Joe Rohde's amazing history lesson on theme park design

May 19, 2020, 12:00 PM


Back when Dave Cobb posted his #HomemadeThemePark video of the Men in Black: Alien Attack ride he actually served as creative director for, I joked about seeing other theme park designers' "homemade" versions of their attractions.

I now await Joe Rohde's #HomemadeDisney versions of Flight of Passage and Mission Breakout, as he also's an active participant in social media. (Though I think we're more likely to get from him a five-part, 5,000-word Instagram post series on the anthropological foundations of those attractions. Which I would be 100% down for, by the way.)

Well, that didn't happen. Joe didn't post a five-part Instagram series on the foundations of theme park design. He posted a 37-part series, instead.

So here for your reference, are Joe's posts, in chronological order, taking us from prehistory through Rome, the Middle Ages, Renaissance and on through to today, examining how art, architecture, gardens, expositions, and media evolved to lead us into contemporary theme park design. It's an amazing intellectual and historical foundation for understanding why theme parks are they way they are, and why they work for us.

If you love theme parks, please take them time to read Joe's posts (and subscribe to his Instagram feed). I am sure that you will find them both fascinating and insightful.

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I’m going to switch it up now. Since we’re not going anywhere, “travel” seems like not the way to go. A while back I was posting to art students about the divergence between the Art history that leads to abstraction conceptual art and modern architecture versus the art history that leads to the practice of themed design, film, and to some degree theater. You can start an art history anywhere. But in this case, I’m going to start very early and then make a big jump to Rome. This is a downloaded image of Gobeckli Tepe in Turkey, from the very early Neolithic era, Perhaps 11,000 years ago. That’s a long time ago. Way more than twice as old as the pyramids. England is still connected to Holland by a walkable marsh. People are hunting mammoths somewhere in North America. Several things are interesting about Gobeckli Tepe, but what is salient to our discussion is the tremendous amount of energy expended here on structures not meant for residential, commercial or defense uses. It complicates the principle of form follows function… Unless we extend the idea of function far beyond material concerns...In this case, to ritual. One of the themes that we will see throughout the history is that form does not only follow function, but form also follows desire. These are far and away the oldest major architectural structures known to have been created by humans. I think it is telling me that they are almost entirely made for effect. The feasting functions associated with the site do not require this level of architecture. It is difficult not to reach the conclusion that this is being done purely to say something. That the scale, elaborateness, and difficulty of the architecture is it’s own point. This is the line we will follow...the design of spaces meant to express ideas and the creation of imagery meant to tell stories.

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Let’s try Rome. Monumental narrative architecture has been built all around the world. But the Romans do some weird stuff. A true global power centered around a tiny set of hill towns run by Farmer-Soldiers, they needed an especially convincing narrative to legitimize their rule over older, wealthier and frankly more refined cultures. They manipulated illusion to create a myth of greatness. In Roman placemaking the final surface appearance of a building disguised the nature of its material. Buildings made of brick and concrete were overlaid with marble veneer, or with stucco painted to look like marble. Marble does not behave like brick or concrete. It’s forms are more limited. Concrete is very liberating. This meant that marble-veneered buildings, and what’s more, the Romans who raised them up, would’ve appeared to possess miraculous power. Honesty of materials was not the final concern. The surface of the building was all that the eye encountered, full of propagandistic narrative. That was the design goal. The building was just what held it up. This attitude about illusion led to the diverse mural traditions of Rome, including the first flirtations with perspectival illusionistic space. Between the faux painted marble on the walls, the sculpted stucco “theming” of fluted faux marble onto brick columns, and the veneer of marble on exterior walls, and the scenic backdrop wall murals, the buildings were more like stage sets. Stage sets for a story about the social and political greatness of Romans. A stage set presents the idea of things, not things themselves. In the case of Roman walls this even meant presenting imaginary space in the form of illusory scenes. To the viewers eye there is no difference between real space, faux-finished real space, and faux space itself, because the idea, the narrative of the space, was the chief impression left on the viewer..not a contemplation of structural systems. Space as an idea. More on this next time.

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I’m gonna try this concept of space and the Romans further. Compared to other cultures of antiquity, the layout of spaces and the sculptural shaping of Roman architecture masses is peculiar. This sense of space is uncannily familiar to a person like myself who works in theme park design. It looks like it’s all based on sightlines and the sculpting of space. It’s one thing to look at the sculptural modeling of buildings… But start with our first premise ... that the Romans are preoccupied with theater... which means they are preoccupied with view and surface. In this case, the surface is not the out-facing skin of the building… It is the inward-facing skin of the observable space. Like the inside of a balloon. Instead of picturing Roman buildings, picture Roman space as the primary design feature and the surface as the final edge that tells you where the space is and what it has to say. This predilection for sculpting the actual space was tremendously enabled by the technology of concrete. The Romans invented the best concrete the world has ever seen. Unlike marble, wood, brick, Concrete has no form… It is just pliable mud. That means it will accept any form you pour it into. This means that the premise of “space as an idea” can be turned upside down into an “idea that turns into space.” Concrete liberates the imagination of Roman architects and allows them to sculpt spaces in almost any shape they want. And all of these spaces are shaped with a profound attention to the viewer and where that viewer is in the space… As if it was all designed by a magician for some vast stage illusion. Or by Imagineers. As the theaters, amphitheaters, stadiums and triumphal parades make clear ...the Romans designed for an audience. It is performance architecture.

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So if you care about the theme parks and entertainment design, why should you care about the ancient Romans? Because they begin a design pedigree that can be traced across art history and leads directly to the work we do. They are the first people to decouple the look of a building from the architectural system that is holding it up and turn that building and all its surroundings into a stage set that you walk around in instead of the stage that that only actors perform on. The degree to which Romans were aware of and directed the view of the audience is amazing. The best example of this is the triumphal arch. This is a piece of architecture with no other use than to tell the viewer which way to look, which direction to travel in, and why they are looking and traveling in that direction. Because the arch has a clear front and back it is counterintuitive to go the wrong way. (This is more obvious in a restored arch with all the sculpture.What remains of them today in Rome is far less impressive than what they were when they were new.) But basically they are big 3D political advertisements that you walk through. As the viewer moves through space towards the arch they get continually changing perspectives and continual resetting of the focal plane of attention, from the large overarching view to small details, to explanatory text. That is what the uniquely Roman triumphal arch does. It’s cinema in stone. If you can’t learn experience design from that… What are you gonna learn from?

