Learning from theme parks : an argument for experientially focused landscape design

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Learning from theme parks : an argument for experientially focused landscape design
Wooden, Erin
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
University of Colorado Denver
Publication Date:

Thesis/Dissertation Information

Master's ( Master of landscape architecture)
Degree Grantor:
University of Colorado Denver
Degree Divisions:
College of Architecture and Planning, CU Denver
Degree Disciplines:
Landscape architecture
Committee Chair:
Langhorst, Joern
Committee Members:
Komara, Ann
Grabowska, Samantha


Throughout literature on landscape architecture, history, and urban design is the belief that theme parks are overly controlled, frivolous, deceptive, and ultimately inferior design. Many of these critiques neglect to acknowledge the existence of similar styles or goals in historic and contemporary revered landscape projects. These sources also consistently gloss over their immersive qualities, one of the most redeeming aspects of themed landscapes. Currently, within the field of landscape architecture, the individual’s experience of space is frequently secondary to other design features, such as programming and formal arrangement. Theme park designers, demonstrate a strong ability to engage visitors in space by using various techniques of immersion. This text investigates common critiques of themed environments, provides defenses backed by established landscape styles, and looks at the construct of immersion and how it is generated. Ideally, this research can be used by landscape architects to design spaces that focus on the experiential aspects of space, in order to design more engaging and transformative places.

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University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
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Copyright Erin Wooden. Permission granted to University of Colorado Denver to digitize and display this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.


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i LEARNING FROM THEME PARKS: AN ARGUMENT FOR EXPERIENTALLY FOCUSED LANDSCAPE DESIGN by ERIN WOODEN B.S. , Eckerd College, 2009 A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Landscape Architecture Landscape Architecture Program 2018


ii This thesis for the Master of Landscape Architecture degree by Erin Wooden has been approved for the Landscape Architecture Program by Joern Langhors t, Chair Ann Komara Samantha Grabowska Date: May 12 , 2018


iii Wooden, Er in (B.S., Psychology Program ) L earning from Theme Parks : An Argument for Experientially Focused Landscape Design Thesis directed by Associate Professor Joern Langhorst ABSTRACT Thr oughout literature on landscape architecture, history, and urban design is the beli ef that theme parks are overly controlled , frivolous, deceptive, and ultimately inferior design. Many of these critiques neglect to acknowledge the existence of similar styl es or goals in historic and contemporary revered landscape projects. These sources also consistently gloss over their immersive qualities, one of the most redeeming aspects of themed landscapes. Currently, w ithin the field of landscape architecture, the in dividual’s experience of space is frequently secondary to other design features , such as programming and formal arrangement. T heme park designers , demonstrate a strong ability to enga ge visitors in space by using va rious techni ques of immersion. This text investigates common critiques of themed environments, provides defenses backed by established landscape styles , and look s at the construct of immersion and how it is generated . Ideally, this research can be used by landscape architects to design spaces that focus on the experiential aspects of space, in order to design more engaging and transformative places. The form and content of this abstrac t are approved. I recommend its publication. Approved: Joern Langhorst


iv ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Thank you to my fianc, Jason , for tolerating the tornado of source material spread throughout our apartment for months, to Joern and Sam for tending to my seemingly endless questions and requests, to Nick Patin, Amanda Foster, and Kristen Osborne for editing and suggestions, t o all my friends who endured this thesis as the only topic of conversation for months, and to my dog Murphy, who spent many cold winter writing hours by my side, keeping me warm.


v TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER I. FOREWORD 1 II. INTRODUCTION 3 III. CRITIQUES AND FOUNDATIONS Control a nd Landscape as Theater Control Scripted Tight Space (Critique 1) 7 Corporate Enterprise (Critique 2) 9 Landscape a s Theater 12 Meaning and Leisure Space Meaning Making, F rivolity, and Kitsch Lack of Meaning Making (Critique 3) 15 Frivolity and Senseless Fun (Critique 4 ) 17 Kitsch (Critique 5) 19 Leisure Space Throughout History Pleasure Grounds and Pleasure Gardens 22 Zoos and Aquaria 23 Exposition Grounds 24 Amusement and Theme Parks 26 Deception and The Picturesque Decep tion (Critique 6) 30 The Picturesque 32


vi The Wild 32 The Sublime 35 The Circuit 36 Imitation and Imitation of Style Imitation (Critique 7 ) 38 Imitation of Style 43 IV. WHAT WE CAN LEARN Const ruct of Immersion 47 Techniques of I mmersion Storytelling 49 Sensory Experience 53 Sights 56 Sounds 58 Smells 59 Materiality 63 Kinetic 65 Feelings of Awe and Sublime 66 Interactivity 68 Transportation to Other Realms 71 Dual Awareness of Real ity and Fantasy (and Suspension of Disbelief) 73 V. CONCLUSI ON AND APPLICATI ONS De signing for Sens ory Experiences 76


vii The Domain of Landscape Architecture 79 Future Directions 80 REFEREN C ES 82 APPENDIX A: FIGURE CITATIONS 95


viii LIST OF FIGURES FIGURE 1. Banksy's Dismaland, 2015. 4 2. Harry Potte r fans in costume at the WWOHP . 9 3. Arches of Palmyra at Vauxhall. 13 4. Royal Menagerie. 14 5. Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons are well known "kitsch" artists. 20 6. Floating Island scene from the move Pandora, and the landscape it inspired. 21 7. Merriment, music, and theatrical performance at Disney and Vauxhall 1821 . 23 8. Norway building at the Chicago World's Fair, 1893 and Epcot's Norway Pavilion. 25 9. Plantings at the High Line which appear to be naturally occ urring . 33 10. Gas Works Park, Seattle, WA. 35 11. The Temple of Ancient Virtue as Folly at Stowe . 37 12. The Representation and The Original , Chteau Chenonceau, Indre et Loire, France. 40 13. Lukas' criteria for "authenticity" in space . 42 14. Tea houses at Sanssouci in Potsdam and Japanese Tea House at the CWF. 44 15. Artificial Rock at the Buttes Chaumont in Paris, France, May 2017 and Artificial Rock at WOP at Disney in Orlando, Florida, December 2017. 46


ix 16. Exiting the Fr idge at Meow Wolf, Santa Fe, NM . 52 17. McLean and students on a Smellwalk. 54 18. Formal French Garden at Chateau de Villandry. 57 19. Smellmap of City of Singapore, by Kate McLean. 62 20. Disaster! ride at Universal Studios, Orlando, F L. 67 21. Interactivity at the WWoHP. 70 22. Connecting with "the wild". 71 23. Entry to the Arnes de Lutce and the Parc Buttes Chaumont showing passage from one place to another . 73 24. Alternative ways to represent sit es via sensory experience . 78


x LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS ABBREVIATION 1. CWF – Chicago World’s Fair 2. WWoHP – Wizarding World of Harry Potter 3. WoP World of Pandora 4. LAM – Landscape Architecture Magazine


1 CHAPTER I FOREWORD I want to give a little background on what drew me to this research, as this is a fairly specific focus within the field of landscape architecture. I grew up on the east coast of Florida, and spent countless days at the Disney and Universal theme parks in Orlando. I was , of course , very captivated by these spaces as a child, but found that even as I grew older, they still had a pow erful ability to amaze, engage, and ultimately immerse myself and other visitors of all ages in the surroundings. I remember experiencing the Dis aster! ride at Universal where you were trapped in an underground subway when the effects of an earthquake, that included flooding, fi re, and collapsing ceilings, were all si mulated and experienced as if they were real . Even at an e arly age, I remember bei ng blown away by how realistic this ride was. It was dangerous, or at least FELT dangerous, tapping into one of the key qualities of the sublime discussed by Elizabeth Meyers in her text “Seized by Sublime Sentiments”. An important point that will become o bvious in my text. My undergraduate degree was in Psychology, and I have always been very interested in people, particularly their perceptions and behaviors. After a year in the Landscape Architecture program, I discovered my passion for designing these fun and engaging spaces, and because of my background in Psychology and research, was curious about the mechanisms involved in the experience of themed landscapes. After learning that there were no graduates from my program that were working in the field of theme park design, and that I could not go to them for questions about their experiences in that realm, I decided to take it upon myself to investigate this subject (despite the


2 apprehension of my advisors!) . I have found that this research has led me to many other disciplines, which all weave together in a highly complex and fascinating way. I hope you enjoy the following text.


3 CHAPTER I I INTRODUCTION In 1992, Michael Sorkin published Variations on a Theme Park : The New American City and the End of Public Space . In this text, he and several other authors dis cuss issues in urban design and the state of cities at the time of publicatio n. Sorkin’s critique focuses on the influence Disney had, and continues to have on the field of urban design , and the “Disneyfication” of public space ( Sorkin, 1992). Around the same time , Sharon Zukin wrote Landscapes of Power: From Detroit to Disney World , in which she and several other authors comment on cultural landscapes, theme park s, visual consumption, power, and lack of inclusivity, amongst other issues (1991). While these texts critique very specific aspects of theme parks, they are two wide ly cited sources across various disciplines as “anti theme park” discourse. In 2017, Freitag wrote about Bansky’s Dismaland1 which he argued was a new type of theme park: a “critical theme park ,” which was the same in form , yet differed in content ( see Figure 1) . Essentially, it illuminated cultural and social issues, which traditional theme parks tend to ignore , in f avor of what some call an overly utopian fantasy environmen t. In other words, Banksy uses the theme park medium for social commentary , and to voice his belief that theme parks tend to glaze over or make light of serious social and cultural issue s ( Freitag, 2017a ). 1 Banksy is an anonymous graffiti artist who frequently uses his art to critique issues of social justice, such as war, consumerism, fascism, etc. He has a history of commenting indirectly on Disney. For example, in 2006 he managed to get into Disneyland and install a blow up doll dressed as a Guantanamo Bay detainment camp prisoner. Additionally, through his art, he has spoken out fairly directly about the commodification of art, such as how when you visit an art museum, you are forced to leave the building through a gift shop (a situation also present in theme parks), which inspired the title of his 2010 documentary Exit through the Gift Shop .


4 Figure 1: Banksy's Dismaland, 2015. While these sources comment fairly directly on the negative characteristics and impacts of themed e nvironments, several others attempt to forego blatant criticism, and analyze the rede eming qualities of these spaces. ( Venturi, Brown , & Izenour, 1977; King, 2002; Rebori, 1995; Waysdorf & Reijnders, 2016) . King (2002) explains theme parks as a: new art form, with ancient roots, widely appreciated and supported by the public, but not well understood at an intellectual level. The educated elite and most scholars of culture tend to opt for reflexive criticism of popular culture in preference over a structured analysis of theme parks. (p.2) This t hesis has a similar goal: to refute the argume nt that theme parks are “ inferior design,” and identify the redeeming qualities of themed environments, specifically related to their ability to immerse the individual in a space . Addit i onally , the focus in this text is on the experiential aspects of desi gned space. Because of this, the following section s will consist of critiques of theme parks, spe cifically related to experience. These crit iques demonstrate the trend in landscape architecture and related disciplines, to view theme parks as inferior , inap propriate, or in very blunt terms “bad” design. In a thorough review of theme parkfocused articles from Landscape Architecture Magazine , only


5 three of 16 (a very small number for over 100 years of publication), were not critiquing theme parks, and were essentially simple reporting of the facts, neglecting to highlight the positive qualities of the space (such as immersive ability ). The rest of the articles critique theme parks in various ways, pointing to “ Pollyannaism ” and neglecting social issues ( Ball, 1993), frivolity ( Gillette, 1996), artificiality (Hinshaw, 2002), separation from nature ( Beardsley, 1996), bad urban design ( Beardsley, 1994), negative ethics of fantasy environments ( Zelinsky, 1990), and a lack of “placemaking” ( Kay, 1990). In a related, and telling vein, the Cultural Landscape Foundation does not even list theme parks or amusement parks as a “la ndscape type” on their website. Overall the methods utilized were literature research, critiquing existing critiques, and various loose case stu dies based on observations , in a somewhat firstperson phenomenological approach (particularly of Disney’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the World of Pandora in Orlando, Florida, as well as the Buttes Chaumont in Paris, France). Further, the goal of this research was not to critique contemporary or past landscape projects, but to analyze in more detail the position theme parks have in the field of landscape architecture. The following text is divided into two main sections. The first is a review of th e critiques of theme parks, which is laid out with a critique or two followed by a defense, that is then backed by a longstanding landscape tradition. Through the literature, the critiques of theme parks tended to clump into three main categories. These r elate to the element of control in the space, the meaning (or lack thereof) in the space, and also the role of deception. Associated with each of these are the three landscape traditions, which include landscape as theater, pleasure gardens, and the pictur esque. The second section of the text is the immersion exploration, which defines the term, and goes into detail about how it is created in space using 6 techniques, including


6 storytelling, sensory cues, the sublime, interactivity, transportation to other realms, and the dual awareness of reality and fantasy (or suspension of disbelief ) . When looking at the following critiques and traditions side by side, one can see how theme parks are not doing anything differently than many previous landscape projects, a nd are in fact just as legitimate as traditional landscapes.2 Finally , my goal is to illuminate the useful aspect s of themed environments , specifically their immersive qualities , in hopes of aiding future landscape architects in the design of space that en gages individuals, and provides more meaningful , enjoyable , inspiring, and fun experiences. 2 For the remainder of this text, “traditional landscapes” will be used to refer to any nonthemed landscape.


7 CHAPTER II I CRITIQUES AND FOUNDATIONS Control and ‘Landscape as Theater’ Control, Tight Space, and Corporate Undertones Scripted Tight Space (Critique 1) Theme parks have been critiqued as spaces that do no t allow for users to be innovative with the spaces’ form and function. Franck and Stevens (2007) discuss the concept of “loose space” and how it is necessary for the formation of community and self expres sion (p.24). While the classification of theme park s as “tight space ” is accurate, the creation of community is not the intention of these spaces, and therefore can not be considered a relevant criticism . One of the goal s of a theme park is to create an exp erience, in the same way a theater production is performed to tell a story or convey an idea to the audience . As Strmberg (2016) states, “th eme parksare just semi public spaces that are privately owned and not places for ‘social pollution,’ nor manifesta tions of civil rights ” (p.91). C ontrol is necessary to create an experience, or to “create a complete envelope around the guest” ( Creating Immersive Environments, n.d.). In fact, theme park designers go to great lengths to “[prevent] things from contaminat ing the fantasy experience,” (Milman, 2013, p. 79) or altering this script. Maintaining the fantasy requires separating the things that detract from the storyline (trash collectors and landscaping crews) from the theming elements ( exotic, themed vegetation and actors/actresses) . Theme parks in other words, separate the “stage” from the “backstage,” to continue the theater metaphor. Some critics argue this strategy is deceptive, but ultimately it is no different from theatrical “tricks”.


