves that it’s entrance has both literally (the crashing water) and architecturally (in the building itself).  The building could easily be updated to integrate the plants of a dune ecosystem, painting the exterior a sand color and integrating dune grasses and plants into the exterior of the building.

Another example of something I found online that I love is The Supertree Grove in Singapore.

This would be a great transition in the area between The Land and Imagination.  These supertrees are incredible, covered in a “skin” of hundreds of species of living plants. 

The scale would likely have to be reduced, because a 12 story tall supertree may not fit in this area and overwhelm the pavilions it is meant to connect, but these incredible pieces of living integration between human built structures and the natural world would be perfect in the transition area between Imagination and The Land.  The light effects would be great visuals at night. 

The rest of the pavilions and surrounding areas should be given a re-imagined as well.  The exterior of the Universe of Energy could incorporate many different green energy designs, from algae lamps lighting the way, to various wind collecting technologies.

These would be quite stunning on the Universe of Energy building

These would be quite stunning on the Universe of Energy building

Windpower collecting "trees"

Windpower collecting "trees"

Another layer to this is how much more integrated Future World could/would be in Flower and Garden festival.  You could have a full Epcot festival, incorporating not just World Showcase, but Future World as well, with demonstrations of urban farming / urban gardening / green living techniques.  Future World could become an integral part of the festival, and by focusing on innovating techniques, hold true to the vision of Epcot.

All of these things, plus many more small changes, would truly signal a shift in Epcot.  The park would be stunning, educational, and environmentally conscious.  The techniques used would be a highlight of the park, people would pay to take tours to learn about all of the innovative techniques.  Most importantly, this would once again hold Future World to a clear point of view, a clear mission, reinforced by the very buildings and surroundings, communicated by the updated pavilions inside them, and give a strong feeling of peace and reflection to the entire Future World section of the park.