A Designer’s Conundrum

disney post cover image

I have been wanting to make this post since this blog started. So here it goes:

As a designer, I think I may be a modernist. I enjoy a good grid system. I like clean lines and beautiful details. I prefer interesting material use over architectural ornamentation.

Essentially, I like everything Disneyland is not.

In my experience, most architects/designers have a problem with Disneyland, and the argument against that place is something like this:

“Disneyland lacks a sense of place. It is fake.”


I don’t necessarily want to argue this point, because they may be right. An amalgamation of different architectural styles and cultural vernaculars to create this “land” is essentially no different than say Las Vegas, an oasis in the desert filled with themed resorts and global landmarks. I also understand that Disneyland has some social and economical short-comings, which I don’t know enough about to discuss intelligently. What I will argue is that Disneyland has the potential to and should inspire all architects and designers to work more intelligently.

It is important to note that this post is based on my personal experiences and NOT research and facts. With that said, a visit to Disneyland is a vessel to make memories. I don’t want this to be a commercial for why Disneyland is great, but it provides opportunities for people of any age to come together over rides, attractions, carnival food and characters, and to have a good time. Simple as that. I mean, where else can you go to see a glimpse of the future and stroll through a cowboy town on the same property?


As an amateur photographer, I love Disneyland. So many things to photograph! So little camera memory! In fact, some of my most all time favorite photos that I’ve captured come from Disney parks.

mad tea party

All of these points are personal selling points, but here comes the architectural significance of such a place:

All across America, main street is dying. “Ma&Pa” shops are closing, entire streets of store-fronts are vacant and empty, and sprawling suburbia is eating up the land.

At the very same time, here is a global tourist destination that charges upwards of $50 per day for entry to a park that features just that: Main Street USA. The one thing that exists in everyone’s hometown has somehow been transformed into a tourist destination with street cars and horse trolleys. It is always the most crowded part of the park, with live music, food and souvenirs, and is, at the same time, the most ordinary part of the park.

Could you imagine if architects could somehow learn from this attraction and apply it to the dying American Main Street?

I am by no means suggesting that every Main Street should be turned into Disneyland. And I am also not suggesting that every Main Street should be a global attraction. But what if the abandoned Main Street could be just a bit more lively through architecture or planning tactics employed in Disneyland (like stores that connect internally or an almost pedestrian only street)?

There seems to be a push by most people now to re-embrace the idea of Main Street by supporting local stores and attending weekend farmer’s markets and street fairs, all of which I am ecstatic to see. But the more successful these projects become, the more I am reminded of Disneyland. Which I think, in this case, is a good thing.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get to Anaheim ASAP.

Design Work just thinking



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