hip pop


Leave it to Disney to come up with a new themed resort that takes icons of popular culture and blows them up as larger-than-life architectural accents. With 2,880 rooms, Disney's new Pop Century Resort at Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, FL does just that with a design vocabulary that celebrates the Classic Years of the 20th century, decade by decade, from the 1950s through the 1990s. Phase two of the project will add an additional 2,880 rooms in celebration of the Legendary Years, the 1900s through the 1940s.

Designed by the architects at Arquitectonica in Miami (the architect of record is HKS), the Pop Century Resort is bright and colorful, featuring value-priced accommodations with rooms starting at just $77 per night. The giant icons, ranging from a 65' high bowling pin and a 40' tabletop jukebox to a 41' high Rubik's Cube, add fun to a rather traditional four-story motel. “We knew it would be a value resort,” says Lee Hanel, LC, an associate in the New York City office of the architectural lighting firm, Horton Lees Brogden.

“We looked at Disney's All Star Resorts, where icons and theming are also an important part of the design,” says Hanel. Disney's own most popular icon, Mickey Mouse, is represented at the Pop Century Resort with a three-story version of the classic Mickey rotary dial telephone from the 70s. The in-house designers at Walt Disney Imagineering worked with the architects at Arquitectonica in picking and creating these icons that are designed to break up the linear lines of the architecture.

“The exterior lighting on the check-in building is meant to highlight the architecture rather than be too decorative,” says Hanel. “The color on the exterior comes from the bright paint.” Much of the façade is lit with in-ground Hydrel fixtures with compact metal halide Par38 and ED17 lamps by Philips. At the entryway porte cochere, downlights were coordinated with the ceiling design of arching lines that create diamond patterns. “The fixtures are in the diamonds,” notes Hanel, who opted for recessed cans with Philips Par38 lamps without any color filters. “The 3500K lamps warm up the metal halide as these compact lamps are not as cold white as regular metal halide.”

Other icons from each decade, representing various games, toys, and references to Disney movies, such as figures of the cute canines from Lady And The Tramp, are lit with fixtures placed on the rooftops. Generally, there are three or four Widelight (Genlyte) flood fixtures with 175W Philips ED17 metal halide lamps, two on each side, per icon, some of which also have supplemental lighting. A large Sony Walkman, for example, has in-ground Hydrel fixtures with wall washe and adjustable reflectors.

An over-sized Play-Doh can, with Play-Doh animals popping out, has Fiber Stars fiber optics (with a 400W metal halide illuminator) running along the bottom. “Basically we wanted something that appeared decorative and was functional as well,” says Hanel, about the choice of fiber. “The fiber optics were used to light the face of the can.” The lid is open (and tall enough for children to walk under) and backlit with in-grade Hydrel fixtures using Philips Master Color 70W ceramic metal halide lamps. Design Plan LEDS add a contemporary green glowing face to a mega-sized cell phone, and an extra-large laptop lights up with jelly jars fitted with green glass filters and standard compact fluorescent lamps.

Inside, the lobby area takes guests down memory lane, with a wall of photographs that span the decades hung behind the registration counters. The opposite wall has a series of memory boxes with an incredible collection of memorabilia from each decade, much of which was purchased on eBay (all the stuff your mother threw out and you now wish you'd saved. Hula hoops anyone?). These walls are lit with individual, adjustable incandescent fixtures with GE 71W MR16 lamps in Lightolier 40 degree fixtures. “The goal was to play with highlights and shadows and bring out the two and three-dimensional objects,” Hanel explains. “We played with the texture of each piece. Ultimately, it's the objects that are exciting, not the lighting.”

On the outside of each hotel section, the architects used different color finishes, varying the intensity of the paint from floor to floor to add interest to the design. Exterior lighting is primarily T5 Circle-Line fluorescent fixtures, both wall sconces and ceiling units placed at the corners of each floor. “The giant pop icons are used to add pizzazz, as well as hide the ugly exterior stair cases,” Hanel points out. “Each staircase has exterior-grade fluorescent fixtures that light the stairs. These are mounted on the ceiling of each landing so the stairs are well lit. We could then light the icons without worrying about light levels on the stairs themselves.”

On the 1980s building, several versions of the Rubik's Cube (each displaying a different aspect of the solution) tower over 40' high. The cubes are lit with neon that matches the color of the squares on the cube, including green, blue, orange, white, and yellow. Back in the 1960s, huge Duncan Imperial yo-yos bookend the building and are lit with Sterner adjustable metal halide PAR floodlights, both in the yo-yos themselves and on the ground. A giant bowling pin from the 1950s is lit in a similar fashion with a combination of spots and floods to sculpt the shape of the pin.

Around the pool areas (including the Hippy Dippy pool for the 60s and a bowling alley pool deck in the 50s), lighting is provided by 30' poles with Sterner flood heads. “There is a different pole style for each decade. The decorative fixtures are themed in each area,” says Hanel, who points out that the electrical engineers for the project did much of the site lighting, including the decorative poles.

“Our approach was to highlight the theming and make it exciting,” she adds. “In the check-in building, for instance, there is a skylight and we wanted to create intense shafts of light. We used decorative fixtures only where needed, as in the food court and retail areas.” Located at the end of the registration lobby, the food court and retail area is one large open space that the designers connected visually.

The food court is lit with surface-mounted downlights from Lightolier with compact fluorescent Philips lamps to create ambient lighting. A series of Poulsen hanging pendants was hung, as Hanel says, “to add color and fun.” These are white with concentric circular louvers and ED17 metal halide fixtures that add a warmer white color temperature. There are also acrylic discs that measure three to four feet in diameter and are suspended from the ceiling as an architectural accent. They sparkle from Lightolier downlights hung above them with incandescent GE PAR lamps. Control for the lighting in the food court is a Lutron Grafik Eye system, while the remainder of the project runs on a time clock. Some of the fixtures are triggered by photocells to turn on at dark.

In the guest rooms, the lighting was coordinated with the interior designers, Image Design, from Atlanta. “They picked the fixtures, primarily table lamps with simple designs to fit with each decade, and made in custom acrylics rather than glass,” notes Hanel. “We lamped the fixtures with an eye toward energy efficiency.”

“The overall look is colorful, vibrant and exciting,” says Hanel. “That's the important thing. There are bright, special places in each decade's design, but the same overall feeling prevails throughout. The design adds to the feel of the pop century. It's very contemporary all the way around and very themed. From an architectural point of view, everything is lit the same way. The icons pop out and speak for the decades. Everywhere you look there is something to think about and make a reference. Parents may remember playing songs on the jukebox in their local diner while the kids identify with the laptop. It makes people feel nostalgic.”