DESIGN: A walk through WDW’s Tomorrowland – Part 1

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Today we continue our walk through the Magic Kingdom, this time focusing on Tomorrowland. If you like what you see here I invite you to visit SamLand’s Disney Adventures.

For this little trip through Tomorrowland, I want to focus on three things that have captured my imagination. First, I have noticed that the site plan for Tomorrowland is really a modern take on the same plan for Main Street USA. Second, the land has a kinetic energy that is unique in the Magic Kingdom. Finally, I am fascinated by the fact that Tomorrowland is the only land to receive a major makeover in this park.

This trip will take us from small town America in the 1900s to the deepest edge of Space (Mountain that is). Let’s start from the Partners statue in the Hub and turn to the east.

Before we step across that bridge and enter the future, let’s spend a moment and recall the Main Street experience. My hope is that you will also see some of the design and crowd flow patterns repeating.

You get to Main Street USA from the entry plaza by passing through a natural barrier. In this case, it is the berm that holds the railroad tracks. You emerge on the other side in Town Square. Town Square funnels down to the narrow Main Street. Main Street is framed by the buildings and energized by the activity generated by the storefronts. The degree of life is enhanced by the presence of Cinderella Castle at the view terminus. This design pattern is known as a “wienie” in the Disney lexicon. At the end of the corridor is a strong central space with attractions radiating out like the spokes on wheel.

Compare Main Street to Tomorrowland. The gardens on the east side of the Hub are much larger than those on the west side. Unlike the more subtle entries to Liberty Square and Adventureland, Tomorrowland dominates the landscape. The Tomorrowland structures frame the open space much like the buildings on Town Square and this creates a more urban space than what you see on the west side.

You cross over a very wide bridge. The pathway and bridge is the same right-of-way as Main Street sans the sidewalks. Much wider than the paths to the other lands. You have to cross over a natural barrier. In this case, it is the Swan boat moat.

Once you have passed under the ceremonial gateway and over the bridge you enter a narrow corridor of buildings. Instead of storefronts enlivening the space, the constant motion of the TTA buzzing overhead and the odd articulation of the structural materials creates energy. These structural elements also provide much needed shade.

What draws you forward, all the way from the Hub, is the Astro Orbiters flying high above the land. Like Cinderella Castle, this siren call beckons all from the Hub. Once you have made it to the other end of the corridor you end up in a central hub space with attraction radiating out like spokes on a wheel. All of the entryways are oriented toward the TTA platform just like all of the lands are oriented toward the Partners statue.

The reality is this is all about crowd flow. The site plan for Tomorrowland is influenced by Main Street and functions much the same way. Those objectives include creating a strong gateway that establishes that you have passed into a different place (and time). Both lands draw guests through the space by a strong iconic element at the end of a vista. Each land uses the architecture to create corridors that reinforce the significance of the icon at the end of the street. And each land deposits the guest into a large central open space. Once you are in that space you can make choices as to which adventures you wish to pursue.

Each land is different. Adventureland is a winding path that leads to a plaza area. Liberty Square is a large outdoor room. Frontierland is a strip mall facing a river. Main Street and Tomorrowland are the classic corridors. But Tomorrowland has one thing that the other lands don’t – the kinetic motion of a world on the move. More on that later.

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Posted on July 20, 2009

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