The Walt Disney Company announced plans this week to open new 14-acre Star Wars-themed extensions to both Disneyland and Disney World theme parks by 2019. Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger announced the new timeline via a quarterly earnings call. Disney has also released a series of artists renderings for the theme parks, showing stylized views of a mountainous, forested planet with many of the images depicting the Millennium Falcon spaceship. The theme park worlds are being designed in the manner of a remote, intergalactic trading post, according to the company. The parks will be set on a “never-before-seen planet—a remote trading port and one of the last stops before wild space—where Star Wars characters and their stories come to life,” by a representative on the Disney Parks blog. Disney began construction on Disneyland’s Star Wars-themed expansion in April of 2016. The project, announced with a $1 billion budget, has also spurred a slew of upscale developments in the Anaheim Resort District (ARD), a 1,100-acre, purpose-built hotel and entertainment area in downtown Anaheim. The area sits between the city’s convention center and the Disney theme parks and caters to both groups with increasingly high-end accommodations. Controversy has erupted in the area in recent months as luxury hotel developers have rushed to build new high-end units—using taxpayer subsidies—in anticipation of the new Star Wars theme park. Taken together, an expected 2,380 luxury hotel rooms are on the way across a variety of developments. Disney is planning to build its own 700-room hotel to overlook the new Star Wars theme park. A pair of 580-room developments by Wincome Group is also on the way. One, a 580-room complex, will be located adjacent to Disney’s California Adventure park while the second hotel will sit across from the convention center. That second project will contain an additional 40,000 square feet of meeting space. JW Marriott hotels also has a 466-room hotel planned for the area. The Wincome and Disney developments alone will receive a combined $550 billion in taxpayer subsidies; subsidy estimates on the Marriott property are not readily available. The subsidies come in the form of tax breaks, which could allow the hotel operators to keep as much as 90 percent of the taxes collected on site, sending only 10 percent back to the municipality. There are fears that the new developments would cannibalize business—and tax revenue—from existing hotels that do not have access to the subsidies. The new Star Wars lands will take over space formerly occupied by portions of Disney’s existing Frontierland and Critter Country grounds and will replace several attractions, including Big Thunder Ranch. Upon completion, the new Star Wars areas will be the largest single-theme expansions each of the respective parks has undergone.
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Over the last ten years, Anaheim, California has seen steady growth in multi-family housing and mixed-use development that has—perhaps—begun to change the city’s reputation. The area was wiped almost totally clean in 1970s “urban renewal” efforts. With this influx of new residents and the addition of trend-conscious destination-amenities, like foodie market halls and “anti-malls,” Orange County developers have made strides in rebuilding and rebranding the municipality. However, a recently approved collection of publicly-subsidized, multi-billion dollar developments in the city's downtown—and near the Disneyland theme parks—are complicating downtown Anaheim's emerging narrative as a center for conscious consumerism. These developments include the construction of Disney’s new $1.5 billion Star Wars theme park, a $190 million expansion to the city’s convention center, and an increase in the luxury hotel supply that will cost $1.92 billion. Taken together, these projects will total a roughly $3.5 billion investment in the coming years. Moreover, they could shift the market in the so-called Anaheim Resort District (ARD), a 1,100-acre purpose-built hotel and entertainment development adjacent to downtown Anaheim aimed at convention-goers and theme park attendees, toward luxury tourism. In July, Anaheim approved three proposed luxury hotel developments for the area, aiming to bring an additional 1,914 new luxury rooms into operation within a few years. These projects include two developments by the Wincome Group: a 580-room hotel adjacent to Disney’s California Adventure park that will feature 50,000 square feet of meeting space and a 580-room hotel across from the convention center that will contain 40,000 square feet of meeting space. The third development involves a 700-room hotel by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts overlooking the Star Wars-themed Disney expansion. A press release for the Wincome project states that “design