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History of narrative design. Here is not the place to go into the political mechanics of how...but basically, by the 500s the Church has taken over from the Roman government as the major organizational force of European culture. Kingdoms are small and unstable. The narrative placemaking lessons of Imperial Rome are passed on...some very literally, like the facade of Romanesque churches based on the Roman Triumphal arch. Much of the costume and a substantial part of the ceremony of the mass was ancient Roman. And of course, we’ve all been taught that the shape of every church is based on a Roman judicial Basilica. Nowadays church is mainly a seated affair, but back then it was very dynamic and mobile. Music, dancing, performance, and if you include incense,etc. special effects. The high theatricality of the church experience is not often discussed as such because it touches upon religious matters… But separate from any discussion of theology is the discussion of techniques and methods and how effective they are.In order to pursue the next couple points we are going to have to discuss the church and its services, processions, festivals, feast days, and the fact that churches and cathedrals provides the largest enclosed weatherproof space in any European city for 1000 years. That meant they got a lot of secular use. They were central to urban behavior for this pragmatic reason as well as for religious reasons. It’s also good to point out the church was also associated with the city. The words Pagan and Heathen both refer to people living in the countryside. The royalty and nobility of Europe was primarily focused on the countryside, descended from mounted barbarians, focused on agriculture, land, hunting, and warfare and generally avoiding the city. That’s the Middle Ages of Castles and Peasants. Cities with their Cathedrals and Universities became almost like a whole other kind of Europe. And that’s where our story continues.

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Consider the medieval concept of the world as a written story. The idea that God is the author of the world and therefore everything in the world, every plant, every animal, every substance, must contain a symbolic meaning. Since the world was a story, and story is not random, the details must have meaning and purpose. Medieval paintings and architectural facades are crammed with these little details, none of which are arbitrary… All of which are pregnant with meaning. This habit of seeing symbolic narrative meaning in literally everything gets kludged onto the Roman concept of passage through space. Mundane Urban spaces, decorated for celebrations were rebranded with set dressings full of new layer of meanings that governed the procession all the way into church. A massive overload of story. City as theater. The second theme is the expressionistic power of church architecture. The best example of this is Gothic cathedrals. Vertical distortion and light. The narrative goal of Gothic architecture was to use light itself as a metaphor of God’s grace. This required a lot of light. The added light is not functional. That’s not why they changed style after 700 years of dark churches. It’s for narrative impact. Stained glass made The Word into light that fell on you. You were in it. In the story. It’s an immersive projected effect. (There were other mechanical special effects as well, many of which were revealed by Protestant reformers. But I want to focus on placemaking.) The extreme verticality and floral ornate-ness of the Gothic interior is a form of architectural expressionism. It far exceeds function. It is designed to raise your eyes and to express uplifting emotions. Much of the elaborate interior ribbing is decorative, not structural. When you see ruined cathedrals it’s clear that the interior architectural details are every bit as faux as a Roman facade. There to propel the story. More than the Roman world of political narrative, this is a world in which narrative is literally everywhere, every day and everything part of an ongoing story.

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The Renaissance and math. The Romans did not invent perspective. They just eyeballed their scenic illusions which is why the vanishing points are all wonky. I espouse the thesis that the Renaissance is not a revolution but an evolution out of medieval scholastic practices. It happens at different times in different places but for our purposes it’s chief contribution is precision mathematics which enable artistic perspective and physical engineering. Also and related, is the humanist focus on the human material world...the practice of observation instead of medieval reliance on past authority. I’m going to start here with Perspective. It’s easy for us to look at a perspective drawing and recognize that all the lines converge on a vanishing point. But they also converge in the opposite direction to the single point of the eye of a single human observer. This is a big difference from medieval thinking, in which things existed for sacred reasons whether they were seen or not, and they possessed invisible unseen qualities. That world is created by God to be read. In this Renaissance frame of mind things exist as they are seen by a human. The world is created by God to be observed.The notion of the ideal form colors these observations, And the ideal practice of mathematics dominates the representation of forms in art…That’s why Renaissance art doesn’t exactly exactly look real. but it definitely looks physical. The power of mathematics never lets up from here onwards. It is crucial to the further development of narrative illusion.This is the beginning of centuries of study into how we see, why we see, how color works, how light works, how machines work, the entire technology of display and representation. All of this eventually feeds into the technologies of experience design to this day.

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Two Renaissance Imagineers. Bramante and Brunelleschi. Two different feats of magic. First, Santa Maria presso San Satiro. Nice looking Renaissance nave in a chapel. Except the entire apse, the back half of the church, is not really there. Remember how perspective vanishes at the horizon, but also converges on the eye of the beholder. This allowed for certain spots to be made perspectivally significant. When you stand in a certain spot, the back end of the church appears to be a real earthly space. But when you approach from the side it’s not there. The altar exists in a magic kind of space. In fact, it’s a forced perspective niche, like the Hollywood Street backdrop at DCA. This illusion depends on the designer knowing where you will be and what you will see..and what you know. The experience of the place proceeds not from it’s plan view, or from an architectural vision, but from an geometrically extrapolated single point of view of a person. Brunelleschi also plays with what he knows that the viewer does not know. The word perspective refers not only to the geometry of a scene but to the viewers point of view, physically and psychologically. Brunelleschi famously devised a way of putting a dome over Santa Maria Del Fiori without building a scaffold to support it. The space had been uncovered for a generation. It was said that it was impossible to roof over. Brunelleschi played against perceptual perspectives. It wasn’t the dome that was impossible… It was the scaffold. Eliminating the need for a scaffold made the dome possible. That and a lot of math and a dozen newly invented construction machines. But people’s perception was that the dome was impossible...so when they walked into the basilica and stood beneath the dome, they were suspended between what they knew to be true and what they saw to be true. It’s like Bramante’s faux apse at Santa Maria presto San Satiro in reverse. In one case, your eye says something is there but it’s not. In the other your brain says something shouldn’t be there but it is. Both are feats of Imagineering. The combination of narrative, vision and technology.

