Worlds of Exploration

This is a concept design for an original theme park that tells the story of a group of explorers and their amazing adventures around the world. The park is organized with lands representing nine distinct regions of the world.

The story of the park is of a fictional group of explorers and friends who travel the world to while perusing their studies and adventures. The members have varied specialties and interests, leading them to every continent and region. They frequently gather back at their home base, in New York City, to celebrate their adventures and share their discoveries about the world. Each land of the park focuses on one member and their specialty.

Park Site Plan

Follow along with the overall site plan above as I walk through the park, starting with the design process.

This was a study to design a compact park, as opposed to an expansive full-scale park like Legendary Kingdom. I began with a limitation of a smaller than usual rectangular site and developed a suitable program for the scale I had to work with.

Regarding the form, I developed this park with a traditional hub and spoke layout because that allowed for the best density while maintaining efficient organization. I set up the plan to have eight main lands looping around a hub, plus the front entrance land. From the initial layout diagram, I refined the bubble diagram to develop a strategy for where to place public space and where to place attraction space in each land. The goal was to create an easy to navigate loop of public space with the majority of the higher density attraction space on the exterior of the park. I also studied how to introduce a hotel component to the site.

Park Layout Study Diagrams

From that study, I moved on to a rough conceptual site plan to see how the spaces would be shaped by buildings. At this point, I had a plan for land themes and location and the start of a program for attractions. The goal with this drawing was to set the major massing moves of the park layout.

Park Layout Progress Diagrams

It was an important step to research the real-life locations that these lands were going to be based on. I identified specific locations for inspiration and studied their architectural style and layout. A collection of reference images conveys the intended character and style of each location.

Land Reference Images
Land Reference Images

Exterior to the park is an Entry Plaza garden that holds guest drop-off areas, security, guest services, and the other outer park functions for a typical park. The entrance and lobby of the on-site hotel is adjacent to the Plaza area. Two wings branch off from the central atrium lobby, both with prime views into the park. The west wing partially sits over top of a parking deck for hotel guests while the east wing sits over top of the park entrance. A feature overlook restaurant is on an upper level of this east wing.

The main park gates lead into a front garden and then through a pair of passageways under the hotel wing that take guests into the park. The entry land is the Explorer’s Village, the home base the explorers return to. This is an urban city district modeled on Greenwich Village. Low rise brick buildings form a entry square at the front of the park. An elevated train track runs along the north edge. This transportation attraction runs through the center of the park and stops at two other lands.

The street leading towards the hub holds retail and dining locations, all themed to businesses owned by the explorers or meant to support their activities. The central hub is a large public park space and splits to four directions. The park icon building at the top of the hub is the headquarters building of the group. It is an impressively large gothic revival brick building with a feature corner clock tower. This building was modeled on a collection of reference projects that all show the scale, materiality, and tone of the intended park icon.

Park Icon Reference Images

These reference projects inspired a series of study sketches to resolve the general massing concept of the building.

Park Icon Study Sketches

That final sketch was then translated into a fully detailed Sketchup model that was also rendered in 3DS Max.

Park Icon Model
Park Icon Model Rendering

This park icon building holds a large trackless dark ride through the archives and classrooms of the headquarters. It also holds a second floor table service restaurant and the signup location of a park wide interactive game.

Starting from the bottom right branch from the hub, the first land is the Middle East. This is modeled on Old Damascus and similar historical cities in the region. I made a deeper study of the architecture and design of this land in order to build a Sketchup model of the overall land. That study began with reference images to understand both the visual features of the architecture and the general urban plan of the city.

Middle East Land Reference Images

While collecting those reference images, I also put together a collection of sketches of interesting and common details I found. This was an attempt to understand some of the character that the real city has so that I could recreate some element of it.

Middle East Architectural Element Studies

Elevation sketches of the major building faces and then a full Sketchup model of the land were then created to better portray the guest experience of this section of the park.

Middle East Elevation Study Sketches
Middle East Land Model Flythrough
Middle East Land Model

The land begins on the hub side with a large town square. The elevated train passes by and into a raised tunnel. On the opposite side of the square is the entrance to a covered market street that holds retail and dining. A rug shop in the market holds the first attraction of the land, a suspended flying carpet dark ride through the streets of the town. The covered market exits into an area of narrower streets and dense shopping buildings. The other attraction sits behind these buildings, with the entrance just to the right of the covered market exit. This attraction is a 1001 Nights dark ride coaster that takes guests into the legends of the region. The path to the next land passes through a large covered archway to the north.

