Disney did not invent the Theme Park. Fantasy worlds and wonderlands have always existed in our imagination – they are prevalent in all cultures and are there as a means to story-tell, communicate, warn, educate, and inspire. Storytelling conjures up images of imaginary worlds, where everything is possible and the ' theme' is just a parable – a convenient way to categorise.
The physical incarnation of the Theme Park was based on European fairs and expositions – sometimes showing scientific achievement at World Expos and sometimes acting as a voyeuristic mechanism – a circus and freak show displaying collections from the colonies, both human and artifact.
Fairs and spectacles mutated into a full-blown business proposals where selling a story rather than telling a story was the objective. And the theme parks of today have become amusement centres, with carefully controlled sets of retail experiences where food and beverage, mementos and souvenirs are carefully laid out to improve productivity and sales.
Edutainment is perhaps the latest incarnation. Here, education and entertainment are rolled into one single idea. The Earth Galleries at London’s Science Museum and The Eden project are possible outcomes.
MYAA’s own research into the Amusement Park has led us to work with UNESCO. We explored the idea of edutainment around the theme of water conservation in Qatar. The Katara Water Park and Conservation Centre was thus developed on the notion of a fantasy landscape, incorporating Qatar’s own natural history. Here, adults as much as children would be taught to conserve water, in nation where water consumption per capita is one of the highest in the world.