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Since we’re on Brunelleschi...To the tune of "Under the Sea" from "The Little Mermaid," regarding the design of the dome. ..........please sing along and post.... There once was a church in Florence,// That sat there without a roof.// Folks said it could not be covered,// And they had mathematic proof./// But then came an architect who// Had quite an ambitious plan.// His dome would be self supporting!// That's how he could bridge the span.// Brunelleschi //// Brunelleschi /// He put the lid on// Santa Maria // del Fioree.// They thought he was just pulling their legs,// When he said domes are just like eggs!// His engineering // Had people fearing// Catastrophe!// Brunelleschi // Brunelleschi // There is no doubt// It's good he backed out// Of making jewelry!// This wasn't all he had to give!// He also in-vented perspective.// Still they would whine // Saying "Your butt is mine// If that giant dome Begins to decline.// Cause you'll be fired// And there's a fine!// Incidentally!" // Ghiberti was pissed// Cause he was dismissed.// Fillipo had won.// Now started the fun.// his plans he refined// His cranes he designed// And up that dome did go!!!! /// Brunelleschi // Brunelleschi // No one expected this architect To gain victory!// He was the engineer in chief!// While they stared up in disbelief.// He kept his secret plans under wraps// So people feared that his dome would collapse// And he and his crew would just fall on their apse!!// Tragically.//// They thought that his dome would crumble// With no scaffold under it.// But his interlocking structure,// Held up with a rock tight fit.// And thus was his dome completed.// A picture of elegance!// One of the first icons of the// Italian Renaissance.// Brunelleschi // Brunelleschi // Every dome since Bears his design prints // Architect'rally!!!! // Up on his dome They walk around, // Hundreds of feet above the ground!! // Now they could pray// On a rainy day..// They hadn't a clue// But he showed the way...// And they’re Italian so they can say,// Brunelleschi!!! ///#architecture #renaissance #florence #arthistory #artist #italian #italy #education #brunelleschi #arthistory #arthistoryclass #a

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Before we leave the Renaissance here’s another song about the change from Medieval to Humanist narrative focus. Giotto lived during the height of Gothic architecture, but lived in Italy, therefore at the beginning of the Renaissance. To the Louis Prima King Louey song from Jungle Book..."I wanna be like You" Oh He's the start of the Renaissance./// In the chapel Scrovegni./// He introduces Shaded forms// And spatiality./// His figures aren't suspended /// Like stickers on a door/// The way they'd been Presented for five hundred years or more/// Oh oh oh// You got to love// Giotto-o-o// He seems to know-o-o// Where art is going to go// You can see-e-e// Psychology-e-e// Depicted in the scenes He chose to show.// Now don't try to sell me theories // That he was not the first.// He shows up at Cimabues In one artistic burst! // Once he started drawing// Medieval art was done!// His frescos set a standard That inspired everyone!// You gotta know-oh-oh// Without Giotto-o-o// There's no way that you'd get Masaccio!// Oh oh oh// You gotta love. Giotto-o-o// Sorpredente e Molto bellissimo // Vasari-ee-ee// Says that he-e-e// Was the greatest painter Of thirteen-oh-oh!// And Baloo sings:// Giotto-di-Bondone// Zabba-dabba-dabba-dee-ba-doh// Ottissimo pintore!// Se l'occhio Vincitore!// Bah-Dee-bah-dah-buhdapdap-daddy!// And so on #art #artist #arthistory #jungjebook #song #giotto #renaissance #arthistorysongs #arthistoryteacher #arthistorian #louisprima #baloo #arthistoryclass #arthistory101 #arthistorymuseum #scrovegni

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The Baroque era sets the foundation for everything that follows. Norman Klein’s book “Vatican to Vegas” covers this long evolution rather thoroughly but with a heavy dose of post-structuralist anxiety about power and illusion. That’s definitely a Baroque thing, so don’t ignore it. Because of the greatly enhanced powers of mathematical calculation, optical illusions in the Baroque Age are truly amazing. This is a level of scenic illusion far beyond the Romans or the Renaissance. Illusion may not be the right word..more like display. Illusion is not deception, it’s more like playtime. “Look what I can do.” Everyone knows that Gaulli’s ceiling of the Gesu has not really evaporated into clouds, but you can’t tell. So it’s a display of capabilities on the part of the artist and, because it’s big and expensive, of power on the part of the patron. The Jesuits. This awareness of the trick is part of the trick. This is what Aristotle refers to in his essay on Mimesis. Simultaneous enjoyment of illusion and of the skill that it takes to accomplish the illusion. Many Baroque works of art allowed you to know there was an illusion at work. So that you know someone did it. This is why extravagant works of art and works of illusion became so much a part of the baroque scene. It was kind of celebrity patronage… Everybody knew who produced the installation, so they got credit as much as the artist. Think of the relationship between Disney and all the many great stories and places that Disney produces. Everybody knows it’s Disney… It’s not a secret. It’s not like you walk in the gate and look at a big beautiful castle and think “wow that’s amazing I wonder how that incredible castle got here? “ That awareness is a legacy of the Baroque.

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The Baroque era coincides with the Age of Exploration, a highly subjective term for the era in which slightly better boats, way better guns, and herd immunity allowed Europeans to basically loot the entire planet. That brought in a lot of money and not all to the church and the king. We modern people completely fail to understand how important and ritualized the display of wealth was, and how much more symbolic it was than simply showing how much money you had. Kings, queens and churches represented ideas that transcended any personal quality at all. When they dressed up they were not dressing up as themselves but as the state. When they built a palace it was not only theirs but the palace of the state. If the state was going to enjoy admiration, respect, and awe… It needed to look like it. So it was really radical when just any wealthy person could dress up or build themselves a palace that was comparable to a royal or religious display. But this secularism of display was essential for a business such as our own to emerge. The idea of putting oneself on display, led to the creation of places dedicated to display…Especially for those people who might have nice clothes but not have a Palace. Urban stage backdrops against which you could appear in all your finery, and your importance would be elevated by the fantastic backdrop… Like the Trevi Fountain. It was itself a fantastic work of sculpture, a beautiful urban asset, a place to see...But also a place to be seen. (Nowadays, with selfies we don’t need the other people… But back in the day you needed somebody else to be looking.) Going out and promenading in large public park-like spaces, and in the presence of elaborate architectural monuments became a thing. The urban space had been in place for theatrical display all the way back to the Romans… But never had the subject of that theater simply been the people themselves looking at themselves. Ideas like this become the very first democratizing germs of the mentality that would lead to modern themed spaces where everybody can congregate together.

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Nowadays we make a powerful distinction between the fine arts, applied arts and popular arts. Theme parks are classed in the second and third category but never in the first. However back in the Baroque era such distinctions were more blended. Automata and clockwork animation were just as much works of art as cathedral ceilings. Some of these were extraordinarily complex machines. Stage sets were full of mechanical and optical effects and viewers were expected to observe the mechanical as well as the optical elements because they were equally amazing. They were united by the principle of art and engineering. (Imagineering)? Illusory ceilings may not have been animated, but they were engineered mathematically and their execution required machinery and technology. Before the industrial revolution, technology itself was still an art, done by hand and requiring elite knowledge and skill. That meant that displaying technology for status was just as much a Baroque habit as displaying art. And the combination of the two must be even more so. Automata and mechanical devices were extended into entire landscapes with automated fountains and garden ornaments. All for elite consumption. If displaying technical wonders was an elite behavior, then viewing them was an elite privilege. This created demand and a growing mercantile urban class of people aspired to the privilege of display and consumption of techno-aesthetic creations. Entrepreneurs were not far behind.