8 Franck and Stevens (2007) also address public space and anonymity, explaining that when an individual is in public space, they feel “fre e from the judgement of others ,” further illustrating the ir distaste for controlled or “tight space” (p. 4 5). T his claim is debatable, and is very dependent on the individual, as some feel less comfortable in public space than they do amongst people they know well (such a s in a small town). Still, the se authors would argue that there is less freed om to ‘be oneself’ in a controlled space. Co ntrary to this , several authors write about how there is a level of freedom associated with being in a theme park , which not only encourages you to feel like a child, but also promotes a sense of comradery with other visitors who share your love of the story world you are visiting ( Waysdorf & Reijenders, 2016; Kim & Jamal, 2007). These feeling s of freedom and comradery may lead to a freedom to act in ways that are not socially acceptable in most public spaces It is not uncommon, for example, for theme park visitors to wear costumes or skip around in excitement to go on a ride. This freedom to act out of line with social norms in public places has been researched extensively in the discipline of psychology and is called deindivi duation, or “when an individual ’s self awareness is blocked or seriously reduced by environmental conditions (e.g., such as [the] presence of large numbers of other people)” ( Brewer, Kenny, & Norem 2014, p.61) .3 Theme parks encourage deindividuation, which is usually accompanied by feel ings of relaxation, excitement, and contrary to what Franck and Stevens would say, freedom. 3 The theory of deindividuation says that when “anonymity, feelings of close group unity, a high level of physiological arousal, and a focus on external events or goals” exist within the individual, deindividuation occurs (Brewer, Kenny, & Norem, 2014, p.61 ). This theory has been used to exp lain individuals’ behavior at sporting events as well as gang behavior, and applies directly to the realm of theme parks (they are mostly anonymous, you a re excited, and potentially aroused by roller coasters or other rides, you have the comradery of the people who love the same movies and rides as you, and all of your attention is focused elsewhere).


9 Figure 2: Harry Potter fans in costume at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter . In a sense, theme parks are consciously trying to control individuals in the space , but this is no different than many traditional landscapes. In fact, the City Beautiful movement sought to inspire good behavior of city dwellers by making a more beautiful environment to spend time in. Sorkin (1992) agrees that t he mission of theme parks grew out of the City Beautiful movement: “The City Beautiful’s fascination with sumptuousness , visible order, and parksanticipates the physical formula of the theme park, the abstraction of good public behavior from the total lif e of the city” (p.211). Theme parks have received their fair share of critiques on behavioral control, and they have also received a decent amount of gruff for being for profit, corporate ventures. C orporate Enterprise (Critique 2) Theme parks are also oft en critiqued for utilizing design with the intention of coercing visitors in to spending, which has led to the commodification of themed environments (Eco, 1986). Zukin (1991) commented o n this feature of Disney in saying that they are simply moving people through “one enveloping theatrical environment into another, where information blends into an implicit call to consume: Feel! Marvel! Buy!” (p.228). While it is fair to say that Disney


10 was formed with the goal of not only creating an experienc e, but also m aking a profit, it i s important to note that Zukin uses the phrase “enveloping theatrical environment” to explain the space. She acknowledges that Disney creates an “immersive environment ,” but she disagrees with the motivation behind why. While many visitors to theme parks understand that this i s a goal of the place, it does not necessarily take away from the immersive qualities they invest their money in, frequently year after year . Though this for profit orientation of themed environments is not ideal, they do still succeed in creating an “enveloping theatrical environment”. Waysdorf and Reijnders (2016) also mention that, “when at WWOHP [ Wizarding World of Harry Potter ] , visitors do what they would if they were visiting any other urban tourist destination: they buy things, they wander the streets, get something to eat or drink, perhaps see a performance or people watch” (p.11) . Perhaps they only have a problem with this activity when the profit is going to a single, large entity, for if it was going to individual business in a downtown, they would probably have a very different opinion. Guy De bord is frequently mentioned in the literature critiquing themed environments . H e argues that spectacle is used to pacify a contemplative attitude4 and to prevent pe ople from questioning the status quo or probing deeper into the m echanisms and processes at play in our environments (Trier, 2007) . I n the theme park realm, this surface s as disguising consumption. While theme parks are very elaborate and perfectly defined by the term “spectacle,” and they do also have a goal of promoting spending, they are much more than that. Many people visit theme parks for the experience, and do not purchase anything while there ( beyond the occasional drink or snack). In fact, because people are aware that they are entering a for p rofit space, they may be 4 This is actually a basis for Baudrillard’s theories, which will be discussed in more detail, especially as they related to themed environments in the secti on on Imitation.


11 less likely to spend money than if it were of their own free will and they were not feeling coerced. Another critique related to the commodification of t heme parks is that they charge admittedly large entry fee s . Zukin includes this in her critique, further emphasizing her preoccupation with the corporate culture behind themed spaces. To their defense , these spaces are enormously popular, and even now, with the very high price tag, they have to turn people away because they are at capacity. Purcell (2018) wrote that a Disney spokeswoman said, “ the reason behind the rising prices is to help regulate crowd sizes throughout the year in hopes of reducing the wait at the parks .” This is compl etely understandable, as the wait times for the new Avatar ride in December of 2017 were hitting 4+ hours. Again, they are doing this to control the experience, as waiting in line for any amount of time significantly impacts the feelings towards the place. As long as they have visitors filling the park to capacity, they can and will continue to increase costs as a form of crowd control. Further , there are many traditional , well respected landscape projects that also charge for admission, such as Versailles, botanical g ardens, the Biltmore, etc. It could be argued though, that these places charge fees for a very different purpose, usually explained as preservation and upkeep of the property. Theme park entrance fees may also restrict access for some segments of society, including populations with less socioeconomic opportunity. Fees, therefore, may determine the type of people that visit, which presuma bly changes the experience. This access inequality is exemplified in Orlando :


12 While most hourly theme park workers can’t afford to buy tickets and food for a family of four for a day at a theme park, the average visitor has the disposable income. The average annual household income for guests at theme parks was $86,000, according to the study. That’s twice the $43,000 that residents in Greater Orlando bring home and way above the $55,775 median annual household income nationwide, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau . ( Roen, 2017) If a low income f amily can enter the park, they might not be able to partake in some activities past the gates, which have additional fees. This could lead to feelings of sadness among children, parental guilt, or to feeling ostracized. Many landscapes throughout history w ere designed by and for the wealthy. T hough that doesn’t excuse the issue, it makes it easier to understand, and illustrates how the situation is not unique to themed landscapes. Although the tendency to control space within theme parks does have some negative consequences , it is also a powerful strategy for creating the wellestablished tradition of landscape as t heater. Landscape as Theater Though some argue that themed landscapes are overly controlled, they are in fact doing so to create a theatrical lan dscape. T hemed environments consist of tight ly controlled space designed to provide a very specific experience, in the same way a script and performance are concoc ted for theater . The use of outdoor s pace for performance is an ancient tradition. Adams (1979) mentions the existence of theaters in Italian Renaissance gardens in the early 1500’s, and their emergence in French gardens in late 17th century , with Le Notre’s design for the Tuileries (p.67 ). From that point, permanent garden theater space only gain ed popularity, and were seen in some of the most renowned landscape projects of all time. At Versailles, for example “the openair fetes and theater productions with magnificent illuminations and fire works would actually take advantage of the perspective o f the radiating walks, incorporating them into the staging” (Adams, 1979, p.


13 67). Another very famous space for landscape theater and performance was at Vauxhall Garden s . Vauxhall’s Ruins of Palmyra: was framed with a series of Triumphal Arches made of canvas, wood and plaster and placed along the South Walk. This success i on of frames in front of the distant setting was an attempt at achieving a dynamic, cinematic experience in moving through the park. (Mitra inovi , 2006, p.179). Figure 3: Arches of Palmyra at Vauxhall. During this time, landscape was treated as a naturally occurring stage set for the performance , providing framing effects, in the same way a landscape painting would use vegetation to frame a scene. further explains that at Vauxhall, “the new type of attraction was a threedimensional painting’ depicting a rural scene: a water mill was in the foreground with real water running out of it and a peasant house in the background” (2006, p.180). Through this example, one can see how the traditions of landscape painting, theater, and landscape architect ure possess a similar historical foundation . Olwig also writes extensively about this connection between landscape and theater but does so by discussing Inigo Jones transition from mask, costume, and set designer, to city designer in his text Performance,


14 Aetherial Space and the Practice of Landscape Architecture: The Case of the Missing Mask (2011) . The concept of “landscape as theater” is also represented in zoo environments , where animals are on display for visitors, who engage in a voyeuristic activity reminiscent of the “ s pectacle of gardens” tradition seen in Boboli Gardens in Florence . Growing partly out of the circus tradition, and from wealthy priva te landowners’ collections, zoos “use the animal as a way of connecting with people” and further that, “like the spectacles involving animals today, the fact that animals are unpredictableleads to the added value of the amusement” (Lukas, 2008, p.144). This relates to the P icturesque tradition of taming the “wild” which will be discussed in more detail in a later section . Though critiques will continue , there is a historical, landscapebased tradition underlying the c ontrolling nature of theme park landscapes . Ultimately, these and other critiques of the control, commodification, and corporate nature of theme parks can be defended if these spaces are viewed as theatrical performances, or spectacles. A point of possibly more contention (especially within landsc ape architecture) is the question of whether these spaces are experientially meaningful. Figure 4: Royal Menagerie.


15 Meaning and Leisure Space Meaning Making , Frivolity, Kitsch Lack of Meaning Making (Critique 3) Themed landscapes are sometimes accused of creating space that lacks experiential meaning. Lukas (2008) explains that theme parks have “been seen by many as superficial forms of culture – as places where people go to do things that don’t matter much in the grand scheme of things and thus amount to inconsequential spaces” (p.7). A similar critique of theme p arks points to their prioritization of entertainment over education. L. Azeo Torre, a designer for the Memphis Zoo, stated in the February 1996 issue of LAM , that the new zoo will “offer an experience of depth. If you go to Disneyland or Disney World, and you’re not thinking about anything but Goofy or Mickey, that’s a wonderful thing, but you haven’t come away with more ,” and later , that the new space would produce “not odium, but consciousness raising” (Gillette, 1996, p. 6870) . He bluntly critiqu es the meaning (or lack thereof) that individuals extract from the theme park experience . O ne of the main ways theme parks create meaning for the individual is through encourag ing the enjoyment of the space with friends and family. I t is incredibly rare to see someone at a theme park alone. Th at is in a large part because th ese spaces are designed to be e xperienced with other people. I n fact, Walt Disney originally intended for his park to be an opportunity for the whole family to create memories together. In many t hem ed spaces, particularly those with an established fan following ( ex: Harry Potter fan s), visitors feel a real sense of community among fellow fans (Waysdorf and Rei jnders, 2016) . It is important to note that this “sense of community” is different than that which Franck and Stevens critiqued landscapes for preventing. This “community” is more a sense of comradery amongst people like


16 yourself, whi le they were speaking more of a place for equality, inclusiveness, and ownership in c ivic space. While both are important, theme parks generate community more through shared interests and experiences . Herrington discusses meaning in landscapes in Framed Again (2006) . Ultimately , she ( as well as Tuan , 1975; Creswell, 2004; and Robitaille, 2000), explains that landscapes themselves do not pos s ess meaning of any sort, and that the visitors to the se spaces create their own meaning ( 2006, p.30) . Treib and Gillette (2011) support this by saying that, “In Zen belief, the place bears no meaning per se, but it can perhaps evoke a call for meaning within the individual” (p. 108). As designers, we can create environments that evoke a specific reaction in the individual, but with experience and interpretation being so subjective, it is difficult to illicit a specific , lasting meaning within an individual , especially many years or decades after it is built . Nonetheless, as explains “theme park environments are deliberately designe d to arouse intense emotional responses by affecting people subliminally first” (2006, p.124), which is in fact an element of immersion, discussed in the next chapter. Treib and Gillette (2011) furt her explain that because we are all human, we view the wor ld in the same way , at least at the sensorial level. Because of this, t he y argue that we should create places that are pleasing to the senses, which have the potential to generate meaning. This directly relates to the humanistic geography tradition that claimed that “what constituted a place was seen to be largely individualistic. Although attachments and meanings were often shareda place meant different things to different people” ( Marcus, 2009, p.II). Perhaps it does not matter whether a space itself has meaning, but whether the space allows the individual to generate their own meaning while there . Clements and Dorminey (2011) discuss landscape experience and how it relates to the experience of “Flow”. The theory of flow


17 was proposed by Mi haly Csikszentm ihalyi and is “the psychology of optimal experiencea state of intrinsic motivation, of total mental and physical involvement describe d by many as being ‘in the zone’ ” (Clements and Dorminey, 2011, p.243). This state of flow is also closely related to an i ndividual’s ability to use suspension of disbelief, or to mentally disconnect, and get “lost” in both the space and their own imagination. R egardless of the intended source of meaning, as long as individuals are able to reach a state of flow, they can gain a meanin gful experience , which by association, could assign meaning to the space itself . While one could debate at length the mechanics of meaning making, the conversation may miss the fact that meaning varies for everyone . This is because there i s a comp lex process that takes place between perception and meaning making (Kukshinov, 2016; Tuan, 1990) . This process determine s the meaning an individual produces from various sensory input s (perception), based on countless factors such as genetic makeup, cultur al factors, life experience, mood, or other physiological processes happening in the individual at that specific moment in time. Landscapes e licit different meanings within different visitors , and regardless of how the environment achieves this, they are a ll valid sources of meaning. What is frivolous to one person may seem very meani ngful to another, which leads to another common critique . Frivolity and Senseless Fun (Critique 4) Several authors critique themed environme nts for their “frivolousness,” argui ng that they are spaces where the activity cons ists of “meaningless fun”. Treib and Gillette (2011) write about the tendency within landscape architecture to avoid creating places that rely on pleasure alone (i.e. fun or frivolity) as the guiding design pr inciple. They question this tendency by asking:


18 Could it be that pleasure is trite, hedonistic, and ephemeral while meaning is deep and longlasting? Or perhaps pleasure seems to be too solitary an enterprise while meaning is taken as a collective embod iment of values? Or is it that meaning is the dimension that distinguishes landscape architecture from “mere gardening”? (p.115) These are all important questions to ask, but ultimately, the take home point t he y emphasize is that “pleasure can be a valuab le pursuit in itself, as valid as the pursuit of meaning” (Treib and Gillette , 2011, p.117). While landscapes were once designed specifically for this purpose (see following section on pleasure gardens), somehow, we have turned against the notion t hat plea sure is in fact legitimate and necessary in design. Co ntrary to critiques of frivolity , t here is a large body of research on the benefits and necessity of fun and play ( see Whitebread, 2012; Brown and Vaughan 2009; Hart, 2002; Play as preparation, 2013).5 Whitebread explains that “play in all its rich variety is one of the highest achievements of the human species, alongside language, culture and technology,” and that “the value of play is increasingly recognised, by researchers and within the policy arena, for adults as well as children, as the evidence mounts of its relationship with intellectual achievement and emotional well being” ( 2012, p.3). In other w ords, some would say that there i s no such thing as “meaningless fun ,” as it is crucial to healthy development. As Kadlec (20 09) says about playing with her child, play has helped her “learn how to clear [her] mind of daily worri es and just give [her self ] over to purposeless, joyful play,” which “has also led [her] to seek out new forms of play for [herse lf] that have had a significant positive impact on how” she copes with life’s stress (p.3). Theme parks provide a space for t his activity, where people can let loose , engage in 5 A pop culture note on “pointlessness”: In 1971 a movie titled The Point was released (with music by Harry Nilsson and narrated by Ringo Starr , Dustin Hoffman , and Alan Thicke ) . It was an animated story about a boy named Oblio who was born with a round head into a town of people with pointed heads. He is eventually shunned to the “pointless forest” by the town, where he goes on a jo urney to learn that not everything must have a point (in either the physical or metaphorical sense). In other words, some things have merit in their pointlessness; fun for fun’s sake .


