The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Tuesday, February 26, 2002

The town that Walt built

EPCOT will be an experimental city that would incorporate the best ideas of industry, government, and academia worldwide, a city that caters to the people as a service function. It will be a planned, controlled community, a showcase for American industry and research, schools, cultural and educational opportunities. In EPCOT there will be no slum areas because we won't let them develop. There will be no landowners and therefore no voting control. People will rent houses instead of buying them, and at modest rentals. There will be no retirees; everyone must be employed. One of the requirements is that people live in EPCOT must keep it alive.

Walt Disney's original plans for EPCOT

It's scary to me that Walt Disney's vision of living is actually comming true in this day and age. While his actual vision wasn't implemented, most of it has, in fact, come around to being true. And not just in Celebration, Florida. Now, I thought this condo association was tough—it's nothing compared to what Walt Disney wanted:

Because EPCOT, like Disneyland, was to be open to paying visitors, however, Disney intended to regulate the lives of the city's residents almost as thoroughly as the climate in the dome. Representative local government was ruled out. No residents were to be permanent. Pets would be forbidden, dress codes would be enforced, and residents would be expelled for unbecoming conduct ranging from drunkenness to unmarried cohabitation.

Disney is showing us the future all right: The future of government. They already have their own currency, their own cruise line and islands and they even have passports (although they're not quite like passports as the U. S. Government issues, they're still called passports).

I wonder if one can seek political asylum at Disney? Perhaps if you work for Six Flags you could swing it.

Reading through the site, I'm awed at the vision, yet repelled by the control Disney wanted over the people living there; this is worse than any condo association I've ever heard of. Everyone must be employed? By whom? I'm guessing Disney (or the city, but is there any difference?) What about artists? Free lancers? The idle rich?

That's one hellacious company town to me.

Clean streets? Low crime rate?

I think I'll take my chances on the outside.

Utopic distopia

I'm intrigued by the work of Paolo Soleri, a big proponent of arcology. An arcology is generally a huge building that can house an entire community of 20,000 or more and includes work and living space. A city in a box, if you will. I also have an interest in Buckminster Fuller, who has also done work in large scale construction for housing communities.

Yet the planned communities by Walt Disney scares me. And yet, is there any real difference between the work of all three? All three center their ideas around “planned communities,” where everything is executed to a script set down by these visionary geniuses—yet in my experience (and well documented by Stewart Brand in How Buildings Learn) the more detailed the planning, the less flexible the result will be. Frank Lloyd Wright's homes are static and unlivable (they leak water like you wouldn't believe). As art, they're genius. As homes—they're failures.

As are utopias. If they worked, there'd be more of them around.

My Dad lives in Palm Springs, California and each time I visit him, the town is exactly the same, only completely different. The physical structures remain static—that's because Palm Springs has legislated development in Palm Springs to such a degree that nothing can change physically. Yet stores come and go and come and go and come and go because Palm Springs can't grow! The city government wants to plan the look and feel of Palm Springs and by doing so, is strangling it of all possible life.

Then again, the unrestricted growth of South Florida is alarming me and that is anything but controlled (well, for the meaning of controlled as I'm using it right now).

There has to be some happy medium in here somewhere.

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[The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades]

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