The Role of Landscape Architects in Themed Experience Design

By Grace Zhang, Landscape Designer

ITEC Entertainment is a multidisciplinary organization with a strong diversity of talents. Our employees enjoy sharing their expertise and industry insights. This post was written by ITEC Landscape Designer, Grace Zhang.

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Broadly speaking, themed experience design is to design an establishment that creates unique, themed environments that guests can explore. It is an interaction with a physical (or virtual) environment that can entertain, educate and inspire individuals. A landscape architect’s role is to ensure that the encounter is accessible, safe and hassle-free from the moment they enter until they leave. During the planning/design process, landscape architects bring together all creative elements in a way that makes sense and is consistent with the theme.

When we talk about designing experiences in theme parks, some can be obvious: the use of colors; music; sound effects; and costumes. Some are not so obvious: the selection of planting materials at Universal’s Jurassic Park area; the practice of interactive queueing with a pager for waiting riders at Disney World; and the quintessential business rule of theme parks – rides ending with a gift shop.

Landscape architects look at user experiences at a larger scale, taking into account a number of factors such as site accessibility, existing conditions, circulations and multi-modal transportation, viewshed, focal points and screening, and last but not least, construction feasibility. While concept designers are better at coming up with creative ideas, landscape architects’ role is to transform these ideas into reality. We create a physical space that can host activities and therefore offer a consistent and seamless experience for users.

It’s important to also discuss designing experiences outside theme parks. Pleasant user experiences should not always be associated with a fee and that’s why designing experiences for public space is so rewarding. The concept is similar to public art. While public art can be as simple as a piece of sculpture, designing experiences for public space usually encourages audience participation in a hands-on way. As noted previously, a landscape architect’s role is to create the space that is safe, accessible and fun, therefore people want to use it. In some cases, you will find landscape architects working in collaboration with installation artists as highlighted below.

The High Line, New York City

The High Line is a 1.45-mile-long elevated linear park, greenway and trail built on an abandoned historic freight rail line. It is a hybrid public space where visitors experience nature, art, and design.

The vessel at Hudson Yards, New York City

A new kind of engaging and interactive public landmark meant to be climbed and explored with others. It serves as a focal point where people can enjoy new perspectives of the city and one another from different heights, angles and vantage points.

Cloud Gate (The Bean), Chicago

The public sculpture is made of stainless steel and its surface reflects and distorts the city’s skyline. Visitors are also able to walk around and under its 12-foot high arch.

The discovery Slides, Jewel Changi International Airport, Singapore

The sliding attraction is located in the Canopy Park on the highest level of the new development, which includes a shopping mall, attraction park and a garden housed with more than 1400 trees and palms. The goal is to create the ultimate airport experience for kids and adults.

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