19 physical (kinetic) and mental (imaginative) play, which can in turn help them deal wit h stressors in their life . Further, Lukas quotes Johan Huizinga as saying , “playis of a higher order than seriousness, for seriousness seeks to exclude play and play can very well include seriousness” ( as quoted in Lukas, 2008, p.137). In fact, pl ay that includes seriousness is a way that some researchers say we make sense of the world , by acting out real life situations in a safe environment ( Whitebread, 2012; Brown and Vaughan, 2009). Tuan, (1998) addresses the conflict with frivolity after a vis it to Disneyland in which he writes: But to my surprise, I found Disneyland itself delightful. I say, “to my surprise” because well educated people, among whom I count myself, are taught to dismiss the theme park as an unreal, fantasy world supported by hi dden – and therefore somewhat sinister – forces. My unexpected response led me to ask a series of questions. Granted that theme parks are escapist fantasies, suitable only for the immature, what human works aren’t? Is there a ladder of aspiration or preten sion, at one end of which are the exuberantly or crassly playful and at the other end the deeply serious and real? (p.xxi) He then goes on to discuss these spaces as a source of escapism, and explains that any space can be an escape, such as a rural countr yside to a city dweller (or even a city to a farmer). Here he speaks of escapism not in a bad way, but as beneficial to the human condition, further illustrating the necessity of places of frivolity and fun. Closely related to critiques of frivolity, is th e belief that theme parks are kitschy spaces. Kitsch (Critique 5) Kitsch is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary ( OED) as “ considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality, but sometimes appreciated in an ironic or knowi ng way” ( Kitsch, n.d.). This term is often applied to themed environments, both within the


20 field of landscape architecture and elsewhere, particularly in reference to their s tyle .6 K itsch in the art world is not new , and while it has critics there as well, it is a wellestablished artistic style . Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons worked almost exclusively in the realm of kitsch, producing famous pieces, such as the Campbell’s soup can and giant balloon animal art ( Figure 5) . O ne could compare the kitsch of theme p ark design in the world of landscape architecture to kitsch painting or s culpture in the fine arts realm giving it an inherent cultural value and relevancy. I n defense of the kitsch critique, theme park design is more an extension of animation, or a real life, re creation of animated fantasy worlds, than a construction of isolated gaudy colors and characters. If one says that theme parks are kitsch, they must also be willing to say cartoons are kitsch, which is not a commonly held belief. Figure 5: Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons are well known "kitsch" artists. Fortunately, the notions of what is “kitsch and nonkitsch” are changing. Lukas (2016) writes that “ new research on contemporary popular culture suggests that, more and more, 6 If you Google search “theme park” and “kitsch” and you will get a long list of news stories about theme parks, with “kitsch” it the title. Some examples: “Is Dollywood One Big Kitsch Joke?” (Financial Times), A listing for a Knott’s Berry Farm “kitsch” mug on Ebay, and several TripAdvisor reviews of theme parks, “Theme park? Kitsch? A dazzling experience?”


21 presumed high and low cultures are involved in forms of cross fertilization and convergence .” He continues to argue t hat these negative reactions to kitsch are in fact “ discursively and pol itically, representative of the rhetoric of class warfare and loath ing disguised as the politics of taste” (p.65), suggesting that we need to continue to questi on the roots of these beliefs . This discussion of the value of kitsch extends to the discussion of the value of art, or more generally the question “what is art? ” I n Is It Art? Krog ( 1981) explains that in visual art theory, there are generally four “orientations of aesthetic theory ,” including Mimetic, Pragmatic, Expressive, and Objective Theory (p.374375). W hen considering theme park design, if viewed through the lens of , Pragmatic Theory , it holds great merit, since one of the major goals of theme park design is “to please, to teach,7 and to move the audience” (Krog, 1981, p.375). So, regardless of one’s views of the goals of a theme park, the space holds artisti c value. Further, Clav ( 2007 ) write s that theme parks are, “cultural creations equivalent to a painting, a photograph, or a film” demonst rating the common belief in the artistic quality of theme park landscapes, as a craft comparable to objects seen in an art museum, and an art form in its own sense (p.3) . Figure 6: Floating Island scene from the move Pandora ( left ) , and the Disney landscape it inspired (right) . 7 Not ALL theme parks have the goal of teaching, but today, there are many rides incorporated into the park which include an element of education. These includes topics such as ecological awareness, space travel, or even hi story. Also, zoos are themed landscapes that have a much stronger educational component.


22 Of course , any discussion of artistic merit is challenged by defining what is beautif ul , artistic, or worthy. This subjectivity ultimately affects generation of meaning in the landscape. Kitsch in the landscape is associated wit h feelings of inauthenticity . For example, if a C ivil W ar reenactment site is deemed “in authenti c ,” som e of the props or settings used may be judged as “kitschy”. Authenticity is also a defining characteristic of immersion. For a space to be considered immersive, it must also be considered authentic, and would generally not be called kitschy (though elements of kitsch may be acceptable if they fit the theme of the place). The relation of kitsch, authenticity and immersion will be defined in more detail later. M eaning making, frivolity, and kits ch i n the landscape can be seen in new light by considering the historical foundations of these concepts. Leisure Space Throughout History Landscapes of frivolity and fun have been seen throughout history, in outdoor spac es, parks, and gardens used as grounds for relaxation what was onc e called “otium” or “ l eisure; free time; ease” ( Otium, n.d.). From the early pleas ure grounds (Vauxhall, Tivoli , and Boboli Gardens ) to the modernday theme park (Disney, Universal, Park Asterix, Efteling, etc.), people have ventured to these spaces to escap e the stresses of ever yday life; to experience pleasure, joy, and excitement; and to share their experiences with others. Pleasure Grounds and Pleasure Gardens Garden as leisure space was seen in Pompeii, 1st century, and in Medieval Gardens dating back to the 6th century. Oxf ord Companion to the Garden claims that the first “pleasure garden” was New Spring Gardens on the south bank of the Thames in London in 1660. This space was renamed Vauxhall Gardens in 1785, and was complete with nightingales, fiddles and harps,


23 laughing, people walking about, grand archways, glowing lanterns, performances, evening meals, tightrope walkers, fireworks, etc. ( Taylor, 2006, p.386387). While there were many other pleasure gardens at various scales, two of the most notable in Europe were “Tivol i Gardens built in Copenhagen in 1843 and the Prater in Vienna bui These were spaces where people (particularly the wealthy class) would go to be “o n display,” to see and be seen, referencing the ‘landscape as t heater’ tradition previously discussed. These pleasure grounds were an early precursor to the immersive theme park, as Lukas (2008) explains by saying “w hat pleasure gardens predicted was the desire of people to fully p artake i n their amusements” ( p.135) . Frequently, including animals, these spaces of leisure were also a prec ursor to zoos. Figure 7: Merriment, music, and theatrical performance at Disney (left) and Vauxhall 1821 (right). Zoos and Aquaria Although wealthy people throughout history collected exotic animal s as a symbolic display of power (such as the menageries of Egypt), Clav claims that the first zoo was “opened in France, on the lands of the old Jardin du Roi in Paris” in 1793 (2007, p. 7), and was called the Jardin des Plantes. Steinkr ger explains that many of the animals in the fir st zoo came from Versailles, and “following the example of Paris, the Zoological Society of London opened its zoo in Regent’s Park in 1828, with many others to follow during the nineteenth century” ( 2016,


24 p.48). Zoos shar e many characteristics with tradit ional landscapes as well as themed environments , serving almost as a middle ground between th e naturally focused world of landscape architecture, and the th emed, constructed, and storybased emphasis of theme parks. These spaces also share a si milar historical foundation, as both have been sources of consistent controversy from their beginnings. One distinction between zoos and theme parks is that zoos tend to have more of a focus on education and conservation efforts, though recently this is changing, as Disney and other parks incorporate more educational exhibits (ex: Epcot ’s Living with the Land ride, the Hall of Presidents , and various shows such as the Wings of America bird show at Dollywood, and the Animal Actors on Location at Universal). This presen ce of animals was also common in exposition grounds, another type of space that heavily relied on the use of spectacle in landscape. Exposition Grounds According to the Cultural Landscape Foundation, an ‘ Exposition Ground’ is defined as a site “ for tempor ary expositions, often international in scope or intended to celebrate major national events such as the American Centennial or the opening of the Panama Canal. Occasionally, futuristic or environme ntal themes instigate the event ” ( Exposition Grounds, n.d.). Clav dates t he first universal exposition to 1851, in London, which was called the “Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations” (2007, p.9, T able 1.2 ). One of the most influential of exposition grounds to the architecture and landscape o f the US was the Chicago World’s Fair (CWF) in 1893. Lukas (2008) discusses the six ways that the CWF was unique among exposition grounds, including its role in helping spur the City Beautiful movement, the belief in the American dream of progress, vi ews o f “the other” or viewer vs. spectacle, the Midway Plaisance (re creation of various “lands” from around the world), a revolutionary


25 sewage and water system, and the first ride at an exposition ground, the Ferris Wheel ( p.30) . These contributions heavily in fluenced not only the future and discipline of landscape architecture, but also the emergence of theme parks around the world. Walt Disney , took inspiration from the Midway Plaisance at the CWF in constructing Disneyland. The original Epcot , was remarkably similar to the World’s Fair, with various countries represented in different themed “pavilions” which contained performances and culturally specific displays of architecture and decoration ( See Figure 8) . A curious point here is that Frederick Law Olmsted, considered by some t o be a “father” of landscape architecture, was one of the main designer s of these grounds , and was highly respected for them. This leads one to ponder when (or how) perceptions of this sort of environment moved from the realm of respectable, classic landscape architecture (as seen at the CWF) to the world of undervalued, subpar design (modern theme parks), as their form and many of their functions are almost identical . Exposition grounds “were composed not only of visual stimuli, but a lso of other sensory stimuli, such as the smell and taste of food ,” which contributed to the use of these sensory elements in immersive and themed environments Figure 8: Norway building at the Chica go World's Fair, 1893 and Epc ot's Norway Pavilion.


26 Amusement and Theme Parks While the distinction between exhibition ground and a mu sement p ark is hazy (as some would say the CWF was an amusement park of sorts) , amusement parks grew in popularity in the lat e 1800’s . Lukas (2008) believes that the amusement parks of Coney Island were “the most significant” in terms of their influence, and that “from 1895 to 1964, Sea Lion Park, Steeplechase Park, Luna Park, and Dreamland established an agenda for the theme park that continues into the present” (p.37). These spaces “displayed an eclecticism of entertainment, with saloons, gambling halls, brothels, and other often seedy attract ions spotting the landscape” ( Lukas, 2008 p.38) , which were in fact, the things Disney sought to e xclude from his parks, to create a safe and pleasant environment for the whole family . U ltimately this led people to cr itique theme parks for being “ too pleasant ” by authors such as Banksy and Sorkin. While the terms “amusement” and “theme” par k are often used interchangeably, they are differen t types of places with distinct goals. King (2002) discusses the differences in an amusement park and a theme park. An amusement park is typically geared towards a kinetic, bodily experience, intended to s urprise and t hrill the individual. Usually, amusement parks do not have a storyline connected to the design of the space. On the other hand, theme park s emphasize the mental experience of the space, therefore relying on storytelling, fantasy, and imagination to inspire and excite the visitor. Even further, King (2002) implies that theme parks are “a total sensoryengaging environmental art form,” and not just a space for “providing amusement in the conventional sense of the circus, carnival, and pleasure pa rk” (p.2 3). Through interviewing park goers about their favorite activities, Waysdorf and Reijnders discovered that visitors rarely mentioned rides. Rather, they highlighted their experience in the environment


27 demonstrating the emphasis theme parks have o n the mental experience over that of the physical seen in amusement parks (2016, p.10). T his distinction is supported by Kukshinov’s claim that there are two types of immersion; one that involves the mental and the other more physical (sensory ). He explain s that: presence [is] defined by perceiving a virtual environment and narrative transportation [is] achieved by imagining its content T he more perceptually complete the environment, the greater the sense of presence,[and] the less complete the narrative, the more a person must generate through imagination, and the more inte nse the sense of transportation. ( Kukshinov, 2016) This argument rests upon the difference between perception and conception, which both function in meaning making, though through diffe rent processes. In other words, t heme parks and amusement parks are, in terms of their goals and mechanisms, inherently different spaces , that also emerged at distinct moments in history. In 1955, Disneyland opened and became the first official “theme par k,”8 marking the divergence of these two types of immersive landscapes . Walt Disney grew up in small towns outside Chicago and Kansas City. From a young age, he was fascinated with drawing, which later turned into a love of comics and cartooning. Eventuall y, he decided to build what was essentially a real life, interactive cartoon. From the beginning, Disney was committed to creating a quality guest experience, which relied on the ability to control extraneous factors such as cleanliness, safety, and the behaviors of the employees (called “cast members”), to create an environment that told a convincing story. 8 This is debated as the first “theme park”. Clav (2007) explains that there are others who believe Disney simply generated the first park with multiple themed lands, and that there were many singularly themed places in the 40’s and 50’s, including Knott’s Berry Farm, Wisconsin Dells, Santa’s Village, etc. ( p.23 ).


28 Over the decades, Disney Imagineers9 have become experts at creating an engaging, immersive, and memorable experience. Their newest “worlds” such as th e Wizarding World of Harry Potter (WWoHP) , and The World of Pandora (WoP) from the movie Avatar are fully immersive spaces, which transport the individual to a land that was previously only experienced through a screen (mostly as comput er generated images) . In other words , Imagineers create a sort of vi rtual reality, but instead of being virt ual, it is an embodied alternate reality . These kinds of themed environments are becoming progressively more realistic. Some suggest that the ultimate goal is to creat e a place si milar to the environment featured in the 1973 movie (and recent show) Westworld , in which pe ople enter a space that is entirely artificially constructed, and run by robots that cannot be distinguished from humans ( Martin, 2017). This space allo ws the visitor to experience an alternate reality, and to essentially live a different life with no danger of injury or death (escapism will be discussed in more detail in the next chapter) . This would be a good time to mention the role of virtual reality (VR) and augme nted reality (AR) in this context. While VR and AR are increasingly used in themed environments for everything from supplementing dark rides to creating entire theme park environments (Shamsian, 2017) , th e focus here will remain on “analog” t hemed environments (as opposed to virtual environments like video games or simulations) and their real life, tangible (non simulated) features. In 1990, Universal Studios Resort was built in Orlando, FL, creating a competitor to the then well established D isney World. While Disney was one of the first parks ever built in tandem with a television show, Universal was very cinema based from the beginning, pulling storylines 9 An Imagineer is a general term for a Disney designer, and includes architects, script writers, landscape architects, ride designers, engineers, writers, illustrators, graphic designers , etc.


