Thursday, January 14, 2010

Circulation Patterns

An important subject to consider when laying out our park is the way the guests are going to walk through it. Is it too early to start thinking about this? Heck, we haven't even discussed what the theme of the park is. (And I'm not entirely sure we will..)

Well, I don't think it is too early to at least consider the circulation patterns of the park, at least superficially. It was one of the first things Walt thought about, whether he did it consciously or not. We all probably remember seeing images of the "back of the envelope" sketches Walt did of a possible park near his studio, and then of course as the project grew, the sketches did also, with added level of detail and thought going into them.

Disney, of course, settled on a "hub and spoke" pattern, where people enter the park, walk toward the central hub down the "spoke" that extends to the entrance/exit of the park, and finally end up in that area, where they can make choices on where to visit first. Along the outside edge, it's sort of an incomplete wheel. You can enter into Adventureland, and you can make your way to Frontierland from there. You can then go into Liberty Square, then into Fantasyland, then finally into Tomorrowland. The soon-to-be removed Toontown is a sort of dead end, though there is a train station down at that end. From Tomorrowland or Adventureland, it's back to the hub.

Six Flags Great America uses a loop, of sorts. You come to their carousel, then you either go left or right. You traverse the loop in either direction. There are some cross-connections, but generally speaking, you have to walk all the way around the loop to get to attractions located on the opposite side.

Epcot has sort of a hub in Futureworld, with its spokes extending to Futureworlds East and West (right directions?), and to the loop that makes up World Showcase. Animal Kingdom is a bit more complicated. I think it's basically a hub and spoke design, but because of the vegetation, it's hard to visualize it. DHS is also hub and spoke, with less connections between the areas. You can't get from the Tower of Terror to the Pixarland without going back through the hub.

In an outdoor park, I think the hub and spoke design is likely the best, but I think a loop with lots of cross connections could work well too. I suppose if you cross connect things enough, it almost becomes a hub and spoke layout. In an indoor park, I was thinking of something that I'll call the "butterfly" design. Basically this is a central area with loops on either side. It gives the guests choices on where to go, and then brings them to their choices in a pretty ordered pattern. It would work pretty well in a limited space.

I was thinking about malls in relation to this, thinking that they might be good models for circulation patterns in an indoor park. Our local mall is sort of a linear mall, with anchor stores at either end of the line, and four branches off this main drag. Two of those branches have anchor stores at the end of them, and two exit to the parking lots. A layout like this isn't bad. Take away one of the anchors, and make that your park entrance/exit. Then have your lands at the ends of those branches. This wouldn't be terrible for an outdoor park. In fact, it's almost a hub and spoke design!

Another is sort of like a tree. You come up the trunk of the tree, and the branches (paths) fan out from that trunk. In the back of the park it's quite wide, and a lot of stuff could fit back there. As you go out the branches, they sort of circle across the "top" of the tree and the left paths end up joining to the right paths. Of course, you can always go back down the center. Again, if the trunk is thought of as the hub, the branches as the spokes, it's not that much different.

All of these designs assume a single entrance/exit. On Themed, there's an article discussing a meeting between some of Walt's representatives and some amusement park bigwigs, back in the 50's. They suggested that you'd need multiple exits for any park, but Walt and most every big amusement park since proved them wrong. Would it be a bad thing to have multiple entrances? I think it could be a good thing for a larger outdoor park. For an indoor park, one way in and out is sufficient, it would seem. I don't know what Walt's reasoning was, to limit it to one way in and out, except that it gave them a level of control for the least amount of money.

When we're sketching the layout of the various attractions in our park, we'll probably try that "butterfly" approach first. And see where we go from there.

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