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Building a Dream: The Art of Disney Architecture

A Dazzling Look at Disney Design by Beth Dunlop

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Don't let the "Disney" name in the subtitle fool you. Building a Dream: The Art of Disney Architecture is not a travel guide, a child's storybook or a sugarcoated romanticization of the Disney empire. Instead, author Beth Dunlop's picture-packed book is a careful study of the imaginative and often-revolutionary designs found in Disney theme parks, hotels and corporate offices.

Seeing Disney Through An Architect's Eyes

Dunlop has written for numerous architecture, design and travel magazines. For fifteen years, she was the architecture critic at the Miami Herald. She is the author of Florida's Vanishing Architecture and several books on twentieth century house styles. In Building a Dream, Dunlop approaches Disney architecture with the care and respect of an anthropologist. She examines original concept drawings and historic photographs and she conducts extensive interviews with architects, "imagineers" and corporate leaders.

Even in its early days, the Walt Disney Company pioneered imaginative building styles. Dunlop traces the evolution of the first Disney Main Street, Future World and the original corporate offices. For Dunlop, however, the most exciting architecture was created in the past decade, when Michael Eisner took over the Company reins. Eisner commissioned prize-winning architects such as Robert A.M. Stern, Michael Graves, Robert Venturi, Arata Isozaki, Frank Gehry and Aldo Rossi to create new designs for Disney theme parks worldwide and also for the Disney planned community, Celebration, Florida.

Where's The Thunder?

Devoted Disney fans may wish Dunlop had spent more time on Cinderella's castle and Thunder Mountain. However, architecture enthusiasts will be fascinated by the inside story of how the trendy new architects Eisner hired managed to incorporate Disney motifs into complex and often abstract designs. Building a Dream is a book studded with anecdotes: We learn about the heated competition to build the Swan and Dolphin hotels and the oriental philosophies expressed in Isozaki's striking Team Disney building. We make dizzy and sometimes disorienting leaps from Disneyland to Walt Disney World to EuroDisney. An occasional technical term, such as "scuppers along the parapet" may leave some readers baffled, but overall her tone is relaxed and conversational.

Dunlop organizes her findings loosely under several general topics: Thematic Architecture, Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Michael Eisner, Office Buildings, Disney Castles, Futuristic Architecture, Disneyland Paris and Future Plans. The 224-page book includes an introduction by the widely respected architecture historian and critic Vincent Scully, two hundred illustrations in black and white and color, a bibliography and an index.

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