29 and characters from their most popular movies, promising that visitors could “ride the movies”.10 This approach relates directly to the tradition of telling stories through landscape , such as those seen b etween the 15th and early 20th centuries, which consisted of narratives of ancient Greco Roman mythology, which was to individuals in that time period , our version of modern day cinema. Most t hemed environments today would not exist without the movi e or show they are based upon. In fact, Freitag (2017b) writes about the connection between movies (and therefore books) and theme parks , and note s that many “critics have identified strategies that both individual rides and the park as a whole have allegedly ‘borrowed’ from the movies, most notably visual framing and narrativity” ( p.708) . Clav (2007) further explains this connection with cinema in saying : Visitors to theme parks can be considered , therefore , as the audience of an experience which like cinematography, takes place via scenes and sets in the framework of fantasy surroundings, of a multidimensional nature. As in the parks, the cinema reshapes reality in the form of a spectacle. (p.17) When watching a movie (or other theatrical performance), there is a certain level of manipulation of reality and deception, which is also present in theme parks. The two take away points for this categor y of critiques are that despite being critiqued for being frivolous and kitschy, theme parks can provide a level of psychological benefit, such as relaxation or stress relief, which can be a source of sustained “meaning” and second, that ultimately, the pr oduction of meaning is so subjective, that no individual can claim ANY space definitively lacks meaning. 10 In 2016, Thinkwell, (a leading theme park design firm) reported that having IP (Intellectual Property, such as movies) guiding design was one of the most powerful predictors of a positive theme park experience (Alton, 2016 ).


30 Deception and ‘The Picturesque’ Deception ( Critique 6) One common critique of the me parks is that they are deceptive in various ways, i ncluding deception in the form of man made artifice, utopian portrayals , and educational deception all of which will be discussed below. A musement p arks, have been long critiqued for their artificial character, exemplified by Maxim Gorky’s 1907 visit to Coney Island in which he e xpresses his distaste with the repetitive and fake architecture and design of the place ( Lukas, 2008, p.21). But , what is “fake” or “artificial ? ” Is it simply a duplicate of an original? And does one only know something is fake if they have knowledge of that original? Firat and Ul usoy (2011) found that it does not actually matter whether something is in fact real or fake, b ecause the general public does no t seem to think much about this “distinction between the thematic and the everyday”, and t hat it seems to only matter to intellectuals (p.193). A question among these individuals is , is it morally irresponsible to make something look real when it is in fact not “real” or “original”? Herrington seems to address this question in Framed Again, in which she distinguishes between t raditional Picturesque s tyle and artificial, “human made” design interventions, as different ways to indicate to the visitor the “naturalness” of the space (2006) . She subtly critiques Picturesque styles in saying that they “blur the authorship of these works, so one might think nature itself produced the landscape, but also obscure power with the appearance of neglect” (p.24). Additionally, Potteiger and Purinton (1998) explain that “stories and fiction [i.e: story based , a rtificial landscapes] should not be equated with deception any more or less than photographs or maps are. As representations, they all necessarily mediate reality” (p.25 ). In other words, they are saying things observed as artificial are no t automatically inferior, they are simply representations of other things.


31 Related to this critique of artificial realities is the belief that Disney and other theme parks are contrived utopias, and are neglecting to portray the “dirty” or “bad” parts of life by hiding th e mechanics and everyday operations of the park .11 As Sorkin (1992) expresses “The highly regulated, completely synthetic vision provides a simplified, sanitized experience” ( p. 208) . This “sanitized experience” or “act ” Disney is putting on is in fact arti ficial but it is also theater . Given the tradition of landscape as theater, and the close relationship theme parks have with film and cinema, this make sense. In fact , when t hese two realms of fantasy and reality cross, it can have negative consequences. For example, when a young girl at Disney saw a charac t er without its’ head on, her family sued the pa rk after she had recurring nightmares of the event (Lukas, 2008, p.162) While this is a somewhat comical example, it emphasizes the conflict that humans s ometimes experience with the crosso ver between reality and fiction, or the “real” and “artificial .” Theme parks are also critiqued for educational deception. In Spirn’s 1998 Dwelling and Tongue , she discusses society’s (and designers’) disconnect with nat ure, and our inability to listen to and read it. In the first chapter, she dramatically describes the Epcot Living with the Land exhibit and how “plants hang from wires, move as products in an assembly line, roots exposed, sprayed by aerosols and fertilize rs, divorced from dirt ,” and further that , “ The plants are fragile, dependent upon the sprayers’ continued function; lives hang, literally, by a thread. If the sprayers fail, plants shrivel rapidly, for their roots are not held in soil’s reservoir of moist ure and nutrients” ( Spir n, 1998, p. 25). What Spirn describes , and what is demonstrated in the exhibit sounds like aquaponics, a practice that has great potential for feeding masses of people in 11 Interestingly, Frederick Law Olmstead believed that the Chicago World’s Fair was too “melancholy” and that “what the space needed was gaiety and thus Olmstead suggested to Daniel Burnham the addit ion of performers from the festival Midway inside the rest of the White City” (Lukas, 2 008, p.147148) .


32 drought ridden climates. In aquaponics, the water is recycled in a closed system, using much les s water than conventional farming. Second, calling out Disney for their portrayal of bad farming practices is unfair, as this is a broader issue that i s not unique to theme parks . Spirn’s narrative supports Potteiger and Purinton’s point that them e parks simply reflect society’s ideals and practices or that they are “mediat ing reality” . Whil e I am not advocating for monoculture food production in our country, what is important here is that Spirn demonizes theme parks for “ e ducational deception.” E ssentially , she is saying that the experience is artificial and deceptive. While many present day theme park environments are largely m an made, both in their s tyle and content, well respected Picturesque landscapes had a large role in promoting this artificiality. The Picturesque A landscape architectural style which has pervaded almost every aspect of landscape design in one way or another for many decades is the Picturesque. The Picturesque is associated with several landscape c haracteristics and techniques, such as “crafted wildness,” generating feelings of the sublime, creating a distinct circuit of movement through the space, and the framing of scenes and follies. Below we will see how these styles have played out in themed as well as traditional landscapes. The Wild On e of the goals of a P icturesque landscape is to create a space that appears to be wild and naturally occurring.12 This is typically accomplished not by simply letting the space grow wild, but by deliberately craft ing a “wild” space that is also approachable and pleasant. One 12While there is much deb ate about what precisely “wild” and “naturally occurring” mean, in this context, it will mean free from or not recently influenced by the hand of humans. Also, it is important to note that there are many ways that an individual deems something to be “natur al”. These might be attributes such as non manicured, nonhuman made, or simply vegetation (as opposed to metal or concrete). It would be a very interesting direction to take research, to look at what specifically leads individuals to view one space as “ar tificial” and another as “natural”.


33 prime, contemporary example of this is seen at the High Line, which “demonstrate[s] a conscious awareness of the mimicked wilderness ‘as if it were in a museum’, iterating the joy of seeing som ething wild, yet controlled” (Ebbensgaard, 2017, p.447). Central Park is also a space designed in the picturesque style, which was highly engineered, but appears to be naturally occurring. Many visitors to the park today would never know that many of the boulders were moved and arranged in a specific way, and were accented by imported trees and manmade water features. Figure 9: Plantings at the High Line which appear to be naturally occurring. The B uttes Chaumont in Paris was ori ginally a quarry, which was transformed into a picturesque oasis using artificial rock and imported plants . This is another example of a highly constructed spa ce that is made to appear wild and unkempt. This landscape along with Alphand’s other parks were , “appreciated as examples of highly engineered “natural” landscapes that engaged the full range of 19thcentury construction techniques and materials to achieve their image” ( Alphand, 2001, p.35) . This suggests that designers at the time were proud of thei r ability to create unnatural spaces with technological advances. T his type of artificial constr uction was so highly respected then, yet the same techniques of artificiality are critiqued today when used in a themed environment.


34 Theme parks use a variety of techniques to create artificial, natural looking landscapes, including artificial rock ( often made from concrete) , artificial trees, and exotic trees brought in from the climates they are trying to simulate. One of the most common challenges cited by th eme park designers in various LAM articles is creating a space that feels like a landscape from an entirely different climate. One theme park designer in the June 1990 article Designing Disney mentioned constructing an entire African baobab tree out of art ificial materials and saying, “move that branch over thereAn elephant needs to be able to get its trunk in there” ( Jost, 2009, p. 63) . These highly constructed places need to be realistic and theme park designer take this attention to detail to great extremes. Zoos are another contemporary environment in which designers must simulated the wild in a highlyconst ructed place. The zoo “has been and still is a place for the representation of our understanding of “the wild” and the negotiation of the difference between ‘culture’ and ‘wild’” “ a place for the experience of a quasified ‘wilderness’ within urban society” ( Steinkrger , 2016, p.47). Zoos also demonstrate the longstanding trad ition of dominance over nature. I n the same way people have dominated the “natural” plant world, they have dominated the “natural” animal world. Born out of a concern for the captive animals’ emotional well being (or possibly more so the visitors’ perception of this), many zoos began to design “their animal houses in a so called ‘exotic’ style to look like the ‘cultural environment’ of the animal” (Steinkrger , 2016, p. 49). Similar to the design of a Picturesque landscape , zoo designers spend a lot of time and resourc es to construct “wild” spaces for the public .


35 The S ublime Another quality of a Picturesque landscape is that of the sublime , a word that today is commonly used , to describe things such as chocolate or dessert. In fact, the word sublime in reference to a landscape has an almost religious connotation, describing sc enes that are powerful and moving. Places that induce a feeling of the sublime tend to include an element of danger and often , because of their sheer scale, make an individual feel small and insignificant. For this reason, experiences like standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon, and looking at a ni ght sky full of stars can elicit this feeling of sublimity (though the second does not quite contain the literal danger element , it still makes the individual feel insignificant in the universe, which can be qui te frightening ) . While Meyer explains that the sublime is “a feeling rarely evoked by built landscapes,” it is still some thing many designers strive for (1998, p.11). Gas Works Parks is a perfect example of the sublime landscape. In her text Seized by Sublime Sentiments , Meyer describes the landscape’s power through contrasting aesthetics, and “ a curious intermingling of the technological a nd natural sublime that moved [her] because of its lack of bounds, its hybrid nature, its contaminated state, its dist urbance” ( 1998, p.16). Figure 10: Gas Works Pa rk, Seattle, WA.


36 Edmund Burke is frequently cited as an early literary source providing an explanat ion of the sublime, particularly in his work A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful . Potteiger and Purinton discuss how Burke “distinguished the sublime from the beautiful. He associated the beautiful with softness, fragility, sweetness, cleanlinessand pleasure” and the sublime with “mystery, darkness, fear, and terror” (1998, p.139). This sentiment of separating the sublime from the beautiful, as well as distinguishing it from the picturesque (they are not always present together) is echoed by others (Meyer, 1998; Hunt, 2002). Further, Potteig er and Purinton explain that “an intent to create imagined fear finds contemporary expression in the making of modern amusement and adventure parks, where dangerous heights and speeds simulate experiences with real dangers of waterfalls, rapids, mountain f aces, and d ark caves” ( 1998, p.139). These techniques used to create the sublime in themed environments will be discussed in the immersion chapter. When designing a space for the experience of the sublime, sometimes designers enlist the P icturesque tactic of the circuit. The C ircuit A third element of the Picturesque landscape was the tendency for designers to lay out the space so that individuals had to meander through it, encountering various views and surprises along the way, sometimes called a “choreogr aphed experience” or “pictorial circuit” (Schulz, 1981) . This approach was referred to as “the circuit” and is a technique still used today in many different realms of landscape and environmental design. One ke y element of the “circuit” invol ves placing th ings in the distance that pull people through the space and beckon them to other areas of the landscape. These objects, structures, or framed views are called follies. For example, the Temple of Ancient Virtue ( Figure 1 1) served as an architectural folly i n the English picturesque landscape of Stowe, which visitors would see from afar .


37 Figure 11: The Temple of Ancient Virtue as Folly at Stowe . Potteiger and Purinton write about how landscape architects frequently use d the concept of the circuit, by using it to hide unsightly views. “For instance, Humphrey Repton’s Red Books improved landscape scenes by revealing picturesque views to pastoral fields and distant waters, and concealing unsightly views to butcher shops, beggars, or se rvice yards” (1998, p.137). This technique is still used today. Theme parks borrow directly from the t radition of the circuit. There are benefits to this approach, such as supporting crowd control when attendance reaches p eak volumes, enhancing the storyte lling experience , and building anticipation for what comes next . The direct translation of the concept of the folly appeared in Disneyland, where Walt Disney used what he called “weenies,” or sculptural/architectural pieces in the distance to encourage peo ple to move through the space. A t Disney’s Animal Kingdom, when visitors approach the exit of the Jurassic Park world , the peaks of Hogwarts Castle are visible in the distance, eliciting “ooos and ahhs” from the crowd and prompting people to pick up the pa ce to get there as quickly as possible . Not only does this demonstrate that the use of follies works, but also , feeling the excitement of those around you enhance s your own excitement for what i s to come. Lukas (2008) noticed this


38 crossover of traditions in sayin g that, “j ust as the design of early pleasure gardens provided amusement vistas through the design of landscape and flora, the new emphasis on mechanical vistas did the same, albeit through a more artificial means” (p. 38) . While guiding peoples’ mo vement through the theme park has been used in controversial ways (such as placing a gift shop at the end of every ride, which visitors are forced to pass through), it also plays an important role in storytelling and experience, and is a tradition that is directly paralleled with that of the Picturesque. Imitation (Critique) and Imitation (of Style) Imitation (Critique 7) Francaviglia (1995) brings up the argument among historians that “Disney and his successors created ‘false’ placerelated history in the theme parks ,” and also that “architects and urban designers know [that they] were geniuses at creating and re creating place in its most historic sense, [but] many historians still refuse to concede it” (p.73). While it i s reassuring to hear that some arch itects acknowledge the theme park designer’s skill in placemaking, the fact that some do not agree still stands as an existing critique. Disney is also critiqued for creating spaces that are deceptive in their portrayal of places, but we can at least ackno wledge that they do not try to hide what they are doing. Every person (over a certain age, and of a certain mental awareness) enters the park with the understanding that it is a constructed place. No one thinks they are actually going to France when they visit the simulated land in Epcot or the “Paris” of Las Vegas. In fact, many scholars document the benefits of this contrast of real and fake, or the “pleasure of being duped” ( Taylor Leduc, 2015, p.374), which will be discussed in more detail in the Immers ion chapter.