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I touched upon gardens at the close of our last chapter. By the middle of the Baroque era garden design has become a major art form. They combined the best of all the arts, color, form, light, with the additional benefit of movement through space and sensory stimuli. The first half of this era was dominated by huge geometric garden designs, manifesting human agency over the earth. Versailles is the most famous example. These gardens were still imbued with the Renaissance obsessions of perspective and geometry. That was about to change. Versailles was a royal estate but many others were private estates and Private ownership led to explorations of personal taste. Landscape design diversified and great landscape gardens became destinations, for those with access. By the way, the word garden simply implies man-made landscape. These “gardens” were easily the size of theme parks and Versailles in particular was deliberately designed as an administrative resort to keep the nobility close at hand. Sometime between the late 1600s and late 1700s a new style emerged that would bear directly upon our future business. The English Country Garden. Next on Joe’s IG Art History

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The English Country garden. So much to say. The French Classical garden was obviously an artificial creation, broadcasting through its very geometry that it was manmade. What makes the English Landscape tradition so interesting is that it is just as artificial, but entirely natural looking. Entire villages were removed, rivers redirected, hills built, forests planted to create these gardens that supposedly enshrined the more democratic and liberal values of Britain over the authoritarian geometry of France. The illusion is very convincing. They are like Gaullis ceiling. You know it’s a trick, but your eyes only see things that look believable. The powerful illusion created by this landforming qualifies these as Baroque exercises, but the underlying design philosophy is rooted in Romantic theory. Gentlemen like William Gilpin and Uvedale Price popularized a new theory of landscape appreciation. The style was called the Picturesque. That is, like a painting. Now, before we go on we must parse this a bit. Paintings were not cheap. They were created by professional artists working for rich patrons for reasons that were politically or socially important. They took time and involved rare and costly ingredients. So for something to look Picturesque, like a painting, meant that it was worth looking at. And not just any painting, a painting by Claude Lorrain, who was a Baroque era landscape painter. These gardens are not just lovely landscape designs. They are attempts to render a famous beloved 2D experience into a mobile immersive 3D experience. Sounds familiar. Where’d they get that idea?

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And here is a song about famous eighteenth century landscape architect Lancelot (Capability) Brown. His nickname came from his habit of saying that a clients property had “capability.” To the tune of “The Bare Necessities” from The Jungle Book. Verse..... His name was Ca-pability!!.../.. A mind of such fertility!!.../.. He re-designed the English Grand Estate!!.../.. His landscap-ing ability.../.. Impressed British nobility.../.. So all those Dukes and Earls said “He’s so Great!”!!.../.. Refrain.... From Blenheim to Warwick,.../.. Wherever he went,..../.. He outshone old masters,.../.. Like William Kent.../.. His landscape style was loose and free.../.. Not like that French Geometry .../.. That sym-bo-lized the total power of the state .../.. Verse..... The English lack of symmetry .../.. Expressed a new philosophy .../.. That nature was the source of moral good!!!.../.. But they’d e-vict their peasantry .../.. to in-stall Brown’s new pleasantry .../.. Of artificial streams going past a wood.../.. Refrain...... That Romantic Era.../.. Provided a base.../.. For later designers.../.. Who entered the race.../.. Chuck Olmstead’s Central Park refines.../.. Old Capability’s designs.../.. That fixed the English Country Garden’s sense of place.../.. It set the pace.../.. That left a trace../.. I rest my case../.. ........

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By the 1600s Europeans are coming and going from places like China, bringing back some landscape ideas that make their way into the English style. One is the notion called “one step one picture. “ The Chinese garden is composed like a storyboard, as a set of views. pathways are designed to offer specific places where you stop and look and consider. The second feature was the very premise of pure nature as a subject for contemplation… This is a relatively new concept and European thought done and somewhat distinct from Luther’s idea of nature as a Biblical teaching mechanism. And third. We’ve looked at design now that is based on political ideas religious ideas and the quest for personal glory. The Chinese garden added another twist. The spaces in a Chinese garden or quotations, quotations of literature and great painting… So people walking around in a Chinese garden or not just appreciating the plants and the rocks, they are aware of the fact that they are inside a representation of a famous other story… A little bit like those English gardens and Claude Lorrain except centuries earlier. The plan view of the humble administrator’s garden in Sugo illustrates the distinction between narrative and functionality very simply. All the guests circulation pathways are currently near and present views. The maintenance pathways are perfectly straight and run around the outer edge. That means the garden was not a garden at all but narrative experience and that it was considered disruptive to see actual gardeners because they weren’t part of the story. That last pagoda is Kew Gardens...cultural transfer.

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Follies. Once you’ve created an entirely artificial landscape that suggests a particular narrative idea, why not build buildings in that landscape that are equally artificial and made up to further accentuate those ideas? Follies… Ruins, castles, temples, pagodas...These begin to show up in the English garden as the focal points of long views. In theme park parlance we call these weenies or icons. They punctuate a view to make it clear what that view is supposed to mean. They form a Destination for pedestrians wandering through the space. That is what follies did when they emerged 300 years ago, clear progenitors of theme park architecture. Because of the influence of Claude Lorraine, the earliest follies tended to be Greek or Roman looking temples. But pretty soon they became ruins or castles…(sound familiar?) This helped give the Impression that the landscape had always been this way…that these extremely modified private gardens were in fact the very essence of what England had always been. Over the years they became more and more elaborate, until, they washed back up on the residence itself, and people began building faux historical mansions. By that time we are moving from the Baroque into another great age of design, the Romantic era, which we will discuss soon. But not quite yet.

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We are not going to cover the Rococo specifically, Although it represents a further trend towards secularization, the rise of pure entertainment value in the arts, and the increase in leisure. beyond that...I think what needs to be said can be said in this song.Although the cadence is difficult, because it often ascribes two, three, and even four syllables to one beat, "Give Me That Old Time Rock 'n Roll" works nicely with this next song. Plus the punning association with "Rocaille" is too hard to pass up. Try it a few times and you'll find Bob Seger in there. Give me that old time Rococo./// That kind of excess really puts on a show./// It looks like seashells that are frosted with snow,//: In steel engravings done by Nick Pineau./// Give me that old time Rococo.:/ Those dark Romantics, man, they just don't know,// Those girls with butts so pink they almost glow,/// From Fragonard, Boucher, and funky Watteau./// Neumann's chapel done in blue and pink,/// Some naked angel with an erotic wink,/// Gold leaf, tromp louey, and the kitchen sink/// It's a sensation boy you don't have to think./// Don't fix if it ain't Baroque./// It might be silly, but it's not a joke./// This is the kind of art that people make/// When they say to each other, "Let'em eat cake!" ///Give me that old time Rococo/// Before they knocked off every aristo/// But when it's time to go, it's time to go /// And with them gotta go the Rococo./// #art #artists #arthistory #watteau #fragonard #boucher #rococo #arthistory #arthistoryclass #arthistorysongs

