Walt Disney, Bay Lake, Florida, 1966 (completed 1982)
CAN YOU DESIGN HAPPINESS BY CONTROLLING POLLUTION, TRASH, VENTILATION AND ELECTRICITY?
The EPCOT Center was intended to be a community of tomorrow that was never to be finished, instead it would always be creating and producing new innovations dedicated to the happiness of the people living inside its borders. Initial plans for EPCOT drew inspiration from earlier urban planning models, including Ebenezer Howard’s Garden Cities, the American City Beautiful movement of the 1890s and 1900s, and Victor Gruen’s urban models. Like Howard and Gruen’s communities, the city was to be a strictly zoned radial scheme that grew steadily denser towards the center. Prototypes outlined peripheral infrastructural facilities (e.g. water and waste treatment plants, nuclear power plants, and urban administrators’ housing), and concentric rings of the following: 1) a main community of “futuristic” low density rental housing 2) a greenbelt swathe of institutions including schools and churches 3) a high-density ring of lower priced rental housing.
All of these facilities surrounded a central core that was to become the 50 acre business and hotel hub of the city enclosed in a climate-controlled dome. Each house would have its own fuel cells, and be connected to a centralized waste collection system, water supply and “living farm” treatment systems using swamplands and filtering plants. The city was to be connected to other points within the Disney World by the monorail, running through the center of EPCOT and tying the northern and southern parts of the property. Internal transportation within the city would be provided by the WEDway People Mover, thus eliminating the need for cars following Walt Disney’s desire for guests to avoid witnessing the behind-the-scenes activities. To keep the systems running, all transportation and infrastructure would be constantly monitored, controlled and regulated by a centralized computer information system of fiber-optic cables and closed circuit television and telephone networks.
EPCOT became the epitome of controlled environments, where pollution control, trash and recycling, electrical and ventilation, and other innovative systems were tested and implemented. This miniature city was intended to test new technologies and systems on those that lived there, for future possible implementations in real societies (Fox, “Disney World: The Best of All Possible Worlds”). American activist and author Jerry Mander, saw EPCOT as an extension of our desire to live in space and disconnect from Earth and by extension, from earth’s reality. He saw it as opportunity to learn and train how to live in someone else’s “pre-engineered fantasy”, and an education propaganda for “our future in space.” EPCOT, in his eyes, intends to train the human race on how to live a specific type of future (Mander, “Leaving the Earth, Space Colonies, Disney, and EPCOT”).
Unfortunately for Walt Disney, he never came to see his dream come to fruition. Shortly after making a video presenting his concepts for the city, he died in 1966 with his brother Roy Disney overseeing the completion of the park. EPCOT was changed from a utopian city of tomorrow to an entertainment center, famously known as Disney World. The EPCOT that is known today is a World’s Fair made permanent, organized similarly to the 1939-1940 World’s Fair in New York City. Disney helped organize and design the latter fair, embedding technologies in attractions that would resonate in EPCOT.
CHANGE OF PLANS: Following the death of Walt Disney, Epcot became a theme park rather than a model for a city of the future.
SHIFT IN POWER MODELS: Designed as a centrally controlled system, EPCOT became a symbol of an ideal future for the past, given that during the twenty-some years after Walt Disney passed away, society and power structures began to shift towards the individual and networked