39 When discussing the morality of these themed reconstructions, it could be argued that their approach is actually more morally responsible than what some landscape architects do (and have done) when constructing “wild” places. For example, the High Line in NYC is a renowned landscape project that is touted as a “wild” space in w hich city ruins were reclaimed by nature in the form of weeds and native growth taking back th e city. In fact, it is a highly manicured structure, with a large crew that tends to the “native” plants daily . Langhorst (2014) explains that “the design removed the existing emergent and transgressive ecologies with their ‘wild’ appearance, and replaced them with carefully designed and choreographed artificial ecologies” which are “controlled by maintenance regimes that are not just exclusive and restrictive, but also extensive” (11211122). Another example of deception in traditional landscape archite cture is in the Buttes Chaumont . Most visitors to both the High Line and the Buttes Chaumont (and even Central Park) do not know that they are constructed spaces. They probably understand that there is some upkeep and manicuring involved, but the extent of the artificiality is not well understood. This is another example of two tra ditional landscape projects doing the same thing that theme parks are being critiqued for. Baudrillard wrote in The Hyper realism of Simulation that the problem with representation (or imitation), especially in the architectural or theme park realm is tha t people come to enjoy the copy of the thing over the place it was made to represent , as it is frequently an idealized version of the original, with little substance behind the representation ( 1994 ) . Harwood ( 2002) echoes this concern after hearing a group of students react to seeing Stourhead for the first time by saying, “It’s like Disneyland ” (p. 49). Although the comment may suggest that the students believe Disney came first, this is unlikely. Rather, perhaps they made this comment because Disney is th eir f irst association with Picturesque places and aesthetics. Baudrillard’s


40 critique is fair, but it is also slightly insulting to the individual visiting a theme park to assume that they do not understand that the theme park is a representation of a real place associated with a whole history and culture. Figure 12: The Representation an d T he Original , Chteau de Ch enonceau, Indre et Loire , France. One important note here is that Baudrillard suggested that seeing a place like Di sney’s Cinderella castle before seeing the original castle that inspired the structure will taint the experience of the real thing, with the “copy” appearing to be better in some way, but neglecting to convey the history and culture behind the place (a sim pl y visual shell in a sense) . While this could happen if the individual was in a vacuum, it seems fairly unlikely that there would be no entity (either a person, text, or signage) explaining to them that these are very different things that have value for different reasons. It is up to that individual to then decide which things they value more, in order to make a better or worse distinction between the two (because as bad as it sounds, some people value pretty things over culture, and they are 100% entitle d to that belief). As Steinkrger mentions in his discussion of zoos , these spaces do “not deceive us that the border between spectator and spectated have blurred. It is still an environment built for the tourists’ gaze in a hierarchical asymmetry between human and nature” (2016, p.51) . Further, I


41 wonder what Baudrillard said about landscape painting or photography, as these are also representations of things , which may create unrealistic expectations of reality. For example, the carefully curated imagery in postcards and movies may exaggerate the beauty of a place, causing disappointment when vi sitors experience it firsthand. One final aspect of this critique of imitation is the belief that themed environme nts are stereotyping. In reality, t hese environmen ts are “like any other form of symbol in the world, both a simplification and a representation of places, people, and things” and further that effective “theming must go beyond the surface stereotypes and instead focus on a use of key symbols, materials, and other forms of material culture” (Lukas, 2013, p.79). W hile on the surface, themed environments seem to be superficial generalizations, if they are done well, they w ill craft environmental features and cues to make the experience feel more real. This au thenticiy could be achieved through the careful selection of materials, and attention to sensory stimuli. When discussing imitation and copying of other cultures and places, the word “authentic” frequently arises . Everyone has that friend who describ es the new Mexican restaurant in town by exclaiming , “I t’s SO authentic!”. But what does authenticity actually mean and how does one know they have experienced something authentic? Further, how is a fantasy environment judged for its’ authenticity when there is no original? Milman (2013) researched the concept of authenticity extensively and concluded that it is a very complex and difficult term to define . The OED defines something that is authentic as , “ Of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine ; ” as “Based on facts; accurate or reliable,” or “ (in existentialist philosophy) relating to or denoting an emotionally appropriate, significant, purposive, and responsible mode of human life” ( Authentic, n.d.). Clearly this is a very complicated concept. Lukas (2013 ) ag rees, but explains authenticity as “all about bringing life to a space in such a way that the guest will see it as real, believable,


42 and worthy of their time and attention” (p.107). Further, he identifies several qualities that must be present f or a space to feel “authentic,” shown in Figure 13. Figure 13: Lukas' criteria for "authenticity" in space (Retrieved from Lukas, 2013, pg.107) Milman (2013) investigated authenticity specifically in the realm of theme parks in his study of the various pavi lions of Epcot . Unsurprisingly, he found that the individuals with t he most exposure to the country represented at the theme park had the lowest levels of feelings of authenticity for the space. This relates to Herrington’s discussion of abandoned structures in P icturesque landscapes and how “distance from the subject matter” is necessary for appreciation of its’ aesthe tic qualities ( 2006, p.32) . She explains , for example, that if a milling expert encountered an abandoned mill, “the woman’ s detailed technical knowledge of agricultural practicesmay in fact prohibit her from enjoying the Picturesque aesthetics of the mill folly” and instead she w ould see it as sad that it has been left to fall to pieces (p.32). In other words, the more you know about the thing being imitated, the less tolerant you are about its attempts at realism. Further, Waysdorf and Reijnders (2016) discuss authenticity in the WWoH P . T hrough


43 interviewing visitors , they determine d that authenticity relates to everything “f eeling right,” specifically in the design detailing of the space ( something Lukas call s microtheming ), but also in the sensory experience (signage, food and drink, sounds, smells, physical movement of objects with in the space, etc.) . Authenticity seems to have something to do with how well the experience fits the visitor’ s beliefs of what that place should feel like (and consequently has a lot to do with expectations). Regardless of how “real” a place seems to one person, typically, there is another th at fe els it i s “not quite right”. This critique is consistently waged against style imitation, a practice that has persisted almost as long as humans have been constructing things .13 Imitation of Style While inst ances of imitation of style in landscapes can most likely be seen much earlier, one e xample of this from 600 BC is the Hanging Gardens of Babylon where Nebuchadnezzar II was said to have built an outdoor oasi s for his wife, in the Median style , to make her feel more comfort able surrounded by the environme nt of her hometown. For centuries, we have been borrowing styles from previous generations, duplicat ing or imitating their style s, something Francaviglia touches on when he asks us to, “Ponder the following: just how “real” was a pioneer American community in the early 1800’s whose town builders laid out the community in the form of a Roman grid, emulated classical Greek architecture for its buildings, and named the new community Athens, Syracuse, or Rome?” ( 1995, p.73). 13 An interesting discussion occurs frequently within the historic preservation field about “original substance” and where the line is drawn between the “original” and the “re creation”. Some believe that when a historic structure is restored (such as structural replacement), it is no longer the original, and is therefore a copy. This also extends into conflicts over “patina”. For example, the outside of a historic church in Paris was recently cleaned, restoring the original color it had at construction, and there was an intense negative reaction by locals and visitors. Many felt it was not “right,” that it was “too clean,” and new. This is very much tied to the concept of authenticity, and expectations people have about “o riginals”.


44 Mimicking of exotic architectural s tyles was seen at the Sanssouci in Potsdam, with the tea h ouse in Anglo Chinoiserie style. This mimicry was also seen “At London’s Ranelagh Gardens, popular in the mid1700’s, [which] included lavish architectural features, such as a giant rotunda, and a C hinese house” (Lukas, 2008, p.24). Today we see style imitations from the large scale to small, and from public to private realms. We see landscape design traditions such as allees and topiary peppering spaces , full blown re creations of cultural landscapes, (such as Japanese gardens in many large cities), to individuals mimicking architectural and landscape styles from overseas in their own backyards. These landscape copies have been generated for a variety of reasons, anywher e from simple admiration of their style, to educational “demonstration” gardens. Thomas Jefferson w as a notable gardener and horticulturalist who gathered botanica l specimens from other horticulturalists all over the world, mostly for educational purposes . Additionally, z oos are anoth er type of landscape that creates environments and ecosystems that directly mimic the native habitat of the creatures they keep. Figure 14: Tea houses at Sanssouci in Potsdam (left) and Japanes e Tea House at the CWF (right). Whil e this imitation of place can be seen occasi onally in modernday nonthemed lands cape projects, it is essential to the theme parks’ foundation ( Epcot , zoos, Las V egas, etc.) . It could be argued that almost all design is in f act imitating some other style. One key precursor to


45 this style is the desire and ability to travel. Before someone can mimic a culture or place, they must visit it, and this is how many of these landscapes were created. The (typically wealthy) owners of a property would visit a foreign land, become enthralled at the place’s exoticism, and then upon return to their home, want to rec reate what they saw (and even bring objects and plants back from the place directly). One could say this desire for exoticism taps into a sort of wanderlust or a desire to experience other cultures and places, also called “romantic geography”, a concept Tuan discussed that is “the human desire to encounter environments and places that are remote, exotic, dangerous, or even beyond reach, whether practically or existentially” (Seamon, 2014). This is in fact a large component of themed and zoo landscapes, which many seek out to experience other places, perhaps when they cannot afford it or cannot take an extended amount of time away from home and work. For this final section of critiques, the key point is that although themed landscapes are imitating styles of other places, and they are crafting seemingly naturally occurring landscapes out of artificial materials, this isn’t a thing unique to them. In fact, the But tes Chaumont in Paris , France, and the World of Pandora at Disney in Orlando, Florida have remarkably similar planted, artificial rock structure s taking center stage ( Figure 15). While there is an extensive list of critiques waged against themed environments, there are also just as many instances of these same features in traditional landscape projects. Not only are theme park designers doing many of the things traditional landscape architects are doing, they have also developed an ability through various t echniques to create unique and immersive spaces. In the next chapter, the construct of immersion will be defined, along with the techniques theme park designers use to create these spaces. Though a few of these techniques might be


46 easier to utilize in a th eme park environment, many directly translate to nonthemed landscape design. Figure 15: Artificial Rock at the Buttes Cha umont in Paris, France, May 2017 (left) and Artificial Rock at WOP at Disney in Orlando, Florida, December 2017 (right)


47 CHAPTER I V WHAT WE CAN LEARN Construct of Immersion Theme park designers are ultimately designers of space (just like landscape architects, architects, urban designers, interior designers, set d esigners, etc.). While their medium s differ, they are making a space for people to have an experience (ideally an engaging and memorable one) . In fact, they are some of the best at creating immersion or “ Deep mental involvement in something” ( Immersion, n.d.). Lukas (2016) explains this as a process in which “multiple architectural, material, performative, and technological approaches may wrap up or envelop a guest within [a space] ” , and that this “person who enters such a space will be transformed” (Lukas, 2016, p.3). This transformation of the individual can be momentary or lasting, and happens through emotional mechanisms. Through use of “immersion techniques,” visitors can experience benefits similar to those of escapism or play, with the most obvious being s tress reduction. When designi ng a theme park, designers rely on various techniques to create an immersive space. Lukas mentions six key elements of immersive environments, including t heming, s torytelling, d esign f ocus, c onnectors and t ransitions, guest w illingness to c hange, and the guests’ p urpose (Lukas, 2015; Lukas, 2017, 124126) . Theming has to do with recogniza bility, or creating a concept/ world that people “get ,” as well as creating a sense of distinction from the “real world”. Storytelling is a key component to creating an imm ersive environment, and while theming might not be as relevant for traditional landscape architectural projects, storytelling


48 absolutely is. This concept will be discussed in more detail briefly . Design Focus is comparable to the “big idea” in l andscape or architectural design. It is basically an idea or concept that guides all decisions throughout the design process. Sometimes also called a ‘parti’, this is a guiding principle , idea, or concept that creates a space “that reflects the advantages of details, precision, and a clearly honed vision of what the space is intended to do for the guest” ( Lukas, 2017, p.126). Connectors and Transitions are the details that exist between spaces. For themed environments, they are the areas in between the different “worl ds ,” and for traditional landscape projects are usually called thresholds, that mark transitions from one programmatic area to another (frequently accomplished with different materiality such as textures, plantings, colors, etc.) “ Guest Willingness to Cha nge” and Guests’ Purpose ” are closely related concepts. Another name for the first is the guests ’ ability to suspend disbelief, to mentally enter into a space of imagination, or to “play along” with the fantasy. In traditional landscapes, this could be the ability for the visitor to appreciate the design and features of a space, whether that be by feeling a sense of relaxation or “otium ,” lingering in the space to understand the intention of the design, or directly interacting with the space itself. Finally , the ‘ Guests’ Purpose ’ in the space applies in the same way to both traditional and themed spaces. This is the responsibility the designer has in thinking about the needs and desires of the guests, or in other words, as some designers say , “don’t give the m what they think they want, give them what they need”. O ther techniques or methods for creating an immersive space have been cited , some of whic h overlap with Lukas’ research . These include things such as storytelling, sensory engagement, inspiring awe (t he sublime), interaction opportunities, and transporting the visitor to another place and time.


