Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thornhaven Manor

This project is a spin-off from the theme park concepts you usually see here.  I was approached to conceptualize the re-development of a recently-acquired historic manor house (built in 1845 on seven acres in Indiana).  The new owner (the man behind this project) has re-named the estate Thornhaven Manor.  Here are some photos of the estate as it currently exists:

 The current house is over 6,000 sq.ft. and features 25ft ceilings.  The property has a lot of woods, a small orchard, large barn, and natural spring.  For more photos or information on the property and its history (or to follow its progress) check out the Thornhaven Manor Facebook page.

Now, the idea here is to convert this entire property into an entertainment/recreational venue in the vein of the Haunted Mansion, Clue, the Addams Family, etc.  The commercial possibilities include themed weekend excursions, corporate events, a haunted bed & breakfast style inn, paranormal tours, murder-mystery-comedy experiences, or a game akin to "Ten Little Indians."  This is a place where adventures await: full of secret passages, hidden chambers, a staff of unusual servants, an eccentric lord.  The grounds could include a hedge maze, family crypt and servants quarters.

As a designer, my first step was to address what the main house should look like and how it could be reasonably altered from what is there now to make it more theatrical.    There are no known blueprints for the house, so I created a conceptual elevation/color study from scratch by looking at the few photographs of the building:

The original house is in the Italianate style, so when adding the dominating tower, I drew from that school.   The room at the top of the tower could be a SFX-laden Seance Room  - in the adventure the visitors could go from room to room (Billiard Room, Conservatory, Music Room, Parlor, Basement Laboratory, Attic, etc.) for different experiences.  In a direct nod to MK's Haunted Mansion, I added a glass & wrought-iron conservatory being taken over by vines & mosses.  The west wing facade remains the fading whitewashed brick, while the central portion of the house would have character plaster facade of crumbling stucco revealing clay brick beneath (as Disney often does at their parks).  I added an attic dormer to increase usable space.  Similarly, I put in a caged basement window.  Chimneys all received extensions to give multi-peak look to the building.


This project is in its early stages.  Maybe in future posts you will see an illustrated floorplan, a site plan or other artwork for Thornhaven.  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Illustrative Plan - DHS

With some rumors circulating out there about a potential major capital injection into DHS, I decided to do an illustrative version of a previously-posted blue-sky expansion plan.   My original write-up for the park can be found here.

And here is the plan:

Monday, August 6, 2012


This next post is my response to a question: “What if they (Blackstone Group) decided to invest a huge sum to transform SeaWorld California from a Tier II animal park to a Tier I theme park?"  (The distinction being the latter uses extensive and detailed theme-ing (architecture, landscape, rockwork, props, water features, etc.) to create a unique, out-of-the-ordinary sense of place and are typically broken up into distinct sub-areas or lands).  So that’s what I did.

Before tackling this project I had very little familiarity with San Diego’s Sea World.  But after quite a bit of research, and keeping the real-world constraint of maintaining as much of the park’s major infrastructure (i.e. attractions) as possible, I saw that the park could be broken up into five unique areas, marked by distinct oceanic realms, celebrating both the wild creatures as well as mankind’s relationship (historic & present-day) to the seas.  My plan features extensive expansion into the parking lots, so there would naturally have to be new parking structures to make up for lost capacity (and add additional spaces for what would be a higher capacity park).   Blocking outside visual intrusions is one of the first requirements of a great theme park environment, so I added a planted berm (9m).   

Here is an aerial of the actual park:

And here are my conceptual and illustrative plans of a new Sea World:

This first 'port' is an area that includes not only a substantive part of the park itself but the new deluxe resort hotel and the outside-the-gate dining and retail area.  Seaward Harbor is an amalgam of American coastal villages set in the 1880-1940 period.  This is a setting designed to evoke nostalgia, tranquility, comfort and friendliness – the MS:USA of the park.  Clapboard, dinghies under repair, ladies with parosols, natural cedar shingles, wooden lobster traps, etc… the buildings, characters (e.g., salty old seadog) and environments are drawn from the historic Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf Coasts.   The existing Rocky Point Preserve and Shamu Stadium would be incorporated into this aesthetic with only minor architectural changes. 
Tier I theme parks are destinations and thus support resort hotels.  Like MiraCosta and Grand Californian, the Seaward Harbor House is part of the show and forms the southwestern berm to the park.  It is inspired by the old, asymetric seaside hotels.
 I reconfigured the entry plaza of the park to create better flow and to add a harbor/dock area with historic fishing and sailing boats - and to open vistas to the park’s new central icon.  Replacing the skytower, this park’s “castle” would be a turn-of-the-century lighthouse sitting atop a rocky cliff overlooking the Harbor.   I drew a quick concept elevation:

Cross a bridge from the entry plaza and visitors go back millennia to a world of classical mythology.   The Sesame Street area gives way to a much more elaborately-themed and landscaped kids area, featuring a pair of sea-based spinners and an exploration zone themed to Poseidon’s ruined temple.  Animal Connections is replaced by an elaborate family boat ride (akin to PotC) based on the adventures of Jason and the Argonauts.  The superstructure & track of Journey to Atlantis remain intact, but a rockwork mountain, additional landscaping and new Atlantean ruins (enclosing show-scenes) are built around it - creating a monumental edifice from what it a now a lightly-themed water-coaster.  The southeastern berm helps minimize outside visual intrustions and creates a sense of seclusion and wilderness.

This port takes the excellent theme-ing of the current Wild Arctic habitats and blows it up to an entire land.  The buildings are themed as ice-covered scientific research stations (both Arctic & Antarctic) built into the black volcanic rock.   The Wild Arctic simulator building is given a control tower and additional rockwork.  The current penguin exhibit becomes the queue to the LPS Empire of the Penguin ride now being built in Orlando.  A craggy peak, remiscent of the geography of South Georgia Island, rises from the center of the land and houses an indoor-outdoor coaster on the scale of Big Thunder:

 The northern central section of the park is home to a port based on pelagic ocean wanderers (dolphins, sharks, sea turtles, etc.) and features Mediterranean architecture reminiscent of Monte Carlo (home to the famed Oceanagraphic Museum).  The Mission Bay Theater would be converted to house a version of Orlando’s new Turtle Trek show and the sea turtle habitat would take over the freshwater aquarium.  No sea animal evokes a primal emotion of fear more than the Great White Shark, so the Great White’s giant, supposedly extinct ancestor – Megalodon – is the subject of terrifying ‘undersea’ dark ride – an elaborate anchor E-ticket.  The current Shark Encounter underwater tube would become part of its queue. 

The final land focuses on the planet’s tropical waters and coral reefs.  Shipwreck Rapids remains mostly intact, with some rockwork  added to help conceal the CafĂ© & lift building.  Shipwreck Reef’s South Pacific environ transitions to a Balinese-Java-South China Sea locale that is home to Manta.   While Manta’s track remains the same, the very large area it covers is heavily altered with tropical lagoons and a great deal of new rockwork – inspired by the unusual outcroppings found around coastal Thailand.  
A new flagship restaurant for the park – Caylpso’s – overlooks Mission Bay, with outdoor seating available.  This area is given a colorful Caribbean design, with a whimsical carousel of sea creatures situated nearby.    The Tidal Pool and World of the Sea Aquarium are given over to tropical coral reef habitats.

That should do it.   Thoughts, comments, questions...