In the past whenever I heard the term ‘Disneyfication’ I always assumed it was used to describe negative transformational processes—particularly when it comes to the city. It connotes such thoughts as triviality, immaturity, and the giving up of authenticity to the onslaught of pure market-driven city building. We all remember what happened to
But I was reading Reyner Banham’s wonderful book on
Ensconced in a sea of giant parking lots in a city devoted to the automobile, it provides transportation that does not exist outside – steam trains, monorails, people-movers, tram trains, travelators, ropeways, not to mention pure transport fantasies such as simulated space trips and submarine rides. Under-age children…enjoy the license of driving on their own freeway system and adults can step off the pavement and mingle with the buses and trams of
Main Streetin a manner that would lead to sudden death or prosecution outside.
One photograph of
…We took it one step further and suggest that the Imagineers create their own urban design firm and begin designing the future cities of the world. They could develop a theoretical framework for their design—it could be called ‘ImaginURBanism’—and it would be the latest fad of city design for UAE sheiks and prominent Asian businessmen to commission and endorse. ImaginURBanism would blend high-end technical wizardry with thematic kitsch in a way no other urbanist could keep up with. “But wait,” you find yourself asking, “isn’t that what they are already doing over there?” Umm…yeah…good point!
The first question an ImaginURBanist asks a new client is “What’s your pleasure—Wild Wild West, or FutureLand?” The adventurous type might go for a swashbuckling dose of Pirates of the
Or maybe the imaginURBanists would get back to their roots. The term ‘imagineering’ was given birth in the research labs of WWII as a combination of the words imagination and engineering. Imagineering was originally defined as "the fine art of deciding where we go from here.” (Wiki) Urbanism is often described as the art of scenario making—in a way urban design can be thought of as designing a stage for the future play of life to be enacted upon. Koolhaas has described his efforts at urbanism as being a ‘scenario-ist’ and a ‘script writer’ (see this interview with Charlie Rose). When thought about in that way, Imagineering and urban design are not so different. The Imagineers could potentially represent the most capable group of multi-disciplinarians ever formulated, and therefore the ImaginURBanists would be in a unique and fertile position to imagine the future potential of cities.
Would it be so different…
...From some of the zany utopian projects so popular among the architecture avant-garde of the 1960’s? Two of Archigram’s projects, Ideal Circus and
Or would a city designed by the Imagineers be so different from an entire city designed by someone like Jon Jerde, or even Frank Gehry? Most laymen would probably not be able to tell the difference between the resultant designs. All would be shiny, wonky, and look like some incredible village from the future. Maybe it’s telling that they are all from
Lest we forget…
“Disneyfication…not only provides a fictional and often nostalgiac identity, but…also is purposely designed to brek the contingency of public space that is characteristic of urban culture, replacing it with a domesticated family friendly scenography of—often commercially controlled—pseudo-public spaces.”
So says Martijn de Waal about the downside of the Disneyfication process. It can be read as a cautionary tale about one of the potential downfalls of the ImaginURBanist dogma. Every future imaginURBanist must therefore remain focused on the original conception of Imagineering and not allow it to become a mere tool of developers in their not-yet-proclaimed war on the public spaces of our urban areas. As a method of keeping themselves in check an additional tenet to the ImaginURBanists doctrine could be this quote from Koolhaas: “Cities accumulate everyone’s desires; therefore they form the richest accumulation of potential for every individual to be himself or herself.” When combined with the Imagineer’s orginal mandate--the fine art of deciding where we go from here—ImaginURBanism might become of the most fecund '–isms' of urban design’s recent history.