49 Techniques of Immersion Storytelling M any themed environments pull their design inspiration from m ovies and television shows, and try to re create wo rlds and narratives from other forms of “literature” (as most movies and shows are originally books or theater). Traditional landscape architecture projects also frequently form their design inspiration from stories (historical or cultural narratives), which essent ially tell stories to the users of the space. Potteiger and Purinton (1998) argue that storytelling always has a “beginning and an end” which is sometimes represented in landscape, such as the story of the Metamorphoses at Villa Lante which starts with a representation of the flood (The Grotto of the Deluge), and displays the story and passage of time leading to the present (The F ormal G arden) (p.43). This is a very clear demonstrat i on of storytelling in the garden, which in Renaissance times was used as a display of power, by showing control over the landscape. T his display of power was also by portraying stories such as those from Greek mythology, aligning the family with Greek gods (such as what is seen at Versailles). Stourhead is another traditional lan dscape in which a story “is retold in the landscape with a high degree of authority and control over the means of representation” where “scenes, characters, and events of the story are conjured by inscriptions, statues, and identifiable architectural refer ences to ancient Rome” ( Potteiger and Purinton, 1998, p.15). Today, traditional landscapes tend to tell stories about the history of the site or area as opposed to mythology. Potteiger and Purinton (1998) support this in saying, “Almost any element in the landscape – woodlots, street corners, old trolley tracks, thresholds, or even tools used to shape the landscape – provide access to the memory landscape” (p. 20). For example, Gas Works Park is a landscape that was a power generat ion site, and consists of structural


50 remains surrounded and contrasted by the manicured, designed landscape. This does not reference any literary story, but provides some insight for the visitor into the historical narrative and usage of the site, which provides a deeper connectio n to the space through understanding. The High Line tells a narrative about the previous usage and history of the space through remnant structures and vegetation in a very similar way . While the vegetation is now artificially implanted and maintained, it i s modeled after the natural processes that “took back” the city from humans (specifically the rail road industry). Degen and Rose (2012) additionally explain that memory has a large component in the narrative of a space, because “i t is through the daily sm elling, touching, seeing, hearing, and tasting that places become known to us, familiar .” (p.3276). These sensory experiences form memories, which then form a personal narrative of what a place means to the individual . As mentioned, Lukas acknowledges stor ytelling as a key component of immersion. In The Immersive Worlds Handbook , he explains his belief that “we owe much to the theme park as the form that established the precedent of telling stories through architecture, material culture, design, and technol ogy,” and further that “the great story, as we shall see, can give any space – even a mundane one – a sense of meaning ” by “bringing people together” and giving “us a sense of shared purpose” ( Lukas, 2013, p. 49, 55). Reemphasizing Degen and Rose’s comment s on the narrative as it is tied to memories, Lukas explains that : T he park is not simply an amusement landscape, it is the place where you met your wife; the wooden out andback roller coaster is not merely a ride, it is the place where you most vividly r emember the outings with your family. Unlike other forms of popular culture that become memorable, the theme park ride and the theme park itself are connected to real experiences that are remembered in part due to the vivid association s of theming, landsca ping, rides and attractions that dot the theme park landscape . (2008, p.233)


51 In other words, these spaces facilitate experiences that become memories, which in turn become narratives or stories for the individual (or group), and are especially extraordinar y because of their immersive qualities. This seems to be a “chicken or the egg” phenomenon, in which storytelling creates immersion, and in turn, immersion facilitates the writing of a personal narrative , something that is reflected in Tuan’s thoughts on t opophilia. He explains topophilia as “the affective bond between people and place or setting,” which can be formed both through memories of the place, and through feelings (such as pride) about a place (Tuan, 1990, p.4). The House of Eternal Return , designed by the artist collective Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, NM is a perfect example of an immersive space using narrative to increase engagement with visitors. This space tells the story of a family who experienced a paranormal “event” which altered reality. As you move through the space, reality fragments , and you enter through various “portals” (disguised as everyday things such as a washing machine) into different realms. On top of this use of storytelling, they encourage visitors to interact with the space, to o pen doors, flips through books and photos, and in doing so, the visitor learns more about the story and the event that occurred. While visitors to the space could easily enjoy themselves knowing nothing about the story, for the more inquisitive, it provide s a second level of depth to the experience, which provides moments of delight, amazement , and excitement.


52 Figure 16: Exiting the Fridge at Meow Wolf, Santa Fe, NM. Another example of an immersive space making use of storytelling is the immersive theater in NYC, NY called Sleep No More . This is a live theater perfor mance put on in an old hotel downtown, in which patrons can wander around and experience the events happening in real time, as if they are a part of the performance. Wh ile one wanders from one room to the next, more of the story unfolds, which in turn encourages them to continue through the space. In this environment, visitors are also encouraged to interact with the props and items , such as eating candy in a room that has a large display of tasty treats. This plays into so me previously mentioned landscape traditions such as landscape as theater or spectacle, the elements of anonymity and behavior in public spaces, as well as some of the other techniques of immersion. Whi le these last two examples are not outdoor landscapes, and could almost be described more as interior design projects, they are achieving high levels of immersion through storytelling. The way they are using this technique could be extended to the design of outdoor spaces, in order to capture and engage visitors . For example, the way Meow Wolf uses everyday objects in different ways than originally intended (you can climb through the fireplace and exit


53 into a dark room with a neon forest), while also involving the visitor in a kinetic experience of exploration could be used in parks. Most people would immediately say “oh this would be great in a playground environment ,” but these places of discovery and exploration s hould be incorporated into landscapes for all ages as well, because, as we have learned, we all need to play. This could be achieved by generating a storyline or plot that individuals must engage with ( such as in the “escape rooms” that have become increasingly popular in urban areas). Sensory E xperience One of the most frequently cited and powerful techniques of immersion is engagement of the senses, “specifically the ability to connect with the consumers in the most intimate of possible ways” ( Lukas, 2008, p.125; Waysdorf & Reijnders, 2016; Luka s , 2006) . After interviewing visitors to WWoHP , Waysdorf and Reijnders found that guests felt especially immersed in the space when “cultural fantasy [could] be engaged in a multisensor y way” through “tas tes, smells, sounds, and physical movements that are part of the narrative world” (2016, p.78). Roda way (1994) notes the distinction between the “intimate” and “distant” senses. “Intimate” senses as those that are cl ose to our bodies, are more personal and individual, and include smell and touch, while “di stant” senses are further away, are potentially experienced by others at the moment , and are less personal, like sight and hearing (p.26). All of these types of s ensory engagement can connect an individual to a space through the processes of recalling memo ries , gene rating emotions , or grounding the individual in a meditative or healing way.14 14 An interesting recent discovery shows that individuals who take photos in new places tend to not recall the features of the place or the experience in quite as much detail as those who do not ( No pictures please, 2013 ). In relation to sensory experience, this makes a lot of sense (pun intended) as the individual is not attending to the environmental cues as they happen, and instead relying on visual s alone to later recall the situation.


54 For example, Degen and Rose (2012) write that “the first way in which memory affects the sensory [experience of a space] is when the experiencing of the built environment in the present is overlaid with memories of how that same environment was encountered in the past” (p.3279). This memory recall is generated primarily through sights, smells, and sounds. Further, once a sensory experience generates a memory, it frequent ly is followed by an emotional response (though the extent of this reaction can vary). In her master’s thesis Make Sense, Robitaille (2002) creates a detailed account of the sensory experiences and subsequent emotional reactions generated by Parc Andr Ci tron in Paris , France. In this text, she emphasizes that , “Our senses directly involve and connect us to the spaces we move through,” and “we are touched by the landscape at all moments in time” (p.34). Through her explorations and documentation of sensor y experiences throughout this park, she frequently notes the “moods” that these sensory messages elicit, whether pleasant or not. Figure 17: McLean and students on a Smellwalk. O ur sensory experiences have been shown to directly relate to more lasting emotional, and in turn sometimes even physical changes. Ebbensgaard (2017) explains that environmental psychologists have identified that , “emotional effects of nature are measured in rel a tion to


55 developing subjective vitality, phys ical and emotional restoration, or the feeling of relating to nature” (p . 444) . A common feature of meditation practices is to focus on sensory qualitie s such as the sounds around you and the feeling of air on your skin to calm mental chaos. Further, resea rch has shown that viewing nature (visual) can help in healing of the body, and touching or interacting with it (haptic) such as in sensory gardens can further enhance this process ( Ulrich, 1984; Hussein, 2010). Clearly sensory experiences can be powerful, whether or not we acknowledge them . These impacts can lead to this previously mentioned “transformation” associated with immersion, and provides a whole other avenue of debate to the “meaning making” discussion. Theme parks have been explained as places that directly play on this emotional aspect of space (2006) says that “In many ways, theme parks operate as environmental labs and the deliberate manipulation of environmental sensory cues in order to influence the behavioral responses of visitors is a common practice ” (p.160). While this statement has a slightly negative tone to it in terms of the control these places are wielding on the guests, in fact, many visitors go for exactly this reason . They go to have an experience, which is frequently emotional (imagine the crying, laughing, and screaming that happens at amusement parks), in the same way individuals go to see a movie that moves them to tears, laughter, or surprise. Some nonthemed landscapes have been designed with a direct focus on the sensory aspects of s pace and experience as well, though they are sporadic . A E Bye wa s notorious for creating landscapes that were based on an “emphasis of human experience of natural systems” and was very attuned to the textures, colors, and processes happening on site ( Penny packer & Hall, n.d.). The ability of a landscape to transform the individual through sensory experiences (whether it be


56 momentary or lasting) is powerful, and should be utilized more frequently and intentionally. One way that landscape architects can do th is is through the use of visual cue s. Sight The visual sense is frequently relied on not only for the design of spaces, but also is commonly seen as the main experiential quality of the space. This is not surprising as humans with the ability to see tend to lean more heavily on this over all other senses.15 Though like all senses, our perception and interpretation is different for each individual, across the board it is understood that “ vision is our dominant sense. We derive most of our information about t he world about where things are, h ow they move, and what they are from the light that enters the eyes and the proce ssing in the brain that follows ” ( Wade & Swanston, 2013, p.ix) . This is so true , that we could say many people neglect to pay as much at tention to their other senses, relegating those to almost subconscious sensory experiences. Because of this emphasis on the visual as a species and therefore as designers, there are several landscape proje cts that have done the visual aspect of space extr emely well. One style of landscape that comes to mind in this sense is formal French gardens, which rely heavily on the visual, with their use of broderie (intricate detailed shaping of flowers and shrubs in a quilt like fashion), visual tricks, vanishing points, straight lines, follies, as well as their ornate to piary. A second landscape tradition that relied on the visual was the arts and crafts movement, more specifically the work of Gertrude Jekyll, who used an extensive palette of colors and textures t o separate spaces and mark transitions from one area (“garden room”) to another. 15 Interestingly, individuals who have lost, or never had t heir sense of sight tend to have much stronger abilities to detect sounds than individuals with functioning visual systems ( Miller, 2017).


57 Figure 18: Formal French Garden at Chateau de Villandry , May 2017 Lukas explains that the role of the visual sense in immersion of themed environme nts is influenced through microtheming, which is design that attends to even the tiniest of details in a space, so that no area appears to be “inauthentic”. An example he provides for this is in the New York casino in Las Vegas, in which they have steam co ming out of the manhole covers to provide an added level of realism (Lukas, 2013, p.80) . This focus on details in themed space is reiterated in the materiality section which addresses the role of trees and greenery in authenticity and visual immersion. Whi le theme parks have been criticized as being primarily visual places, several have stressed that for a space to be considered immersive, it must “reference multiple uses of all the senses,” “ ideally occurring in imperceptible levels to the consumer” (Lukas, 2006, p.76, 78).16 In fact , Rodaway (1994) states that it i s impossible to even separate all our sensory informat ion (p.25), so in theory, there i s really no suc h thing as a purely visual space . T hough 16 He notes “imperceptible” because when one sensory element is “out of whack” or particularly dominant, it can thro w off the sense of immersion, by making the represented reality seem not quite right, or inauthentic.


58 sight does play a large role in our experience of space, other sensory experiences have a n equally powerful influence, one of which is hearing. Sounds As humans, we become accustomed to the sounds in our neighborhoods. When someone from a rural environment ventures into the city, they are met with many loud noises (such as cars or construction equipment) , which someone living there might not notice. In fact, they probably would take note of the absence of these sounds on a trip out to the country. While we do not always attend to the sounds happening around us, they can have a very strong impact on our not only our experience of a space, but subsequently our emotional and mental states. Hopkins (1994) explains how “Sound plays a major role in the creation and comprehension of our social and physical environm ent; it serves as a medium of socialization and specialization and consequently a powerful agent in the construction of place” (p.788). In the design world, this is probably one of the senses that has received slightly more attention, mostly in terms of so und mitigation and noise pollution. It seems that most of the focus has been on preventing bad, instead of creating pleasing sounds, or using sounds to create a unique experience. Ebbensgaard (2017) discusses a contemporary landscape project which does bot h of these things. Under the Crystal, is a project in Copenhagen, which during the warmer months uses fountains to “cancel out ‘disturbing’ noise and smell from the traffic” but also to provide a calming experience for visitors to the space ( Ebbensgaard 20 17, p. 450). Another interesting project that uses sound to create a mood is the Sea Organ in Zadar, Croatia. This is a series of marble steps along the coast that plays varied sounds through pipes as the waves and tide change, playing the “Orchestra of Na ture” and creating a mood ( Sea Organ, n.d.) .


59 Fowler (2013) discusses the design and representation of soundscapes. He explains that “in particular, natural environments and their acoustic behaviours produce particularly meaningful experiences to auditors, and thus the sounds within them constitute a type of mediating language between listener and environment” (p. 113). In this way, he is illuminating the way sound can be a source of meaning making in the landscape, whether that be through emotions or memor y of previous experiences. When discussing the role of sounds in im m ersive environments Lukas states that “Hearing is a powerful sense, because it can create a sense of a total space. It gives the guest all of the auditory cues that indicate where the per son is and what can be expected in the space” (2013, p. 197). In other words, sounds in a space contribute another sensory layer that can enhance authenticity and place. If this is off somehow, it can create an undesirable experience. For example, if there were sounds of dolphins playing over the speakers in a jungle themed environment, it would be confusing and would take you out of that reality. Similarly, if you place an ancient Japanese garden next to a highway, and neglect to include any water sounds, the dominant noise would be that of the traffi c, which would ruin the sense of immersion in the space. In the same way that sounds can have a powerful influence on our experience of place, the smells traversing the site can change our feelings about the sp ace. Smells Smell is said by some to be the most powerful of the sensory experiences , and that it will “validate an experience, fictional or real, as authentic and human” (Rindisbacher, 2006, p.136) . Most research on smells in public places tends to be on noxious odors and eliminating unsavory aromas such as those coming from automobiles, factories, and cattle farms ( Porteous , 2006,


60 p.103). Smell is also frequently used in places such as shopping malls ( imagine perfume, lotions, and Cinnabons) to lure visitors into their shops. Rindisbacher ( 2006) writes about a dark side of smells in The Stench of Power , which he discusses the role of smells at Au schwitz. Many survivors recall the smell of the place over all else about the experience, discussing a beautifu l SS officer who used to come take prisoners away. They explained her as the “angel of death” and were particularly affected by her smell, which served as a reminder of the o utside world , making the place all the more unbearable (p.139). He also includes j ournal entries by the soldiers that went in with the liberation explaining the permanence of smell . “You have to breathe. You can wipe out what you don’t want to see. Close your eyes. You don’t want to hear, don’t want to taste. You can block out all the s enses except smell” ( quoted in Rindisbacher , 2006, p.147). While sense of smell can be dulled over time through exposure (as with any sensory input), smell appears to be one that is not only hard to escape in the moment, but also hard to remove from our m emories. We all have had the experience of smelling something that triggers a memory from decades ago. Specifically, in relation to theme parks, I can remember the smell of the Disaster! r ide at Universal , which had a chlorinated, mechanical smell (which I later in life realized was a combination of the propane from the simulated fires, and the “flood” waters that entered the space). Every time I went back to the park and rode the ride, I was filled with a sense of nostalgia and overwhelmed by the same feel ings I had as a child. This exact mechanism has been cited as a powerful force in the “magical” feelings of Disney parks, particularly for connecting the adult visitor to childhood experiences of wonder and fantasy, either by reliving the memories of these experiences, or reliving memories of their favorite movie ( Waysdorf & Reijnders, 2016; Freitag, 2017b). Additionally, this role of memory and its connection to the


61 experience of space has been studied in urban environments, particularly in how individuals form connections to the place (Degen and Rose, 2012, p. 3282, Henshaw, 2014; Robi taille, 2000). When someone remembers a place, they instantly have a connection to it, and presumably feel more immersed in or “at one with” their surroundings. There has been other research done on the experience of smells in urban environments. Henshaw (2014) provides a highly detailed and scientific account of smell in relation to the city, memory, food, placemaki ng, culture, pollution, policy, etc. Two of t he notable point s in the text are when she explains “s mellwalking ” and designing with smells. Smellwalking is a type of sensewalking in which the individual tries to gather specifically aromatic characteristics from an area (or “smellscape”), and document it in some way, which is commonly called a “smellmap”. The documenting of space through sensory experience has been used occasionally since the 60’s for various disciplines (Henshaw, 2014, p. 42). Kate McLean is a researcher who creates smellmaps of various cities, alone and with groups. Henshaw notes that “an integral part of her work is the creation of smells that accompany the maps when they are exhibited” ( 2014, p.55). This is especially interesting, because it demonstrates that other ways to represent sensory experien ces do exist , which opens up the door for portraying the smell of designs.