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The Grand Tour. I mentioned this earlier. The Grand Tour started out in The Baroque as an obligatory journey for a young gentleman to take to edify himself by exposure to the great cultures of Italy and France. Within a generation it became an obligatory set of destinations for well to do Travelers, basically “tour”-ists. By now we were in the High noon of the Romantic era, and the rules of the picturesque were in full force. What is peculiar about the grand tour is how specific these suggested views were. In order to replicate the morally edifying power of a painting, you couldn’t just go look at something. You had to look at it at a specific time of day, sometimes a specific season, from a very specific viewpoint. It’s sort of an early modern era version of these Instagram photographs that everybody has to take from very specific spots. But there were no cameras. How to make it picturesque. How are people going to get it to look like a picture? They use something called a Claude Glass… Here we are with Claude Lorrain again! Rather than just look at the view from the specified location, you would look at it through a piece of smoked glass so it took on the honey glazed appearance of an old painting...because it was now 150 years since Claude Lorrain. Sometimes it was a smoked mirror, so you weren’t even looking at the actual view, and like an IG selfie, you could put yourself in it. These destinations became so fixed in the popular imagination, and so tied up in the commerce of people coming to see them just the way they were, that for the most part, none of them have changed since that time. If anything they have gotten more the way they were. They form the backbone of European tourism. And they share many visual properties with the inside of any of the theme parks we might be concerned with. Theme parks are an absolute extension of the principles of the Picturesque. As we get into the Romantic era it will become clear just how much this art form is anchored in Romantic Era theory.

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Since we will shortly be moving on to the Romantic era. I presume somebody still remembers the theme song from The Monkees tv show. "Hey, hey, We're the Monkees” and all... it's completely logical to connect this with a survey lecture on the Romantic Era. Here they come!—/— With their unique work,—/— Based on theories by Ruskin,—/— And by Edmund Burke!! —/— Hey, it's the Romantics!—/— Now we're getting Art for Arts sake.—/— From Fuselli, Palmer and Goya,—/— Delacroix and William Blake.—/— There's a lot of emotion!—/— Style is all over the place!—/— Subjects are a trifle disturbing.—/— And so are some depictions of race.—/— Architects—/— Explore the sublime!—/— Resurrecting old styles —/— From medieval time!—/— Hey, it's the Romantics!—/— They invent the picturesque!—/— And pretty much redesign England, —/— From Augustin Pugin's desk!—/— You can thank the Romantics—/— For every cutesy tourist view—/— From Budapest to Stratford on Avon —/— Codified and packaged for you.—/— Hey, it's the Romantics!—/— A rather broad inclusive set!—/— If you include film and theme parks—/— It hasn’t even wrapped up yet.—/—

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The Romantic Era marks a profound change and one that moves ever closer along the pedigree of our work. Emotive, spectacular, narrative but increasingly unhinged from elite agendas, although National agendas will come into play. Personal style begins to dominate over any agreed upon appearance in the arts. And it is within this period that the ancient system of aristocratic patronage which dates back to Rome is broken by series of revolutions. In America we think of our revolution in very romantic terms… But that’s because it was really a foreign war for the people in power. Every other revolution across Europe was fought in someone’s front yard.… They were bitter, violent and very scary, because people in power never give power away… You have to take it. In less than a generation, aristocrats were not quite as interested in publicly advertising their status as wealthy elites...Could be dangerous. Elite Patronage becomes focused on smaller and more intimate displays: the interiors of luxury apartments with paintings in frames. This enables more intimate quirky relationships between patron and artist who serve them. But the pool is much smaller. Meanwhile, the industrial revolution has completely changed the attitude towards mechanical wonders. No longer twee little handmade clockwork tours de force, machinery has become the “dark satanic mills” in which the working class lives and dies. Elite patronage may have shriveled...but Nature abhors a vacuum. There was a rising middle class in every city, yearning to experience a taste of the grandeur of an aristocracy that was fast becoming a nostalgic myth. Artists and entrepreneurs who did not serve elite patrons, served these masses with industrial scale presentations. The popular arts and mass entertainment are born. Artists could choose; take a lot of money from one guy, or a dollar from ten thousand. This split widens until it is nearly irreconcilable. All the way til now. Theme parks are a weird hybrid of this age..big patrons but popular audiences. Baroque scale. Romantic subjects. Industrial machines used to deliver evanescence’s stories.

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As we progress through this odd pedigree it’s worth recapping for a moment, because it goes fast from here on out.1. A.Romans/concept of space as a positive sculpted thing.B. Expressive Liberation of architectural form )through use of concrete). C. Surface as imagery including illusory imagery of non-existent space. D. Hyper-conscious focus on the viewers progression through space. 2. Medieval/A.narrativization of the world. B. Pervasive symbology. C City as procession. 3.Renaissance./The power of Mathematics and Perspective. 4. Baroque./A. Secularization of high design. B. Huge uptick in mathematically enabled illusion. C. Machine as art. D. Massive secular land forming. E. Emotion to the forefront. F. Urban leisure and spectatorial behavior. 5. Romantic Era/. A. Subject matter hugely extended. B. The garden tradition of narrative landscape. C. Collapse of ancient patronage and Rise of a consumer class. D. Technological enablement of mass experiences. And that’s where we are now. The Romantic era dives deep into the irrational. Dreams, monsters, imaginary lands, exotic locations, nostalgic pasts, personal visions. At this time, folklorists are also collecting tales that will become part of a national identity. The fictional novel emerges. It is a story explosion. Most of the characters we know and love from Disney and other major storytelling entities are codified here. Pirates, Robert Louis Stevenson. Knights, Walter Scott. The Hunchback by Victor Hugo. The Little Mermaid. Vampires. Frankenstein. Jules Verne and the Nautilus. The Brothers Grimm and all those princesses.

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Land as a subject. Way back in the Renaissance Martin Luther had introduced the notion that artists should study nature. Most of our curriculum has trended southwards to the Italian Baroque and high illusion. But up north a very different pictorial sense emerged, in the Low Countries Holland and Flanders. It was scrupulously realistic. While romantic landscape was part of the southern tradition, say with Salvator Rosa and his peasants dancing below some antique ruin in a forest...it’s arguable that the northern tradition leads from the Dutch to Thomas Cole, Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Edwin Church and Thomas Moran. The difference was that the landscape in the painting was not merely symbolic but was real. One was looking at a picture of something real. Now this was true to varying degrees with these artists, but it was the idea. Above all of these artists, the one most pertinent to our further discussion is Frederick Edwin Church. Church’s paintings were exhibited not as museum pieces, and not as elite possessions in somebody’s living room. They were traveling shows… Like an IMAX movie. And like an IMAX movie they were really big… Big enough to get lost in. They were presented to an audience in a theatrical proscenium with draperies and lighting, often accompanied by music, and people were invited to virtually wander in the immense landscape that he had created. Part of the appeal was that people knew these were paintings of places they might never go… Real places… (Even though the compositions were highly imaginative.) A Church painting is really thousands of paintings, details everywhere… Exactly the same kind of appeal people speak of when talking about, say, a theme park.

