TEA Connect Blog

22 April 2021

TEA Digital Presents - Theme Park Design Series: Landscape Architecture

Dan Herman & Maro Urena of R/Hdo share the ins and outs of Landscape Architecture
or Area Development for Theme Parks – a crucial component to Theme Park Design

 

Featuring: Walter Brennan, Daniel Herman, and Maro Urena
by Michael Daut (Member of the TEA WD Communications Committee)

 

On Wednesday, March 24 at 4:00 pm PDT, just over 200 TEA Members enjoyed a fascinating and informative master class about a discipline in the themed entertainment industry that may not be very well known. Our hosts, Walter Brennan of EXP (TEA Western Division Board Member), and two of the best in the business: Daniel Herman and Maru Urena both from Rabben/Herman design office (R/Hdo), pulled back the curtain to give us a look behind the scenes on the topic of Landscape Architecture, or as it is called in the business, Area Development.On Wednesday, March 24 at 4:00 pm PDT, just over 200 TEA Members enjoyed a fascinating and informative master class about a discipline in the themed entertainment industry that may not be very well known. Our hosts, Walter Brennan of EXP (TEA Western Division Board Member), and two of the best in the business: Daniel Herman and Maru Urena both from Rabben/Herman design office (R/Hdo), pulled back the curtain to give us a look behind the scenes on the topic of Landscape Architecture, or as it is called in the business, Area Development.

 

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THIS EVENT ON TEA TV

 

Whatever name you choose, Landscape Architecture or Area Development, this field of expertise creates the first impressions guests have when entering a theme park and offers the first chance for a park and its diverse areas to begin to tell its story. These artisans conceive, plan in painstaking detail, and execute the incredible three-dimensional exterior environments that may have only existed in the guest’s imagination or on a movie screen. Landscape Architects design everything in a theme park outside of the buildings. They plan how people will move through the park’s physical spaces, what they will see (and what they won’t see), where they will find food and beverage, retail opportunities, bathrooms, and even shade in queues, all with a vision toward crafting an exceptional guest experience, right down to the placement of the trees near a building and the color of the pavement on the sidewalk.

With rich experience working with major film studios and intellectual property (IP) holders, R/Hdo shared their approach to theme park design through Daniel and Maru’s amazing portfolio and expertise. Herman and Urena see their primary role as that of theme park Master Planners, and describe the master planning process as a “two-headed monster.” Daunting as it may sound, the monster’s “heads” represent the left and right hemispheres of our brains: the left side devoted to analytics, audience numbers, and logic, and the right side devoted to creativity, imagination, and the arts. Both sides of the brain are required to effectively execute a master plan for a theme park. This process is extremely detailed and time intensive. It often can take 36 months to create both a conceptual master plan and the final master plan.

Herman and Urena see their primary role as that of theme park Master Planners, and describe
the master planning process as a “two-headed monster.”

A feasibility study (a left-brain exercise) early in the process helps determine how many people will come to the theme park and how much they will potentially spend. This study is crucial to determine the budget and scope of a theme park.

 

Next, the right brain kicks in to describe the big idea of the park — what will the park be about? The big idea should inform the holistic and high-level guest experience.

 

Back to the left brain to develop the program: basically, the program determines how the entertainment capacity is allocated across attractions and areas within the park, informing the capacity of each “land,” the capacity of each attraction, and the expected popularity of each attraction.

 

Now the right brain has its chance to flesh out the big idea by laying out the flow of the park, the entrance and its initial guest impressions, the circulation plan for guest movement through the park, how the lands fit together to contribute to the big idea. Sketches turn into more detailed electronic drawings to capture and refine the concept.

Last stop is the Master Plan, that often takes the form of a more high-level concept master plan for client approval. This becomes the highly detailed and fully executed Master Plan that contains utilities, grading, parking, traffic studies, location of trees and plants, etc. This is a tremendous effort that requires many team members and detailed coordination between all departments. The Landscape Architect focuses concerted effort on this process to ensure all aspects of the project and its realization are properly conceived, created, designed, coordinated, and executed.

In the final segment of the online presentation, Daniel and Mark walked us through the design process that is common to all construction projects, but is highly customized for theme parks. This process moves through five key steps: 1) Concept, 2) Schematic Design, 3) Design Development, 4) Construction Documents, and 5) Construction Observation. Each successive stage moves from general to highly specific.

 

The concept phase often begins with key art or a descriptive script from the client to frame the experience. This moves into a site analysis diagram to show how the land will need to function: where guests will enter, what they will see first and how they will transition through their immersive journey. It’s important to establish this clearly and share this vision with the entire team. This can translate into sketches and even 3D computer models to describe the space.

In the schematic design illustrative phase, the plan takes a more defined form, from the selection of paving patterns, colors, and materials to where trees and plants should be located and how they should integrate with important guest sight lines.

 

In the design development plan everything has to be drawn to scale. All departments must coordinate and illustrate all details on the plan including specific materials, product samples, color swatches, enlarged detail drawings, and a complete schedule down to the smallest detail.

Looking to enter this discipline?
“…many landscape architects in the industry are retiring, and most theme park owners
and developers are requiring the use of Revit software in their designs.
Those proficient with Revit software have a significant advantage in their careers.”

Finally, in construction observation, the Landscape Architect the team oversees the physical construction. The expected level of quality is much higher in a theme park than in just about any other construction endeavor. It requires constant observation and supervision to make sure all the details are executed perfectly. At the end of this phase and the painstaking and often completely exhausting process, the theme park is complete and ready for guests to experience its wonders.

 

This is a huge responsibility and a highly intricate, coordinated, and yes, a very creative process that indeed demands that a two-headed monster be involved every step of the way to deliver the immersive, fully realized experiences guests have come to expect.

 

The two ended the presentation with some excellent advice for aspiring landscape architects:

 

1) many of the most experienced landscape architects in the industry are retiring, and 2) most theme park owners and developers are requiring the use of Revit software in their designs. Those proficient with Revit software have a significant advantage in their careers.

 

The lively and extremely informative session ended with a short time for questions and answers and an enthusiastic audience sharing grateful and enthusiastic comments in the Zoom chat window.

 

This session was the first of a number of planned TEA sessions on the topic of theme park design. Please follow the TEA (@tea_connect) on social media and sign up for email alerts to receive announcements for future events. The entire session was recorded and will be available to TEA members on the TEA YouTube Channel. CLICK HERE TO VIEW THIS EVENT ON TEA TV

 

Thanks to the TEA Western Division Team that organized this highly informative and compelling session.

 

To see more of the event photos, click here

Posted by Sarah Barges

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