62 Figure 19: Smellmap of City of Singapore, by Kate McLean. Henshaw explains ways that design professionals can go beyond preventing bad smell experiences in the landscape, and instead make environments more pleasing. These include things such as factoring in wind currents (both speed and direction) and microclimates , pollution, perceived air quality (the smell of greenery and water makes people feel like th ey are breathing healthier air, regardless of its actual cleanliness) activities in the surrounding areas , and materiality ( 2014, p. 178, 182, 169194). Additionally, she makes an interesting note about a recent smellwalk, by explaining that the market’s “odours of fish, fruits, vegetables, cardboard, clothing and food, not to mention those emitted from the public toile t s, were very different from the odours of natural environments. However, they contributed towards overall place experience and w ere associated with restoration ” ( Henshaw, 2014, p.184). In other words, it i s not only good smells that contribute to the experience and character of a place. Smell has been used in theme parks as well as traditional landscapes to affect the experience of space. In the WWoHP , when you wander thr ough Diagon Alley, the smells of candy and baked goods out of Sugarplum’s Sweets Shop make the experience of wandering through the


63 street true to what one might have imagined when reading the books (or watching the movies)17. Lukas speaks of the role of smells in immersive spaces in the same way he does about sounds. They add another layer of factuality to a simulation of a place. Further, i n many urban parks and gardens, various ornamentals and herbaceous plants are used to cr eate a pleasant aroma, to transport the individual to a different place, away from the unpleasant aromas of the city. This taps into another aspect of immersion which will be discussed shortly, “transportation to other realms”. The only sensory experience we have not covered is that of touch. Materiality (Haptic ) Materiality and the sense of touch plays a huge role in the exper ience of space, and also can affect multiple other senses. The color of surroundings (frequently determined by material choice) , the feeling of walking on crushed gravel as opposed to poured concrete, the sound of a space made of metal vs. wood, or the temperature created by a concrete as opposed to green space can all have a powerful influence on the individual’s experience. Robitaill e (2000) explains that “simple and exploratory touch is commonly exploited in landscapes and gardens,” and discusses the experience of both active and passive touch in space (p.95). While active touch is fairly straightforward, passive touch is described a s “the experience that is influenced by the scale of surrounding buildings, the thickness of the surfaces upon which we walk, the microclimates and other intangible qualities,” and also that “we constantly imagine touch through the intermediary of sight and sound” (Robitaille, 2000, p. 9697). This further 17 There are in fact many, many reviews of Diagon Alley and WWoHP in general on sites such as TripAdvisor in which people say things such as this, “ The ele ments all combine to create a place that goes beyond our wildest imaginations. Everything is real; it’s tangible. It looks, smells, feels, sounds, and yes, tastes, like my imag ination always thought it would ” ( RikkiN, 2016). Additionally, there is a messag e board specifically dedicated to peoples’ favorite smells of the Disney theme parks ( CharDog1, 2009 ).


64 demonstrates the concept that our senses are inextricably linked, and continuously influence each other. Lukas writes about the experience of touch in Las Vegas casino s and how it provides an added element of immersion , bringing visitors closer to the place itself : W ater is a tactile element that is used by a number of the tropical themed casinos along the Strip. In the case of Bellagio’s fountains, vision is favored to touch and the effect is the custome r watching the remarkable show but not being a part of it. In contrast, Mandalay Bay’s many interior water features, aquarium, and gigantic water park with lazy rivers, pools, and a massive wave pool, invite the patron to touch and experience the casino’s theme in a more intimate sense. (2006, p.85) Water is a material that is underutilized in many public spaces. Not only does it provide atmosphere in terms of sound, it also can reduce temperature in hot climates, as well as provide a place of play or inte ractivity (such as with fountains or splash pads), providing a new sense of immersion through connection to the space. Materiality can also include the presence of trees and vegetation. One of the most interesting discoveries in this research on theme park s and immersion was the fact that multiple sources mentioned the role of trees and plants in theme parks, and how “theme parks without trees aren’t believable” (King, 2002, p. 6). A theme park design website explains that “ Greenery is to architecture what make up is to a model. Good landscape design adds an aesthetic to the show sets that is necessary for completing an environment” ( Creating immersive environments, n.d.) . Further, during an interview in the June 1990 issue of LAM , for an article titled Magi c and Power in the Landscape , Anne Spirn explains that , “one of the most masterful things about the Disney landscape is the use of plants for evoking a mood, for giving visitors sublim inal clues about where they are” (Faga, 1990, p.57). This is a successfu l form of immersion, if the materials are having an emotional effect on the visitors ( or are generating a “mood”) .


65 Degen and Rose explain the way that different materials evoke different feelings in their text The Sensory Experiencing of Urban Design. Thr ough interviewing individuals on their experiences of two differ ent towns, they discovered that: T hese [sensory] experiences of place vary considerably from one place to another. The smooth marble and glazing of Milton Keyne s’ s shopping centre, for example , provokes feelings of light and smoothness [and] the varied surface textures of Bedford’s buildings encourage people to compare the town wi th sandpaper. ( Degen and Rose, 2012, p.3283) These experiences may be mostly subconscious, but they still have an im pact on the individual’s experience and impression of the space. As mentioned, materiality has a role in the smell of a space, but also in the sound and appearance. Henshaw (2014) mentions how on their smellwalks, different materials had different smells and elicited different reactions. Particularly strong odors came from very absorbent materials such as bricks and wood (p. 189). One can imagine the differences after a rain, in the smell of a wooden deck and a concrete slab. What one prefers depends on many individual factors, but the fact that they produce different odors is important when considering design interventions. I t i s easy to see how these different materials would produce very different sounds, which would affect the soundscape of a space, and the appearance, which would affect the visual experience of the space (the latter mostly because of color palette differences and their effect on mood). Kinetic One final sensory experience closely related to materiality is that of kinetic experience. Thi s is the movement of the body through space, and the influence the space has on movement and experience of the individual. For example, the cadence of steps can make an individual feel various levels of comfort. If you imagine walking up a series of very deep steps, which allow


66 you to look around for a second, as opposed to going straight up a series of steps which you are forced to focus on, you can see that the experience of these two situations would feel very different. There is also a body of research looking at the way walking specifically contributes not only to the experience, but also the procedural memory associated with the usage of the space (Degen and Rose, 2012). O’Neill (2001) looked at ranchers ’ memories of their land and explained that “physical work, movement, and intimate contact with the built and natural landscape give people the opportunity to formulate knowledge about places that cannot be gained by singularly visual means” and that through these experiences “we evolve a deep understan ding of the identity of places and strengthen our emotional connections with them” (p.34). Veder (2013) wrote about this experience of space , specifically in regard to Dumbarton Oaks, and says that “bodily experience is aestheticized in ways that vary by time, place, and culture,” and further writes about the experience of walking through space in terms of “choreography, performance, bodily techniques, and physiological aesthetics” (p.6 7). Ultimately Veder explains that emotional and physiological connec tions are made with the landscape through interacting with it in a physical way (ducking under branches, climbing over rocks, lifting your foot to avoid tripping on roots, etc.). Feelings of Awe (S ublime) One of the main characteristics of a Picturesque l andscape, discussed previously is that of the experience of the sublime, which also happens to be a key component of an immersive space. Lukas (2008) explains the role of the feeling of the sublime and perceived fear in his discussion of dark rides, saying “ t he darkness takes hold of the rider and around each turn of the car is an


67 unexpected occurrence. Such a ride attempts to build on both the expectation and surprise, capturing the rider in a simulated space of terror” (p. 125). Personally, this is exact ly what I felt as a child on the Disaster! r ide at Universal , which provided the feeling of borderline danger through the experience of a simulated earthquake . During this ride, guest s are trapped in a subway, when an earthquake hits the city, causing mass destruction in the form of flooding, fires, and structural failure. This feeling of borderline danger, (i.e.: the sublime ) is one of the main ways this ride is especially successful. Other than the fact that you just entered into a ride at a theme park, t here are very few clues that this is a simulation, and you get very close to actual danger. The designers place fire and water just close enough to the rider that they feel the heat and splash, but it never actually touches them, preventing it from becoming physically harmful. Meyer discusses this delicate balance between the dangerous and pleasurable as “a form of terror that does not materialize, otherwise, this emotion would shift from the pleasurably threatening to the painfully harming” (1998, p. 12). Figure 20: Disaster! ride at Universal Studios, Orlando, FL. While these examples are in relation to rides , there are examples of this fear in other areas of them e parks. For example, in the WWo HP , at various times throughout the day, the massive dragon perched on Gringot ts Bank in Diagon Alley blows a large plume of fire out of its mouth. T hough many people know it i s coming and wait around for it, for the firsttime visitor


68 passing through the space, it can definitely be fright ening and feel somewhat dangerous , playing into this aspect of sublime experience. Another potential element of awe created by both themed and traditional landscape s is the ability of these spaces to make you feel small and insignificant, and to then ponder extremes. Upon a recent visit to the WoP , I felt overwhelmed and dwarfed by the enormity of the artificial rock and vegetation structure at the center of the space (Figure 3). This seemed directly related to the awe experienced by Thomas Jefferson when he reached N atural B ridge in Virginia and wrote in Notes on the State of Virginia that it was “the most sublime of nature’s works” ( Jefferson, 1787, p.34) . One of these experiences is more related to feeling small in the world and being led to ponder the e xtreme difference in you and the cosmos, and the other seems to be more related to a n element of respect for a craft . While the artificial rock work at WoP made me feel small, it more so led me to consider the extreme amount of time and craft that went int o the construction of the space. As seen by these examples, the sublime that was used in traditional landscapes decades ago is alive and well in the world of theme parks, and provides an added layer of immersion. Interactivity In terms of engaging an indi vidual in a space in order to increase immersion, interactivity is key. This includes interaction of the individual with the space itself, as well as the interaction of individuals within the space. Lukas explains this as a type of “theme park performance” and says that in this space, “a key moment emerges: the individual is not simply watching leisure activities [such as in a ride or theater production], he is a part of them” (Lukas, 2008, p.134135). This is reemphasized by King (2002) when she explains t hat Disneyland was created in order to provide a space that families could enjoy together, “with shared experience as the most valuable


69 desired outcome”. Along these same lines, she discusses how one of the most successful aspects of the place was its’ abi lity to “resolve the eternal dichotomy between the needs of the individual and those of the group” (p.13). It i s a space that allows the individual to get lost in an experience of their imagination while also looking over to their side and seeing a friend or family member having a similar experience. Interactivity is perhaps the most successful aspect of immersion in Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return ( see storytelling section for description ). As mentioned, visitors are encouraged to interact with and explore the space in whatever way they choose, whether this be simply wandering around, or actually looking through the objects and cubbies hidden throughout. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this space is the interaction with other visitors. While you w ander through the space, you are constantly hearing expression such as, “did you see this over here!?” and “I have to show you this! ,” showing this additional level of excitement that comes with discovering a space with others. Additionally, it i s not stra nge for random conversations and explorations to happen w ith strangers, tapping into that sense of discovery and joy of childhood. A very similar situation happens in the WWoHP , in which individuals are given wands, and can search for features of the space that respond when a wand is pointed at them. People of many ages are seen dressed as characters from the film, running around pointing wands and eagerly awaiting new discoveries. There is a level of kinship , collectivity, shared experience, and “fandom” at play in this space also, as “being in the park not only means being surrounded by the narrative world but also being surrounded by this community” in which “a fan becomes part of the ‘giant family’ of fellow Harry Potter fans occupying the spacewith th e accompanying


70 freedom to ‘geek out’ and act like a fan in a way that transgresses society’s normal proscriptions against such behavior” ( Waysdorf & Reijnders, 2016, p.12). Figure 21: Interactivity at the WWoHP . This interactivity is not seen quite as much in traditional landscapes, other than perhaps wandering down secluded paths and discovering beautiful settings. Some argue that this is an aspect of Picturesque landscapes, in that they provide an element of surprise around man y corners. Herrington ( 2006) discussed the “imaginative spectator” as “a powerful dimension of Picturesque aesthetics [that repositions] the viewer from passive receiver to active participant” ( p.26) . She explained a transition in design thinking in which the visitor to the space is actively interacting with it, predominately through imagination and emotion, as opposed to simply taking in the sites in a purely visual sense. Zoos have become spaces where individuals can observe animals in their “wild” habit at, but this was not always the case. “Since the 1970’s, ‘habitat immersion’ or ‘landscape immersion’ are becoming popular as new forms of display, in which it seems as if animal and spectator are standing in one landscape” ( Steinkrger , 2016, p. 49) In fa ct, some of these spaces do this so well that they have been observed as potentially making the “real” natural environments less exciting ( Steinkrger, 2016, p.50) , tapping into one of the original critiques of


71 theme pa rks by Baudrillard ( the artific e repl acing the real). Further, zoos provide an additional level of interactivity in which they allow visitors to directly intermingle with the animals, either through “wilderness treks” in which they are driven out into a natural area where animals run wild, or via exhibits where they can feed, pet, and train animals (usually via shows and with the assistance of trainers, such as those at Sea World). This allows visitors to connect with the place through interaction, mak ing them feel almost as if they ha ve been transported to a new place. Figure 22: Connecting with "the wild" Transportation to Other R ealms For anyone who has experienced an immersive space, a thought that comes to mind in describing the experience is “it felt like I was really there”. This suggests that the individual no longer felt like they were in their “normal, everyday” life space , and that they were transported to another place. Sometimes this place is imaginary, and sometimes it is a re creation of an existing plac e , either contemporary or in another realm altogether. Several have explained that t he ability to transport a visitor to a new place or time is a highly desirable qua lity of an immersive landscape (Carson, 2000; Kim and Jamal, 2007; Kushinov, 2016; Lukas, 2008 & 2013).