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The panorama. While there was clearly still a business for painters who wanted to have the right frame and hung in somebody’s house… And there was still enough aristocrats around to make that viable… Many artists were fascinated by the possibilities of the fusion of art, technology, and the mass audience. Panoramas, that is 360° immersive stage sets, equipped with special-effects and lighting, begin to crop up all through the 19th century. Daguerre, himself, the father of photography start it out creating spectacular sound and light shows using scrims to create the impression of change. You will recall that landscape design was considered the highest art form, and this was because it incorporated movement and change along with form and color. Without the benefit of walking through acres of land, what many of these artists were trying to do is to recapture movement and change in a limited space … And this set in motion a 100 year long arms race of technology that ultimately led to the creation of film. When film was first invented, it was not to tell Linear plot-based stories. It was to give the impression that you were looking at something real that was really moving. Before film took over there were some truly spectacular installations one of which we will talk about it next time.

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Just consider what is emerging here, over the course of the 19th century. The fine arts depart from the courtly arts and become extremely focused on highly individualistic ideas, styles, and expressions. Manet. Gauguin. Van Gogh. Puvis de Chavannes. Lawrence Alma Tadema. All of these guys are working at the same time and nobody could mistake any of their work for the others. Each year backwards towards the Middle Ages that gets harder and harder to do. Forwards, easier. These unique expressions are made possible by a combination of freedoms. First the freedom of artists to pursue personal urges and second the freedom of collectors to pursue personal taste unrestrained by social convention. Meanwhile, another set of artisans diverged from the Courtly arts by creating one form or another of immersive sound and light show. These tend to not encourage the same degree of personal self-expression, because the patronage is not personal… It is from thousands upon thousands of people, who form a bell curve of taste and opinion not a point...so the feedback loop of eccentricity is not there. This school of art favors naturalism, representationalism, and recognizable narrative. The grandest of these is the Mare-O-Rama. This was a full size cruise ship simulator that rocked and pitched as guests took a one hour voyage along the Mediterranean coast while incredibly long panoramic scrolls rolled by, smelling the ocean air with a breeze in their faces...until they got to Turkey, where they stopped and shopped in town before returning. There is simply no difference between that experience and one that could be conceived of and offered today in any theme park. Research trips,,art and technology, story. Art installations reached this scale once had come all the way around and re-joined new big patrons, corporate and governmental, as components of of huge international expositions. We will talk about those next time, but it should be clear by now that this art history has now parted company with almost anybody you learned about in school. The Mareorama, one of the greatest immersive experiences ever built was developed and designed by Hugo d’Alesi, a graphic artist.

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The great expositions began with Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace in England and lasted pretty much from the time from Manet to Performance Art. Once jet travel and high-technology became part of regular life, the meaning of the worlds fair changed. Most of you are probably reading this on a mobile device...Now, Imagine if your mobile device was turned into a place where every click and swipe in it was built out of real stuff, and you could go inside of it, touch it, eat it, listen to it, see it, buy it. It’s like Instagram and Amazon both turned into destinations. Expositions are relevant to the tradition of narrative architecture and placemaking in three ways. The first two are easier to comprehend, the third is a little more subtle. First, photoreal set designs of parts of the world you might never visit. Second, The beginnings of every form of a ride and attraction we currently enjoy. Third, were entire buildings who’s only design inspiration was some esoteric theme like the power of electricity, progress through the ages, the bounty of agriculture… And this led to a fantastic last gasp of baroque architectural design. More on all of this later. Let’s stay on the Crystal Palace for a moment. Usually we see the Crystal Palace in a black-and-white photograph which throws our attention to its extraordinary physical structure… Really the birth of modern architecture through its exploitation of repetitive components and curtain wall architecture. Color lithographs give a better sense of what it was like, truly gigantic and simply containing everything, like a giant mall of the products of the world. Now we see big malls all the time, and covered shopping streets had been built since the early 1700s...But this was bigger than any Cathedral. it was a Destination itself. A horizontal Eiffel Tower. People came from all over Europe, indeed all over the world to see the extraordinary giant glass building, and the world spanning collection of stuff inside of it. The French got into this pretty soon after and for most of the 19 century the Paris Exposition was the state of the art. We will look at some of that next.

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PARIS and it’s extraordinary expositions. Let’s focus for a moment on the Eiffel tower, which has become not just a symbol of Paris, but by default the national symbol of France. People just hated this damn thing. Purposeless, gigantic, awkward. As it reached its full height, it gained more enthusiastic support. Still, it’s unusual for these fair buildings to be preserved at all. So why? The Grand Palais at least has a function. what was the function of the Eiffel Tower? The Eiffel Tower is perhaps the worlds best example of what in a theme park has been called an icon, or by Walt Disney, a weenie. An icon does several things. One, it establishes thematically what kind of place this is. In the case of the Eiffel Tower, that is PARIS, an aspirational exuberant place, yet one of great capability, which Paris was, especially in that age. Second, is the navigational value. “Where am I relative to this unmistakable object?” In the same way that a shadow follows the spike of a sundial, a visitors perception follows the spire of an icon… You are always somewhere relative to this object. This relieves you of the need to consult other methods of navigation. And that is a powerful narrative tool, because it keeps you in a single state of mind instead of rocketing from one type of thinking to another; maps, numbers, names, not needed. All you need is your body and its sense of space. This same problem was solved by Cathedral Spires in the middle ages, but nothing until the Eiffel Tower had the scale to suit to a modern city. The third value of an icon is emotional experience through the immersion or contemplation of its being. If you have not been to the Eiffel tower it is hard to explain how many different ways this is possible. Not just from the top but the bottom, and the ascent, each of them is unique emotional experience.It is in fact a very emotional thingamajig. In the history of contributions to the art of narrative placemaking the Eiffel Tower stands out because it is the first time an icon was created for no purpose other than to to define a place thematically. It is the direct ancestor of the castle at Disneyland every bit as much as Ludwigs Bavarian fantasy.

