08 June 2010

Top of the world

Across the decades of Walt Disney World, there are a few images that are long-lasting and enduring, the gleam off of Spaceship Earth, Cinderella Castle sitting across the Seven Seas Lagoon, and the monorail gliding through the Contemporary. A marvel of its time, the Contemporary has a storied creation that we’ll briefly explore today.Throughout the design process of Walt Disney World, the Contemporary was always designated as the flagship resort of the project. Originally, however, it was meant to be a skyscraper, a beacon for guests coming to the Vacation Kingdom. A turning point in the resort came when U.S. Steel became involved in not only the Contemporary, but the entire Walt Disney World development. Plans evolved from the skyscraper concept to the A-frame design and garden wings, based in part off of San Antonio’s Palacio del Rio, which would become the reality of the resort we know today.Another shift that happened over time was the name of the resort itself. From drawing to actual construction, the design was in a modern/contemporary style. Without an actual name, the project was given the working title of Contemporary. In 1971, the name Tempo Bay Hotel was selected as the name of the resort. When Roy Disney got wind of the name, he found it to be ‘phony’ and ‘plastic,’ and had the hotel revert back to its nickname permanently. And so the Contemporary Resort Hotel was born.The fabrication of the Contemporary’s rooms themselves was just as novel as the resort itself. The rooms were constructed away from the actual resort, in a specially built U.S. Steel factory, and then trucked over to the resort as they were needed. The modular units arrived on site completed with plumbing, electrical wiring, bathroom and lighting fixtures, and air conditioning units. Each unit was hauled up and into its assigned slot, not always as simply as envisioned, by an immense crane. In order to maintain the balancing act required by the A-frame of the Contemporary, units were introduced one at a time, rotating between the Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon sides of the resort.From management to dining elements, serving at full-capacity with run of the mill upstart problems, the Contemporary, which was not fully completed when Walt Disney World opened in 1971, had more than its share of dilemmas to handle. But when compared to what had been accomplished in the resort’s construction, the inclusion of the wonder known as the monorail, and the gorgeous murals of the Grand Canyon Concourse, the bumps and bruises of the learning curve were well worth it. Although the monolithic skyline created by the Contemporary has been altered to include its younger sibling, Bay Lake Tower, just the sight of the resort and its slithering monorail is still awe-inspiring.


Unknown said...

Love the article!

I have some other photos that the MSG readers might like:


Ryan P. Wilson said...

Thanks, George! In case the readers don't check the comments, I will make sure to post the link in Disney This Week on Sunday!

The Artwork of Christi Bunn said...

Nice article, Ryan! And I do love those images. (And a nod of thanks to George for the linky.)

:) Christi