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EPCOT – Walt Disney’s Radical design for an ‘Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow’

 

Disney had visionary ideas for an urban fabric that would spur development in the USA. He was apprehensive about how urban sprawl was affecting the dynamism of American cities. Walt Disney’s response to American cities’ decline was the “EPCOT.” 

EPCOT, which translates for “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow,” was to be more than just a theme park; according to Walt Disney, it would be “the development of a living blueprint for the future” unlike “somewhere else in the world” — a brand-new city created from nothing. 

A utopian city’s underlying design can be found beneath the geodesic sphere representing Spaceship Earth and the exhibit of various cultures that make up Disney World’s EPCOT. Walt Disney’s final ambitious undertaking was the original EPCOT, a neighborhood centered on innovation. Millions of people have visited Epcot since it opened, making it famous for its geodesic sphere, the Spaceship Earth, and its celebration of various world cultures. 

Walt Disney’s E.P.C.O.T. Film (1996) 

Walt Disney released a movie on October 26, 1966, which resonated with the American modernist movement and detailed his ideas for a futuristic prototype metropolis. His vision for a modern, environmentally friendly society in the USA was realized through EPCOT. The initiative would combine Disney’s ground-breaking ideas for urban planning and re-examine how American communities may grow in a planned way. Disney was adamant that urban problems were the most important challenges facing civilization. 

The most insightful look into Walt’s ideas can still be found in a compelling 25-minute movie created by Walt Disney Enterprises. 

Walt Disney’s E.P.C.O.T. film (1996) contained information about what would happen to the 27,400 acres, or 43 square miles, of central Florida that Disney had purchased. 

Video Source: The Original EPCOT

He remarked how the key was the availability of land, echoing the language of early American settlers. His first theme park, Disneyland, in Anaheim, California, opened in 1955 but had since been encroached upon by brisk suburban expansion. Here he would accomplish everything that could not be done elsewhere. He boasted that the property on which Disney World will be developed was five times larger than Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom and twice the size of the island of Manhattan. 

Disney’s EPCOT Dream – A Sustainable City for the Future 

Walt wanted to use his wealth of planning experience from undertaking such projects as Disneyland, the California Institute of the Arts, and others to leave an eternal legacy. He felt that contemporary cities were “hectic, unorganised, unclean, and crime-ridden,” and was concerned that they were in a condition of decline. Walt Disney passed suddenly in December of that year after spending the last few months of his life working tirelessly on the urban planning project. He passed away along with the original plan for EPCOT. 

The ideas of New Urbanism, including as walkability, connectivity, smart transportation, sustainability, and quality of life, weren’t created until much later than the philosophy behind EPCOT. In response to urban sprawl brought on by communities built for automobiles, the USA-born movement was created in the early 1980s, and Disney shared this view. He advocated a mixed-use town centre, higher densities, and compact living in his New Urbanist theory, which did away with the necessity for automobiles. Many important urban planners and intellectuals have had an impact on the design of the futuristic metropolis. Disney used the concepts from the book The Heart of Our Cities, which was discovered on his bookshelves, in his creations. The first suburban retail mall was designed by Victor Gruen in the 1950s, an innovative era for urban planning. 

The “cellular metropolis,” would consist of a suburb separated into smaller community “cells” that would surround a central indoor commercial mall. A vital community centre would be created by surrounding the busy core with residences and office buildings. With its central business district surrounded by high-density buildings, EPCOT closely resembles the cellular metropolis model. 

EPCOT – A People Centered Radical Design

EPCOT

The original concept for EPCOT was a radially planned city with a 50-acre domed megastructure. The circumference would house people in high-density apartments and single-family homes. A web of electric monorails and PeopleMovers connected the urban and suburban areas, traversing a greenbelt in the process. The climate-controlled centre would house international corporations, a convention centre, and a 30-story cosmopolitan hotel, while the downtown would feature a weather-protected zone of themed shops. 

A ring of high-rise residential structures would be nearby where Epcot’s lower paid employees may dwell. The low-density, cul-de-sac neighbourhoods that would house the majority of the population would be beyond this downtown centre, which would be surrounded by a park belt and recreational zone. It wasn’t going to be a retirement community, and there wouldn’t be any unemployment. 

The hotel’s steeple-like shape would tower over the city, both as a landmark and a hub of activities. There would be a network of roadways for electric trucks and automobiles running underneath the structures. Maintaining Eyes on the Street with balconies and terraces above, the ground-level streets would be framed by human-scaled structures made to inspire and amuse strollers. With schools, churches, and recreation areas scattered across it, the greenbelt would act as the city’s main park. 

EPCOT was a fairly sustainable design and quite ahead of its time. The compact city was made up of a collection of destination nodes connected by an efficient electronic train system, rendering personal vehicles unnecessary. The greenbelts, which were planned with abundance of open space, would encourage the establishment of a variety of flora and fauna. The centre adhered to the best practises for intended density, diversity, and transit-oriented development. 

The human-scaled community prioritises innovative transportation, intelligently planned green neighbourhoods, high-density housing, and a complete partition of commercial, entertainment, and residential areas. 

Disney’s EPCOT Design – An Inspiration for Urban Planners & Designers  

Despite the fact that the original EPCOT was never constructed, the theme park constantly serves as an inspiration for urban planners and designers. Disney’s straightforward yet effective “people-centered” urban planning strategy produces enduring settings that transcend cultures and age groups. Disney’s main goal, in both his films and theme parks, was to make people happy. The lost EPCOT model serves as a reminder that cities should be developed with care for their inhabitants in order to be “the happiest place(s) on Earth.” 

Disney’s utopian philosophy is still relevant today. Marc Lore, a former Walmart CEO, wants to create Telosa, a city with a population of 5 million, in a desert in the United States. Blockchains LLC wants to create a self-governing “SMART CITY” in Nevada. 

A dream community of 20,000 people living in neighbourhoods that serve as both a showcase of commercial and civic creativity and an ongoing experiment in planning, building design, management, and governance would be one of Disney’s Epcot’s legacy design features.  

Disney elaborated on their intentions for the upgrades to Epcot on August 25, 2019, at the 2019 D23 Expo. The division of Future World into three zones (World Celebration, World Discovery, and World Nature), with World Showcase continuing as the fourth, was one of the most major alterations that were revealed. This resulted in the development of four different “neighbourhoods.” The name was first stylized as “EPCOT” by The Walt Disney Company as a tribute to both the park’s original name and Walt Disney’s early version. 

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