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This is the Seine River in Paris. It is lined with spectacular themed buildings representing mostly national pavilions of different countries from around the world. Now, these countries weren’t necessarily building these pavilions to encourage tourism. They were building them To house displays of their various national accomplishments. In some cases this included colonial possessions… Another entire chapter to come. But it does not explain the appearance of the buildings. Many of the buildings are clearly not simply replicas of national architecture. They are extrapolations and amalgams, clearly meant to be unique. The reason the buildings are so lavishly designed and expressive has to do with every chapter we have been through leading up to this point… A 2000 year tradition of narrative place making. There was no other philosophy of how to make a building except to make it visually complex, follow some kind of architectural ordering system that directed the eye and put components into order, use multiple colors and materials, and have a distinct thematic and narrative impression that the building was intended to make. They were trying to answer the question: how would you look at this structure and think,”Ah! I see that this is x country here! And the structure is so like the character of that nation.”That was not a special thing that little artsy studios did somewhere...That was what every architect was trying to do everywhere. Every architectural studio in the world was basically an Imagineering center. The youngest of these architects were the last to work that way, and would live to see this entire philosophy of design nearly strangled out of existence within 20 years by a radical new idea of what architecture was.

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USA and the impact of the Expositions. America was an agricultural country. Cities were rare and mostly small. Foreign travel was unheard of, except for the very rich. So there was pent-up demand for the experience of large exotic settings. The middle class was growing, with the expectation that new technology would inevitably be theirs, so the commercial novelty of the exposition was also very appealing. But America’s Expositions had a third bit, the Midway, which was a pleasure and fun zone. Why was this a thing? Well...foreign observers ever since the early 1700s have remarked that Americans seem to do nothing but work, talk about nothing but money, and foster a Puritanical streak that is suspicious of the body, sex, and fun. Exposition Midways provided a special set-aside world for the body, sexy stuff, and fun, (a thing you did at a certain time and place. ) They scaled it up like never before, giving fun a level of architectural permission it had never had. Our cities were growing fast, and were unlike any other cities that had come before them. Expositions also carried in their designs the promise of what these city of the future might be like. Particularly the Columbia Exposition in Chicago. This gave rise the White City movement, which was a nationwide Neo-Baroque master-planning and beautification movement, in which people attempted to create urban settings which emulated the grandeur and beauty of these exposition courts. Before the WPA, this was the first nationally organized design force in the history of the country. One wonders, had the White City movement succeeded in defining the urban centers of America, how much appeal would theme parks really have had? Disneyland for example, sort of takes the fun of the Midway, the grandeur, beauty and spectacular design of the White City movement, and the wonder of new technology of the exhibit halls, and puts them together into one place. Had the White City movement taken hold and survived, everywhere would have been a Baroque narrative place, full of visual celebration. Tough competition for a ticketed venue based on placemaking. Lucky (for us,) there was another urban theory coming.

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We cannot leave the expositions without talking about one of the more controversial design components… The representation of other peoples cultures. One could do another entire series just on this subject. There is no doubt that some of the cultural representation in the Paris and American expositions was racist and Colonialist, and did not do justice to the cultures represented. (However, neither did the actual tourism to the real foreign places. ) From a pure design perspective these expositions broke down into several camps, the worst of which was the human zoo category. There are whole books on how bad these were, so I’m not gonna waste precious words here. However, the other categories offer interesting examples of academically studious replications, or theatrical re-expressions of foreign nations mainly through their architecture and objects. These had important influence on future design movements in Europe and America. Art Nouveau and the Craftsman movement both gain from exposure Asian-themed displays at expositions. For many people, seeing for the first time what other places looked like excited admiration and wonder, not a snarky sense of superiority. The evidence is in the emulation that we see in building facades across this country. Just driving through LA I could point out early 20th century residential and commercial facades inspired from the whole world. That wasn’t from research trips. Some of this placemaking was extraordinary, like walk-around film sets before there were films. For the consumer audience, these locations were as exotic as Star Wars is to us. In the best instances, the immersiveness of these places is unsurpassed. Exoticism fulfills a neurological need. Our brains go to sleep unless they are confronted with things that are new and unusual. Places, objects, people that one is not accustomed to are like drugs… They reawaken you by compelling you to pay attention. Such designs might serve no other function and still be valuable. In any case, this was an era Of incredible experimentation with Faux placemaking. We wouldn’t do it exactly the same way today, but there were great design lessons here despite the occasional lapses.

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The seeds of the final great split between themed narrative placemaking and modern architectural design were perfectly clear in the very first Exposition, and remain clear throughout that time. The Crystal Palace was a metal framed building, not marble not even brick. All the rest of those giant Baroque-looking structures are just the Crystal Palace with an artificial façade on the front. At a certain point, a certain group of people decided that the artificial facade had no purpose. They were wrong. When you study this era in normal architectural history you really only study three of these buildings. The first is of course the Crystal Palace because of the industrialization of building unit production and the principle of a curtain wall. The second is the Transportation Pavilion at the Chicago Exposition by Louis Sullivan ...because he’s the guy who said “form follows function.”. This is a perfectly legitimate philosophy, and Sullivan’s work is full of celebratory ornament. But, very quickly this movement dismissedvnarrative as one of the functions, leaving only physical functions, holding people, keeping out weather, and containing forms of activity. Leaving us with the third pavilion we study in normal Art history, Mies van der Rohe’s German pavilion at the Barcelona Exposition… This is the building we recognize as being truly modern. But its engagement with the principle of narrative, is unclear. By this time, there is a nearly irreconcilable difference in histories imagined by designers working in the modern school and those using the narrative school. “Truth in materials” became one of the rules in the canon of modern design… What looks like wood, Stone looks like stone, concrete looks like concrete, metal looks like metal…A rule, which if you’ve been paying attention to this entire history, would invalidate virtually every work discussed within. In narrative placemaking the chief function of the built environment is to speak through whatever materials necessary, using whatever illusions one is capable of to get the building and the spaces to mean something.

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You can discuss the rise of modernism in any art history class. So...Here’s our question: In the face of such a massive revolution how did the narrative design tradition survive at all? Expositions brought together extraordinary engineering achievements, complex visual narrative in the use of architecture and space and a liberating joyful attention to the body. These 3 ideas fragmented off from each other in the 20th century. Midways like Coney island continued even up to this day, but without the technology, high art, and philosophy. Fantastic technical accomplishments in architectural engineering continue to this day, but without the lavish narrative engagement of representational ornament. Where did all that Neo-Baroque and Romantic era theory go? The knowledge of how to make a built environment into a personality that speaks...that ended up in film. Literally, the actual architects went to work in the film business and Designed film sets. Film is a 19th century medium. It is the culmination of 100 year long technical arms race to achieve the illusion of space coupled with motion. The fact that it became used for theatrical storytelling is a byproduct. Because film is a picture, it is irrevocably wedded to the design theories of the picturesque. It does not respond well to the simplistic planes and colorless surfaces of the modern. Still photography is the shrine of the modern. It is actually astonishing how much 19th century visual philosophy is embedded in film. We will look at some of that next time. But for now let’s just recall the Romans and narrative space. Space is both a real, atmospheric thing, and, since space is defined by its surface, it can be extended through illusion. The film screen is the bounding surface of the space of the theater… It is simply a gigantic Roman wall mural that moves. The theater becomes the place of the film, extending its space through illusion in exactly the same way as those Roman wall murals did. The film screen is the 21st century baroque ceiling painting. Early theater designers innately understood this creating a lavish interiors to frame the screen so the movie was more like a living mural.

