EPCOT: Smart City?

The original project that spawned this blog asked the question: Was EPCOT a smart city? The term “smart city” has sprung up in the early 21st century to describe any city using new technology and data-driven strategies to improve the lives of residents. Dr. Margarita Angelidou, in her paper titled “The Role of Smart City Characteristics in the Plans of Fifteen Cities,” lays out 10 characteristics of smart cities, and sees how well various modern smart city projects measure up. Here, I’d like to do the same for Walt Disney’s Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Read more

Walt Disney’s EPCOT and the Evolution of a Vision

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Walt Disney prepares to explain EPCOT in the Florida Film, 1966. Credit: The Walt Disney Company via the-original-epcot.com

On October 27, 1966, just a few months before his death, Walt Disney recorded a 25-minute film in which he laid out a grand plan for the 27,000 acres his company had recently purchased in central Florida. Speculation had been rampant, but this “Florida Film” was the first time Disney showed his hand. It was here that he detailed plans for what would become the Magic Kingdom and, eventually, Walt Disney World Resort, but this was far from the film’s focus. Instead, Disney was proposing an Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow. EPCOT, as it would be called, would be a city of 20,000, drawing on the “new ideas and new technologies” of American industry.

The Epcot Center, which opened in 1981 and remains in operation, is not this city. Only now are governments, companies, and people around the world beginning to build communities as forward thinking as EPCOT was in 1966. As the foundations of today’s smart cities are laid, we should take a moment to ask what Walt Disney’s vision can tell us about our future.

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Launching September 1st!

While waiting for the full launch of Urban Utopias, I thought I would summarize what this blog will look like. Broadly speaking, my goal is to discuss “Cities of the Future.” People have been designing cities since before the ancient Greeks, but the idea of solving urban problems through design is more recent. I aim to flesh out this idea, one visionary city at a time, looking at where some went right, others went wrong, and most fell somewhere in the middle. Expect a broad range of topics, including physical design, socioeconomic ideas, and historic context.

New full posts come out on the first of each month, with occasional smaller pieces–usually related to that month’s city–on the fifteenth.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to let me know!