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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Walt Disney’s Revolutionary Approach to a New Kind of City

Since Epcot’s inception, millions of tourists have descended on the theme park famous for its Spaceship Earth geodesic area and celebration of international cultures.

But the encounters visitors to Epcot at Disney World – currently in the midst of its 50th anniversary celebrations – are hardly what Walt Disney imagined.

In 1966, Disney announced its intention to create Epcot, an acronym for “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow”. It was to be not just a theme park, but as Disney put it, “building a living blueprint for the future” – a new city built from scratch – unlike anywhere else in the world.

Disney died later that year; His vision was shortened, and then completely obliterated. But when I was writing my book on urban idealism in America, I was drawn to this planned community.

Since the arrival of the first colonists, Americans have experimented with new patterns of settling. Envisioning new types of places to live is an American tradition, and Disney was a keen participant.

future city

A 25-minute panoramic film produced by Walt Disney Enterprises is Walt’s best window into sight.

In it, Disney—kindly and slowly, as if talking to a group of kids—detailed what would become of the 27,400 acres, or 43 square miles, of central Florida that it acquired.

Echoing the rhetoric of American pioneers, he spoke of how the abundance of land was important. Here he achieved all that could not be done at Disneyland, his first theme park in Anaheim, California, which opened in 1955 and has since been occupied by rapid suburban development. He proudly pointed out that the land on which Disney World would be built was twice the size of Manhattan Island and five times larger than Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom.

Walt Disney announces its ambitious vision for Disney World and Epcot.

Notable components of Disney’s Epcot will be a community of 20,000 residents living in a neighborhood that doubles as a display of industrial and civic ingenuity – an ongoing experiment in planning, building design, management and governance. There will be a 1,000-acre office park to develop new technologies, and when, say, an innovation in refrigerator design is developed, each home at Epcot will be the first to receive the product and test it before it is released to the rest. person will be World.

A concept sketch of the hotel that will greet visitors at Epcot.
wikimedia commons

An airport would enable anyone to fly directly to Disney World, while a “vacation land” would provide resort accommodation for visitors. A central arrivals complex consisted of a 30-story hotel and convention center, with a weather-protected area of ​​city-themed shops.

Epcot’s more modest wage earners will be able to live nearby in a circle of high-rise apartment buildings. And surrounding this downtown area will be a park belt and recreational area, separating the low-density, cul-de-sac neighborhoods that will house the majority of residents. There would be no unemployment, and it was not to be a retirement community.

Disney said, “I don’t believe there is a challenge anywhere in the world that is more important than finding solutions to the problems in our cities.

‘New cities’ abound

During the 1960s, the aspiration to build anew was in the air.

Americans were becoming more concerned about the well-being of the nation’s cities. And they were dissatisfied with the urban renewal effort – and, in particular, the results.

They felt insecure in the face of rising urban poverty, unrest and crime and were frustrated by the increasing traffic congestion. Families continued to move to the suburbs, but planners, opinion leaders and even ordinary citizens raised concerns about consuming so much land for low-density development.

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As a budding environmental movement, sprawl was gaining currency as a derogatory term for poorly planned development. In his popular 1960s ballad “Little Boxes”, Pete Seeger sang “little boxes on the hill/little boxes made of tiki” to criticize the suburbs and outskirts similar to housing out of America’s cities.

An expectation arose that the creation of new cities could be an alternative to unpleasant and unpleasant city neighborhoods and memoryless peripheral subdivisions.

Self-described “town founders”, most of them wealthy businessmen whose ideals rest on real estate success, pioneered America’s New Town movement. As Disney was preparing for its Epcot presentation, the Irvine Company was already deep in the process of developing the old Irvine Ranch’s holdings in Model Town, Irvine, Calif. Today, Irvine has approximately 300,000 residents.

The cows graze on the hill facing the suburban development.
Irvine, California, was built on a farm.
US National Archives and Records Administration

Meanwhile, real estate entrepreneur Robert E. Simon sold Carnegie Hall in New York and, with his earnings, bought 6,700 acres of farmland outside Washington to build Reston, Virginia. Fifty miles away, shopping center developer James Rouse began planning for Columbia, Maryland. And oil industry investors George P. Mitchell, tracking the successes and failures of Rouse and Simon, will soon take advantage of a new federal funding program and begin establishing The Woodlands near Houston, which today has a population of more than 100,000. Is. People.

These new cities hoped to incorporate the vibrancy and diversity of the cities while maintaining the neighborhood intimacy and other attractions associated with smaller towns.

Disney’s Dream Today

However, Disney didn’t want to simply develop the existing suburbs.

He wanted to break down the pre-existing notions of how a city could be built and run. And for all its utopian promise, the genius of Disney’s Epcot was that it all seemed possible, a set of elements commonly found in any modern metropolitan area, but linked in a singular vision and a It is managed by the authority itself.

An important innovation was the disappearance of the automobile. A massive underground system was designed to enable cars to come down, park or buzz the city without being seen. A separate underground layer will accommodate trucks and service works. Residents and visitors will traverse the entire 12-mile length of Disney World and all of its attractions on the high-speed monorail, which is much wider than anything achieved at Disneyland.

In the car-crazy America of the 1960s, this was a truly revolutionary idea.

Given Walt Disney’s great tenacity, it would be fascinating to see how far his vision would have progressed. After his death, some sought to fulfill his plans. But when urged by a Disney designer to pursue Walt’s broader citizen-minded vision, Walt’s brother Roy, who took the reins of the company, replied, “Walt is dead.”

Today, Disney’s utopian spirit is alive and well. You see this in the ambitions of former Walmart executive Mark Lore, a city of 5 million people called “Telosa” in an American desert, and Blockchain LLC’s proposal for a self-governing “smart city” in Nevada.

But more often, you’ll see attempts that delve into nostalgia of an enigmatic past. In fact, Disney Corporation developed a city on one of its Florida land holdings during the 1990s.

Dubbed “Celebration”, it was initially announced as an example of a movement of the century called New Urbanism, which sought to design suburbs in such a way that small American cities: walkable neighborhoods, a city. center of, a range of housing options and less reliance on cars.

However, the festival has no monorail or underground transport network, no focus on technological innovation or policies such as universal employment.

Looks like that kind of city of tomorrow will have to wait.

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This article is republished from – The Conversation – Read the – original article.

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