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A whole slew of 19th century aesthetic ideas are embedded in film and filmmaking. These are germane to our little history. Consider,for example, the moral value of the picturesque, which we covered some chapters back...but as it relates to Star Wars. Remember, the rule is that which possesses the qualities of a good painting possesses moral good. Texture, irregularity, roughness, a close association with nature and natural processes, patina, signs of age, a sense of history, a sense of mysticism, all of these are part of the Romantic Era and elements of the picturesque ..,and they tend to associate with good guys in the Star Wars universe. Bad guys are generally shiny, metallic, and organized. All the way back to Metropolis, even before, goodness is associated with picturesque texture. Look at casting, (including some very insidious traditions). Lots of typecasting is based on 19 century physiognomy, a totally discredited pseudoscience which suggested, for example, that weaselly looking-people might be sneaky… and that’s who you cast in your movie as the sneaky guy. This is not because these things are existentially true. Good people can live anywhere and bad people can look anyway. It is because of the aesthetic tradition that underlies narrative painting and narrative placemaking, in which you’re supposed to instantaneously read the essential story through pure design elements themselves before you ever engage linear plot. Film is a 19th-century medium, full of 19 century aesthetics, and film forms the underlying basis for modern narrative placemaking, as we see through the Disney company and its origins in filmmaking. The reason I illustrated an ark in my last post is because film is the ark in which these traditions were preserved, to be passed down through the lost generation. we are coming to the end of this history soon, because we’re coming to the beginning of Walt Disney and that history is well known. Couple more essays and we will be done.

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The art that opened WWI and the art that closed it. There is no denying that the aesthetics of the 19th century became associated with the ruling classes of the 19th century and that these ruling classes really screwed the pooch. Between the fantastic socio-economic imbalances … (Something we are replicating today)… And the meaningless, psychologically disturbing, and very destructive World War I, the old art regime had lost so much legitimacy that it could no longer defend itself against attacks from a variety of revolutionaries. Marxists are only one. All of them shared a deep disgust for the goopy overdesigned frills of the 19th century, which now seemed so inappropriate for such a grim time. These rebels also had a distrust for narrative, because that’s how they all got hooked into spending four years of their lives in a disease-ridden trench, splattered with the rotting fragments of their companions. So they were not in a mood to negotiate. They wanted a cleansing blank slate. And that is what they got. They threw out the baby with the bathwater and started anew. But blankness has a deficit. It only shows up by contrast. That’s why at first, these minimalist featureless buildings seemed so remarkable. Because they were rare, and Stood out by exception. The statement that they made was a counterpoint, which visually requires the presence of the contested original point to be effective. That’s why I think there are singular modernist buildings that are excellent… But very few large scale modernist environments that are successful, and many are quite dystopian. The only reason this is relevant is because this stripped-down functionalist, undecorated style came to dominate the urban design of every city in the world...creating a tremendous visual hunger in millions of people for places that seemed to say something more complicated. Not necessarily to go back to the irrelevant statements of the 19th century, but to go somewhere that wasn’t just two sticks meeting at a right angle. The appeal of themed environments is fed in part by a sensory revulsion for the white noise of unthemed environments

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A Couple essays back you notice I picked the year 1906… Picasso is doing cubism, Ned Kelly is the first feature length motion picture, and Adolf Loos writes Ornament and Crime, the famous essay which is one of the foundational pillars of modernism. It is a strong, though biased argument against color and ornament as corrupt. The modernist movement took a couple decades to really get moving. But film did not. Filmmaking and the aesthetics that go with it spread worldwide in less than a decade. Film created illusory places in theaters around the world. Imaginary space pregnant with narrative meaning. Narrative placemaking moved entirely inside the imaginary space of the mural, now a film screen. It re-emerged as built space after World War II in the form of Disneyland. This picturesque aesthetic was so broadly spread that it outdistanced the modern aesthetic by millions of subscribers. Modernism has had well over 100 years to capture the hearts and minds of a global public. For 100 years critics have argued that the blankness is more democratic because it is blank. But the picturesque triumphed 1000 times over. Why? It is just difficult to attach narrative to a blank surface. It’s like sitting in the movie theater looking at a blank screen. However, it is easy to attach narrative to a complex composition. That’s why they project a moving picture onto the blank screen. Blankness refuses to attach any meaning other than the meaning originally ascribed to it, which is the moral superiority of white blankness...whereas complex structures dating all the way back to Rome and every intervening era since are continually remounted with new meanings simply by directing attention to a different set of details... because there are details there to remount. Film did condition the audience...it did not teach us how to see. It just respected the way we see. Narratively. Those lessons are now dimensional again in theme parks.

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Last one, From here, tons of histories trace the last 100 years of themed placemaking. My main point has been that our work is not meant to be judged as if it was a trivial side branch of the history of art. It is simply an entirely separate history. Here and there, as with all histories, these paths crossfertilize each other. But often they take away different lessons from the same initial impetus. One of the most powerful pedigrees on the fine arts branch derives from the Romantic Era… It’s the very concept of the lone artistic genius, unrestrained by the norms of society, who follows only his or her own intuition to create. Strange to think that this was not always the way people thought about artists… The lone genius is a byproduct of the 18th century. The tradition of the hyper-individualized artist has brought us some of the greatest artwork of the last 200 years. But it does not transfer well to the realm of placemaking. Public architecture, the creation of places meant to be inhabited by thousands of people, is not a personal statement… It is a big inclusive conversation. If you intend to hold a conversation, you must be responsible for making yourself understood. If you intend to be understood, you must take care to understand what it is your listeners know, feel, and respond to. You can still say what you have to say, but if you intend it to be heard, you may have to change very much how you say it. You cannot use a secret language developed only by you that only you understand.Every storyteller knows that. All the way back to the prehistoric campfire, every storyteller knows to watch the audience, to frame the story so that it engages them. People are not there to listen to you talk. People don’t travel across the country and the world to indulge your personal obsessions.They are there to enter a story, and you are only the vehicle by which that story comes to life. The story is bigger than you.That is not the same as the lone genius. Because you are not alone. You are part of a lineage of thousands of years. And you’re also together with your audience around the fire.

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