72 Lukas explains that in a successfully immersive space “the guest can feel that he or she is being taken to another world and that feeling tends to be all encompassing,” and also breaks these spaces into “otherworldly” and “fantasy ,” showing the distinction between existing and imaginative s torylines ( 2013, p.127). He further note s that this journey to other places and times leads to “sensory and mood orientations that contrast with those of everyday life ,” which taps into the previously menti oned “transformative” emotional effects, that immersive spaces have on the individual (Lukas, 2008, p. 66). This is very similar to the goal of many traditional park designs, such as Central Park which were intended to allow the individual to escape the de nsely packed urban landscape to experience the restorative properties of nature. As previously mentioned, there is an aspect of “wanderlust” in these themed spaces, or the desire to travel to other places and times as a type of escapism (discussed by Tuan, 1998) . Many people go to these themed environments to let loose, and forget about their busy and frequently hectic lives. They want to experience something outside of the ordinary, and theme parks are getting better and better at producing extraordinary, over the top spaces. These parks even change their theming continuously so as to provide new experiences for the visitor. Ideally, the individual leaves the space feeling relaxed and like they had a unique and memorable time in a place they had not previou sly experienced. Visitors to WWoHP identify this transportation to the world of the Harry Potter books as crucial to the experience ( Waysdorf & Reijnders, 2016, p.9). When visiting many of the urban parks in Paris, France last year, I was struck by the wa y they create very bold edges to their spaces, via walls or vegetation, which create garden rooms of sorts. The entrance s of these parks are small, and produce a sort of contracting and expanding feeling when you pass through the gates (or densely planted trees) and enter into a large open


73 space. They have a very secret garden esque feeling, and this is something that is not seen frequently in the United States. This transition area or crossing through a threshold into another area is a perfect way to convey this transportation to another realm. In a sense it would give the feeling of entering a theme park, without the need to pay to enter (many of the gates in these parks have never been locked). It is almost like a perceived controlled access, which makes it feel exclusive and special, but in reality, the space is accessible to everyone. In fact, t his awareness of the transition between the two realms is cited as another key element to the feeling of immersion. Figure 23: Entry to the Arnes de Lutce (left) and the Parc Buttes Chaumont (right) showing passage from on e pl ace to another. Dual Awareness of Reality and Fantasy ( and Suspension of Disbelief) While some have critiqued theme parks for deception in producing simulated real ities, and blurring the lines between what is real and fake, some actually cite this as one of the key elements of immersio n; the awareness that one is in an imaginary fantasy realm, separate from “real life”. Waysdorf and Reijnders explain how “Those who participate gain a sense of how it would feel if the story world was not fiction: but they never lose sight of the fact that it is” (2016, p.9), suggesting that this consciousness of the “deception” is an important element of the immersion in the space.


74 T aylor Le duc (2015) supports this concept in explaining the role of trickery in traditional garden design. Comparing the experience of moving through a P icturesque landscape with that of playing games (specifically gambling), she explains the “pleasures of being duped,” saying that “incorporating board games and the pursuit of surprise into the design assured that the garden stroll would be deli berately play f ul and never boring, thus transforming strolling into a multisensorial interactive event” ( Taylor Le duc, 2015, p.374). T he visitors know they are being fooled, but that in itself is enjoyable, similar to the way people enjoy watching a magic trick being performed. Zoos are another space in which humans feel a level of enjoyment through duplicity. Steink ruger (2016) writes that though people thoroughly enjoy these spaces, “that even immersive space can [not] deceive neither the spectator nor the animal” (p.50). Further, Kukshinov (2016) writes about this concurrent awareness in real and fake in saying “pe rception and imagination should be understood as ‘dual modes of consciousness operating together’” . In other words, this fantasy world simply provides a perceptual foundation for the imagination, and because individuals know it is fantasy, it allows their imaginations to take them to other realms. This is very closely related to the concept of suspension of disbelief. No matter how immersive a space is, if the guest to a theme park cannot allow themselves to “let go” and a park visitor does not “stop to sm ell the roses,” it really will not have much of an impact on them. While it may be a leap to say, it might be that the individuals critiquing themed spaces are some of the se individuals who cannot suspend disbelief, and let themselves be carried away by the fantasy. Immersion is sometimes a difficult feeling to elicit and experience to create , but by using things such as storytelling, sensory cues, opportunities for interactivity, tapping into feelings of the sublime and otherworldliness, and transporting individuals to other realms, theme park


75 designe rs create memorable and transformative experiences. Landscape architects in the past have used some of these techniq ues, but could use a refresher o n ways to create more engaging landscapes.


76 CHAPTER V CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION Within the field of landscape architecture, there exists at worst, a distain for, and at best, a general uneasiness with theme park landscapes. From critiques about their extreme programmatic control, to their “ frivol ity ,” to deception and imitation of other styles and cultures, theme parks have a somewhat negative reputation. Though some of these critiques are accurate of these spaces, I have illuminated how they are frequently not doing anything different than what m any landscape architects throughout history have done. My goal is to urge landscape architects to stop “throwing the baby out with the bath water ,” and take a closer look at what these spaces achieve in terms of creating immersive experiences. Ideally, these tactics can be used to create more transformative and engaging landscapes outside the gates of the themed landscape. Designing for Multisensory Experiences As argued throughout this text, theme park designers tend to approach the design of spaces in a slightly different way than landscape architects, thinking predominately about the experience of the individual as they move through the space. While some projects in our discipline create immersive, transformative experiences ( Under the Crystal by Ebbensgaard, 2017, Jardin Atlantique by Clements and Dorminey 2011, and Halprin’s landscapes by Robitaille, 2000), a better understanding of the theme park designers’ techniques can help us produce better landscapes . When an individual is immersed in a space, the y can connect with it on a deeper level, which could increase their sense of ownership of the place. An immersive space could also allow the individual to connect with others, which could increase the sense of


77 community one feels. In order to create these effects, landscape architects should focus more on the aforementioned “techniques of immersion” that create opportunities for interaction with the landscape itself and with others in the space. Perhaps most necessary of all, is the ability of an immersive space to have a sustained emotional or mood based effect on the individual (calming, relaxation, etc.). There are people in the field of landscape architecture (among others) who are arguing for an increased foc us on sensory experience to elicit these chan ges ( Fowler, 2013, Grice, 2017, Ebbensgaard, 2017, Ingold, 1993; Clements an d Dorminey, 2011, Bourassa, 1990 , Cosgrove, 1998), though, for the most part, we are still not teaching or designing this way. Why is this? And how can we change it? There is a long history of the visual being associated with landscapes, star ting with landscape painting, which some saw this as a precursor to landscape design. Corner (1992) wrote about the problems with representation in landscape architecture, arguing that one of t he reasons we rely so heavily on the visual representation of space is because that is the only medium we have. I argue that we should strive to find other ways to represent our designs which portray other characteristics than the visual. In fact, Fowler ( 2012) did just this in that he had his students present a soundscape recording of what their final studio space would sound like, in order to portray another sensory aspect than the purel y visual . This ultimately appea rs to be a several step process, in wh ich the student must learn to appreciate the other sensory qualities of a landscape (sounds, smells, and materiality), and then learn how to design for these, as well as convey these ideas about sensory experience to the client. Fowler also mentions proble ms with representation in our field which are similar to those critiques by Corner.


78 Robitaille’s master’s thesis Make Sense (2000) presents a great example of what sensorial site reading and documentation can look like (reminiscent of Halprin’s sketchbooks), and further addresses issues with representation of these aspects of conceptual designs. She explains that traditional graphic methods of representation in landscape architecture (sections, plans, elevations) “are useful for expressing spatial relation ship, however their emphasis on quantitative over qualitative considerations encourages us to disregard much of what makes landscapes unique and meaningful” (Robitaille, 2000, p. 29). While technology has somewhat failed us in representation of nonvisual aspects of space (as well as in retaining the individual’s hand or character of place in rendering) , it does hold the potential to provide a new level of expression of space quality in nonvisual ways . Using sound (like Fowler), sm ell (like MacLean), or material samples, we could enhance the clients’ understanding of what a place might be. Virtual or augmented reality are technological resources that might be able to eventually produce some of these more nuanced aspects of the landscape. Figure 24: Alternative ways to represent sites via sensory experience.


79 The Domain of Landscape Architect ure In 2008, a video was released by Room60 ( 2010) as a way to clarify what exactly the field of landscape a rchitecture is, and what it encompasses. This video was titled “ I Want to be a Landscape Architect ,” and listed off a lengt hy set of specializations that landscape a rchite cts pursue, including the design of theme parks. Still, within the discipline , theme park design remains an outlier. By being more inclusive, and allowing theme park design to be a part of our discipline, we can potentially address some of these issues that we seem to have with theme park landscapes. For example, one other critique of theme parks is that they are highly was teful spaces. With the current sustainability trend in the US, theme parks are being pressured to also produce less waste, and manage natural resources in a more responsible manner. Several parks have now created sustainability initiatives, such as Uni vers al’s “Green is Universal” campaign , and Disney continues their efforts at waste reduction and environmental stewardship which were recently awarded the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA) in the state of California. S ome believe that landscape a rchitects are in a unique position to deal with the ever increasing environme ntal issues facing our society . The two “theme park hubs” of the country (Orlando, FL and Los Angeles, CA) are located near coastal areas, which have been identifi ed as very susceptible to climate change, particularly sea level rise, and therefore should be aware of, and prepare for these scenarios. By including theme park design more fully within the realm of l andscape a rchitecture, these spaces can benefit from th e knowledge and expertise of our discipline. In other words, instead of rejecting theme park landscapes as undesirable because they are wasteful and “unsustainable” (for lack of a better term), we can take ownership of them, and make them better in these w ays. Additionally, as crafters of space, we have a large


80 impact on not only the space, but also the individuals using it, and therefore have a responsibility to do this in the best possible way we can. Future Directions As with all research, this investigation into the world of theme parks, immersion, and their role in the field of landscape a rchitecture has become a jumping off point for more investigation. This text has a multidisciplinary focus and has touched on topics that relate to disciplines of cognitive psychology, environmental psychology, sociology, geography, historic preservation, anthropology, urban design, theater, tourism, and others, and therefore could have implications in all these areas. Future research could explore various methods in which we can better represent the qualitative aspects of landscape. Case studies could be performed to identify more specific examples of ways theme parks are creating immersion, along with potentially ruling out techniques that do not apply directly to traditional landscape design. In a more philosophical vein, investigations into why our discipline has no t adopted sensory/experience based design, despite the desire for th is in contemporary and past literature, could be illuminating. It would be interesting to also explore the way that Virtual and Augmented technologies can be used to enhance immersion in space, both in traditional and themed environments. Additionally, looking at the cultural differences in the design of theme parks, as well as the feelings towards them could be useful in developing a new perspective on our relationship with these spaces as landscape architects. Further, within the field of landscape architecture, you commonly hear firms discuss their focus on placemaking, so investigating the relationship between immersion, escapism, and placemaking could be beneficial.


81 The most intriguing and potentially valuable area of future research relates to Tuan’s concept of topophobia (the contrary to topophilia), or the fear one feels for a specif ic place, based either on memories of an experience there or assumptions of the place. Specifically, in relation to rides like Disaster! at Universal, one can see how this might tap into fears of the individual, and how spaces like this could be used as a safe simulation of danger, to provide therapeutic benefits for individuals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), or other fearbased disorders.


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95 APPENDIX A FIGURE CITATION: 1. Lovevintage , C. (2015). Welcome to Dismaland – Banksy’s New Grotesque Theme Park. [Pho tograph]. Retrieved from news/welcometo dismalandbanksys new grotesque art theme park/attachment/dismal2/. 2. Paul. (2000). The Morning Link: The People You’ll Meet at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. [Phot ograph]. Retrieved from link/the morninglink the people youll meet at the wizardingworld of harry potter/ . 3. Coke, D. & Borg, A. (2015). Vauxhall Gardens: Developments from 1751 1786. [Photograph]. Retrieved from https://sus gardens developments from 17511786part i/ . 4. StephanieM. (2013). The Evolution of Zoos. [Photograph]. Retrieved from evolutionof zoos/ . 5. Jacobson, J. (2014). Andy War hol self portraits, Malala painting sell at auction. [Photograph]. Retrieved from warhol self portraits malala painting sell at auction 1.2643925. 6. Left Image: Rose, F. (2009). Inventing Effects to Create the Avatar Universe. [Photograph]. Retrieved from . Right Image: Bair, D. (2017 ). If you haven’t been to Orlando in a while, here’s what’s new. [Photograph]. Retrieved from 17/08/31/youhavenbeen orlando while here what new/FA072ZXb2Fe8nDelKCcCsN/story.html . 7. Left Image: Roark, D. (2016). Disney closes – for the fourth time ever – for Hurricane Matthew. [Photograph]. Retrieved from 10/06/hurricane matthew prompts some theme parkclosures in central florida/ . Right image: Grant, T. (2012). A Visit to Vauxhall Gardens. [Photograph]. Retrieved from gardens/ . 8. Left Image: Pinterest Board of Chicago World’s Fair Images . (n.d.). Retrieved from . Right Image: iThemePark. (2011). Norway – Epcot World Showcase 2011 HD Tour/ Overview POV . [Video Snapshot]. Retrieved from pDbkg9Gzk . 9. The World Wanderer. (2012). The High Line, NYC: Train Tracks and Plants. [Photograph]. Retrieved from highline nyc/ . 10. Nunes, J. F. (2015). Industrial Sublime: Richard Haag, Gas Works Park (1972). [Photograph]. Retrieved from sublime/ . 11. Ross, D. (n.d.). Stowe Landscape Garden, Temple of Ancient Virtue . [Photograph]. Retrieved from 8272.htm . 12. Left Image: Cinderella Castle . (2018). [Photograph]. Retrieved from castle.

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96 Right Image: Pecco, P. (2014). Chteau de Chenonceau, Indre et Loire, Centre, France, Europe. [Video Snapshot]. Retrieved from . 13. See Lukas, 2013. 14. Left Image: Pinterest Board CHINESISCHES TEEHAUS im Park Sanssouci in Potsdam von Bernhard Kross (n.d.). [Photograph]. Retrieved from . Right Image: Fernandez, H. (n.d.). History of Innovation: 1893 Ho – o – Den. [Photograph]. Retrieved from den/ . 15. Author’s personal images. 16. Baumann, R. (2016). Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe, NM. [Photograph]. Retrieved from wolfs house of eternal return in.html . 17. Lydford, V. (2015). The Sweet Smell of Amsterdamand it’s not just cannabis, say odor mappers. [Photograph]. Retrieved from amsterdam cannabis odour mappers kate mclean . 18. Author’s personal image. 19. McLean, K. (2015). Happy 50th Anniversary Singapore! ‘SCENTSCAPE 06.2015 City of Singapore’ . [Photograph]. Retrieved from http :// . 20. Left Image: What AboutDisaster’s GRAND OPENING? (2010). [Photograph]. Retrieved from about disasters grandopening.html . Right Image: Lee, B. (2015). Disaster Studios officially wr aps production of Mutha Nature, closes at Universal Orlando. [Photograph] . Retrieved from studios officially wraps productionmutha nature closesuniversal orlando/ . 21. Visiting Universal Studios Florida with Kids – Com plete, Upto date Guide. (n.d.). [Photograph]. Retrieved from florida kids . 22. 12 UpClose Animal Encounters: Lion Country Safari. (n.d.). [Photograph]. Retrieved from close animal encounters . 23. Author’s personal images. 24. Degen, M., Swenson, A., & Barz, M. (2016). Whitechapel Road – London: Mapping the Senses. [Photograph]. Retrieved from 2/londonworkshop/ .