This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We’re publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.
When it comes to theatrical architecture, Disney rarely disappoints. So when it came time to remodel the spherical Planet Hollywood in the Disney Springs Development, it turned to Boston-based Elkus Manfredi Architects to double down on the theme “Dine Amongst the Stars.”
Disney Springs is located near Disney’s collection of theme parks in Orlando, Florida. The recently expanded district is home to retail, dining, and entertainment, all modeled after a centuries-old American town that evolved along an alternate timeline to our own. The remodeled Planet Hollywood was envisioned as a stand-alone destination while still fitting into this fantastical setting.
Leveraging the existing iconic dome of the Planet Hollywood, Elkus Manfredi reimagined the building as an epic late-19th-century observatory. A new brick base, complete with arched windows and truss details, adds 5,000 square feet to the project. A tensile Teflon-coated silver fabric resurfaces the dome, referencing the metal domes of vintage observatories, and completes the thematic exterior transformation. Outdoor seating and an exterior stair, encased in a radio-tower-esque structure with another exterior bar, give guests a whole new set of dining options.
The interior of the spherical building has four levels. At the heart of the space, a mock vintage telescope rises through all three of the main dining and entertainment stories. Throughout the whole project, planetary and stellar motifs adorn everything from the custom carpet to the multimedia screens, but each floor has its own character. The main dining level is large and open, connected to the outdoor terrace overlooking Disney Springs. The second level is more intimate, with a smaller dining area and a lounge area geared toward adults. The top dining level on the fourth floor is the most intimate space in the restaurant. Guests here are closest to the dome and the projected stars on its inner surface.
While the restaurant will no longer sport the familiar 1990s Planet Hollywood branding, that does not mean that everything will be replaced. Multiple displays of Hollywood memorabilia are still part of the project’s experience.
The timing of this transformation seems only appropriate. As NASA continuously announces the finding of exoplanets in neighboring star systems, perhaps this new observatory will help Disney discover its own planet… Hollywood.