We could say a Theme Park is, by definition, a counter-site. A space capable of juxtaposing in a single real place several spaces, several sites that are in themselves incompatible. How can we understand an architecture of this kind? What is the aim of such a place?
In Delirious New York, Rem Koolhaas spends its first chapter exploring the strength and the projection of the urban imaginary that is built in Coney Island between the mid and late nineteenth century. The island becomes the urban laboratory for the new technological discoveries of the Industrial Revolution. He writes, “Coney Island is the incubator for Manhattan’s incipient themes and infant mythology. The strategies and mechanisms that later shape Manhattan are tested in the laboratory of Coney Island before they finally leap toward the larger island.”
The Industrial Revolution started a great transformation in the way people inhabit cities. The discovery of vertical ascension technologies such as the elevator brought to the daily urban life new meanings such as congestion, aggressivity and speed. Examples of that are the pioneering Eiffel Tower in Paris (Universal Exposition of 1899) or the Giant Wheel of Chicago (World’s Columbian Exposition) which were the first iron artefact-buildings that were designed to show the strength and the power of this material of construction and at the same time become an attraction for citizens to escape from the city.
Simultaneously, as the culture of congestion intensified, so did the latent need for escape and spectacle, for liberation through the avoidance of the Real. In response to that and using these technologies, the Theme Parks phenomenon can be described as the perfect environment for social experimentation, for the implementation of the ‘technology of fantastic’ versus the Urbanism of Good Intentions. In order to survive as a resort and provide unlimited means of temporary release Theme Parks became the antidote to the frantic urban life-style. The Artificial becomes the main attraction, counter-acting the metropolitan theatrically with the ostentatious and finally, the grotesque. Paradoxically, the Theme Park transforms the speed and aggressivity of the metropolis into leisure through the creation of experiences that deal with risk sensations although under situations of total control.
This Design Studio will explore the potential meanings a Theme Park can have in order to challenge the values of the neoliberal agenda. Taking pleasure and fun as a design tool, the attractions of this Theme Park will be a series of artefact-buildings which its interiors will stablish new relationships between function and leisure, the real and the illusionary, as a previous stage of radicalizing Sydney. As Coney Island was in its origins, this Theme Park will become an experimental social laboratory that will create agonistic realities to the stablished neoliberal hegemony.
Site: Central Railway Station