China is the next land and was inspired by Old Town Shanghai. This land is split into two areas: the shopping streets and the Chinese garden. The streets area includes retail, dining, and two attractions. The first and larger is a traditional dark ride that is set in an Asian Art Museum where riders travel right into the beautiful and historic settings of the paintings. The elevated train runs above this attraction and looks down into some of the scenes. The other attraction is a sit down animatronics show about the legend of Chinese dragons, ending with a massive dragon that encircles the entire theater.

The garden area is highlighted by a lagoon with a large double level carousel built over it. The authentic garden wraps around the rear of the lagoon. The garden attraction is fully explorable and begins with a small 360 degree interior movie. A table service restaurant sits on the south edge of the water with views towards the carousel.

Polar Regions is a land set in a remote valley of ice. The frigid land is home to a set of sci-fi research base buildings both on ground level and perched up in the cliff sides. The elevated train also passes through the land. The design of the research base buildings was meant to be a fantastic version of real Antarctic research stations. Pylons drive deep into the ice and hold up the elevated main platform.

Polar Research Base Elevation

The largest of the buildings is the entrance to the main attraction, a spinning coaster through the icy tunnels and caves near the base. The other building at ground level is an indoor play area and retail for the land. A large covered ice cave on the east side of the land is the other main attraction. This is a snow rover simulator that takes guests on an adventure across the tundra. A counter service restaurant is in another cave nearby.

Brazil is the next land at the top of the park. This land is set in a rainforest jungle and village, modeled on the historic Paricatuba Ruins. A large and fully explorable multilevel treehouse sits in the vegetation, overlooking the land. The elevated train exits from a rocky cliff side and winds through the treetops. The train stops at a raised station in this land, the halfway point of the total trip. A green mountain sits just past the land, and the train tracks lead into a cave at the rear of it.

The jungle ruins area holds an outdoor family coaster, a spinning dark ride with hot air balloon vehicles, and a “trackless” suspended dark ride through the wonders of the jungle. This simulated trackless system is an idea for a ride system that uses two parallel tracks to create a varied ride experience. The small village section of the land back by the train station include retail and dining.

The path leads over a small stream and into the land of Polynesia. The green mountain that we previously saw rises above us as a volcano, and there are coaster tracks winding out from its base. This coaster in the volcano is the main attraction of the land. Past the volcano is a lagoon with a traditional thatch roof village on the right and a more modern town facade on the left. The lagoon and village is another attraction, a boat ride into Polynesian myths and culture. The ride starts with an outdoor loop around the lagoon before the main indoor section of the ride. Dining and retail fill the building on the other side of the path.

Africa is the next land along the path and is meant to be a city on the edge of a nature preserve. The land is bordered by a mountain range on the far side and a small stream runs through the vegetation, towards Polynesia. This land holds three attractions in the nature preserve area and the adjacent city is made up of retail and dining.

The biggest attraction is hidden behind the mountain range. This is an indoor EMV safari where guests explore the wilds of the preserve and see a variety of animals. Next to the mountain is a covered theater where live shows that retell African fables are presented. The other attraction is signified by a large hot air balloon sitting at the base of the mountain range. The attraction inside is a simulated hot air balloon tour over the landscape of Africa. More information about this attraction concept can be found here.

Africa Land Aerial Sketch

The following land is Mexico and is set around a town square, modeled on the town of Puebla. The village is dressed to celebrate the Dia de los Muertos festival. A church building on the edge of the square, behind a green lawn, holds a boat dark ride through the celebrating town. In front, by the lawn, there is a teacup style spinning dark ride where the vehicles are all dressed as decorated skulls.

Skull Spinner Vehicle Concept

The other side of the square includes a shooting dark ride, the final train station, and an outdoor fiesta theater space where a variety of musical performances are held.

The last land of the park is The UK. This land is modeled on London and includes a section of classic streets and a traditional park. The west wing of the hotel is overlooking this section, so the exterior is designed to keep the London theme. The London streets section includes a history museum that holds an attraction about the legendary knights and dragons of Camelot. There is also a 360 degree dome movie that presents an exploration into British culture as well as retail and dining.

The park section is made of a large hedge maze and a restaurant in a park conservatory. The path from there leads back to the hub and the start of the park.

The park is set up to hold nightly multimedia fireworks shows that are intended to be viewed from all over the park. A primary fireworks launch is located behind the volcano at the rear of the park and secondary launches for low level pyro are spread around the perimeter of the guest areas.

The park plan was created in SketchUp, Procreate, Photoshop, and Illustrator. The Icon model was created in SketchUp and rendered in 3DS Max. The Middle East model was created in SketchUp. All sketches were created in Procreate. Image credits for the reference images included on this page can be found here.