Walt Disney World
The most interesting New Town in the U.S.
In a great many respects, the most interesting New Town in the U.S. is Walt Disney World, 20 minutes southwest of Orlando, Florida, on Interstate Route 4.
It is interesting not only because it is huge-27,000 acres, or twice the size of Manhattan (or twice the size of Columbia, Md.) – or because it is so well financed ($400 million invested to date, as compared with $100 million for Columbia, and $85 million for Reston, Va.); or because it is so unabashedly corny (i.e., such really enormous fun). It is interesting also, or even primarily, for what it can teach every architect, planner, and urban designer about any number of things that may have escaped his or her attention in the past – to wit:
It is easy to poke fun at WDW, because WDW in fact welcomes it. It is true, also, that WDW is not a real city – it has no conventional housing yet, no schools yet, no shopping centers yet, no social, economic, or political problems, yet. It is a plastic city, literally and figuratively – it is Nixonland, U.S.A., and its employees are neat and clean and reasonably short-haired and charm-schooled and, incidentally, bright. It is all of that, but it is also very much more.
Curiously enough, most of the people who run WDW so profitably and so well don't seem to realize how much they have accomplished in terms of urban technology, as well as urban psychology. They think they have built and are building the nicest Fun City to date, and they are absolutely right. But they have done a great deal more than produce a Super Amusement Park, and this story is an attempt to look behind the masks and the fun of Mickey Mouse Land, and to find out what all of us can learn from this century's greatest showman and pop artist.
For the one man who did seem to know exactly what he was doing down there in that swamp near Orlando was the late Walt Disney himself. Whatever is exciting and significant about WDW was his baby; and his heirs, both at Walt Disney Enterprises and in the real world beyond, will snub that baby at their own peril.
Walt Disney World