details of the properties are still to be announced” but preliminary renderings released by the development teams so far feature an assortment of architectural styles, including classical revival and contemporary. Disney’s development team has only released an artist's renderings of interior and poolside spaces. These developments are being built in addition to a previously-approved, 466-room JW Marriott hotel, also in the ARD, that is expected to begin construction next year. When combined, all four projects are due to add 2,380 luxury suites to the ARD and will encompass a building boom for luxury, “four diamond”-rated accommodations. Disney currently operates the only luxury hotel properties in the area on its theme park grounds, making the four additional hotel sites highly contested, especially considering that Wincome and Disney alone will receive a combined $550 billion in taxpayer subsidies to build their high-end hotels. The contentious use of these subsidies, which would send up to 90 percent of the taxes collected for each hotel bed back toward the operators (with the remainder going to the city), is amplified by the fact that the city still hasn’t finished paying off the initial round of public funding that led to the “four diamond” hotels Disney built in the late 1990s. Developers behind these new projects consider the subsidies necessary for their investments to pan out while city officials foresee a potential glut of luxury beds on the market. Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait was quoted in the Orange Count Register as calling the tax plan “financially devastating” for the city. Opponents also contend the increase in luxury units will cannibalize revenue from currently-operating, non-subsidized hotel projects. Complicating things further, a concurrent, $2.34-billion project in the nearby “Platinum Triangle” district, a collection of office, retail, convention, and sports facilities that include the Anaheim Angels Stadium directly adjacent to the ARD, is also making its way toward final approval. The new areas are modeled on the L.A. Live development beside the Los Angeles Staples Center in Downtown Los Angeles; they will include a medley of pedestrian-oriented amenities, including hundreds of condominiums and apartments as well as over a half million square feet of shopping, office, and leisure areas. The Anaheim Angels recently came out against the development, citing the project's lack of Environmental Impact Report and its potentially adverse impact on the team’s own shopping and commercial expansion planned for another stadium-adjacent site. As quoted in the Los Angeles Times, Anaheim Angels attorney Allan Abshez wrote in a letter to the city that the project would “cannibalize the Angels’ existing food, beverage and retail operations at Angel Stadium” adding further that this disruption would “fundamentally undermine the Angels’ negotiations to remain in Anaheim over the long term.” Because the Angels’ stadium is publically-owned and the city is unwilling to fund needed renovations for the stadium, the team intends to embark on their own building spree to raise revenue for renovations. With plans for a new $300 million streetcar linking the HOK-designed ARTIC transit hub to Downtown Anaheim and Disneyland moving toward approval and an estimated 28,000 new residents expected to move into the Platinum Triangle area over the next decade, it’s clear to see that no matter what happens, Anaheim is decidedly changing. The question is not how successful that transformation will be, but whether Anaheim will get a return on its investment in the long haul.
Anonymous street artist Banksy’s top-secret amusement park has opened at an abandoned British seaside resort at Weston-super-Mare, UK. Billed a “bemusement park,” and designed to drip with irony, the pop-up exhibition is built by a lido that has been derelict since 2000. https://youtu.be/V2NG-MgHqEk An austere, weatherbeaten castle straddles a green, overgrown moat, from which emerges a half-sunken police car transformed into a children’s slide. The glum employees wear hot pink jackets stamped with ‘Dismal’ on the back, with apathetic – even insolent – attitudes to match. “Dismaland is a festival of art, amusement, and entry-level anarchism,” declares the website, which bears a strikingly Disney-like logo. The 10,200 square foot park features the work of 58 artists handpicked for their black humor by Banksy himself. The artist’s customary anti-consumerist and anti-authoritarian jibes run throughout the artwork, from the Grim Reaper steering a too-small bumper car to a terrifying carousel featuring skinned horses. A masked butcher in bloodied work clothes wields a machete while sitting on cardboard boxes marked ‘Lasagne.’ Most bone-chilling is Cinderella’s overturned chariot surrounded by flashbulb-wielding paparazzi, a scene recalling Princess Diana’s death by car crash. Contrary to speculation, Banksy insists that the amusement park is not a lampooning of Disneyland. “I banned any imagery of Mickey Mouse from the site,” he told The Guardian. “It’s a showcase for the best artists I could imagine, apart from the two who turned me down.” Nevertheless, all staff are kitted in Mickey Mouse ears. A mural suspended precariously above the polluted lagoon features a corpulent man sitting at one end of a heaving banquet table, a poor family at the other. Meanwhile, a smiley face-bearing loan office lends money to children at a 5000 percent interest rate. A gallery showcases more of this sarcastic morosity, such as a depiction of Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster aboard a car full of insurgents brandishing guns. A bad-tempered Star Wars storm trooper skulks around the exhibitions. Meanwhile, a cloud sculpture with a rope ladder presents an intriguing commentary on mortality. With admissions priced at just £3 ($4.73), Dismaland, on view until September 27, promises to be “cheaper” than “the average family day out." https://instagram.com/p/6nEw_5iLNK/?taken-by=dismaland_park https://instagram.com/p/6m2Vc5CLO_/?taken-by=dismaland_park UPDATE: Dismaland has since been dismantled and sent to Calais in the wake of the ongoing European refugee crisis. Currently 100's of migrants are stuck at the border of Calais as they hope to get into England. In its brief tenure, Dismaland attracted 150,000 visitors, selling out each day, to the run down site of Weston Super-Mare despite Banksy himself describing it as "crap". “It’s ambitious, but it’s also crap. I think there’s something very poetic and British about all that.” Banksy said speaking to the Sunday Times.
The first panel of this week's conference at Columbia's GSAPP, "Permanent Change: Plastics in Architecture and Engineering," got down to business a few minutes late on Thursday morning. After a brief welcome, Dean Mark Wigley ceded the floor to Michael Bell, the first speaker in the line-up for "The Emergence of Polymers: Natural Material--Industrial Material." But the pace picked up as Bell and subsequent presenters took listeners on an intense romp through the role of plastics in architectural history, providing background for the nine panels to follow through Friday evening. While each presentation had a distinctly different focus, there were a few standby slides that popped up in more than one powerpoint. The Vinylite House from the Chicago World's Fair of 1933 made repeat appearances, the Smithson's House of Tomorrow got props from more than one presenter, and Mansanto's House of the Future at Disneyland took the prize for most mentions. We got a chance to sit down with one presenter after the panel discussion. Billie Faircloth is the research director at KieranTimerberlake in Philadelphia. In her presentation she discussed sifting through more than 75 years worth of architecture journals. "I was interested in understanding how a material emerges as a building material," she said. "And with plastic it was possible because of its relatively short history, unlike masonry." Faircloth scoured library bookshelves and her own collection of trade journals. She used a "transect" method of collecting data. For a scientist studying a particular species in the field, transecting means that the researcher maintains a fixed path to observe the number of times the species appears. In this case, the path was paved with twelve architectural journals. "The only way to track this was through the architectural press and journals," she said. "I thought of them as a set of evidence. One can get a front row seat to a very narrow venue." The first mention of plastic was in a journal from 1933. Journals from 1954 to the early 1960s yielded the most data, as by that time the National Academy of Sciences was pushing for research on plastic use within the field of architecture. MIT, the University of Michigan, Illinois Institute of Technology and Washington University in St. Louis all held conferences on the subject and the architectural press was on hand. The variety of plastics in Faircloth’s study included dozens of trade names and distinct chemical compositions, but all fell under the deceptively simple moniker: plastics. “They’re really thousands of materials, but for convenience we use only one word,” she said. For the early period of the study, only 25 varieties of plastics were named; by the early 21st century, that number ballooned to 134. But alongside all the cross-references and transects (all beautifully mapped), Faircloth began tracking repeated words and phrases. She compiled yet another list. “Three phrases were repeated, no matter time or disposition of the author,” she said. “'Plastics are difficult to decipher.' 'Plastics are not substitute materials.' 'Plastics are the future.'”