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PHENOMENA ISLAND

 

The redevelopment of the London Docklands is the largest real estate development in recent history.  It is anchored by Olympia and York’s $2 billion commercial development within the Royal Albert Docks, contiguous to the City of London.

 

The Royal Victoria Docks were at the extreme end of the dock complex and were being redeveloped through a joint venture between Rosehaugh, one of London’s most prestigious developers; and Stanhope, one of London’s most innovative developers.  The joint venture of Rosehaugh/Stanhope retained the Doultons to create the entertainment component for the site.

 

The Royal Victoria Docks were master planned by Sir Richard Rogers, architect of the Pompidou Center and the Lloyds of London headquarters building.  It was anchored by a massive, multilevel, semicircular, un-conventional, regional shopping center of 500,000 square feet.  As part of their remit the Doultons were retained to conceptualize  400,000 square of feet of secondary space which they proposed a massive specialty food, retail and mixed use entertainment complex. (cinema's bowling, etc.).  

 

The Doulton's  primary assignment was to devise a architectural counterpoint attraction to the Sir Richard Rogers shopping complex on  a 27-acre island facing the center   This project had to visually co-habit with the shopping and office development, and be independently funded and operated as a freestanding facility.  The project had to attract its own customer base as well repeat customers who came to the shopping center on a regular basis.  Lastly, the Docklands Development Corporation required that the project be high minded, more edu-tainment inspired than the traditional theme park.

 

Phenomena Island’s intent was to explore the phenomena of all things, from the physical and metaphysical worlds to the physiological and psychological ones.  Its purpose was to create a desire for information about the world within which we live, and perhaps to create a fresh viewpoint based upon the experience.

 

Recognizing the difficulties involved in entreating the brain Phenomena Island’s designs called for the liberal utilization of a range of theme park technologies as tools to communicate complex ideas.  In a way it was a device to sneak inside the deep recesses of the brain before anyone knew what was happening.

 

Architecturally, Phenomena Island took its cue from the extreme design favored by Sir Richard’s work.  Phenomena Island combined high touch, high feel, and high design with leading edge architectural building materials.  With lessons learned from the maintenance  problems created by the Pompidou Center’s exoskeleton design, Phenomena Island would employ  stainless steel, exposed pipes and mechanicals with a  ‘work in progress’ feel about itself.

 

In deference to wind and weather, the island was connected to the shopping center by a covered moving sidewalk.  Guests were emerged into the heart of the project, a giant stainless steel sphere measuring 100 feet in diameter which held a series of presentations inspired upon Arthur C. Clark’s ‘Big Blue Marble’ concept of Spaceship Earth.  Each level explored an aspect of the universe from the big bang to black holes.  One could learn a lot, or a little, depending on interest.  A Guggenheim/Archimedes type corkscrew ramping system would enable guests to explore the sphere at their own speed.

 

The sphere rose above a series of artistically positioned, high tension membrane structures that covered the plaza.  The plaza served as the main circulation area containing food courts, restaurants, retail shops and areas of interest.

 

Six pie-shaped, wedge buildings 30 feet in height, with footprints of 40,000 square feet each surrounded the plaza.  Each sextan contained a single idea that was presented in a variety of ways leveraging all the tools that dramaturgy embraces to tell a story in a convincing, accurate,  thoroughly compelling manner, to many… who may not think they were interested beforehand.

 

One sextan, for example, was devoted to visualize the concept of chaotic dynamics by exploring the interrelationship of all actions, from Sir Isaac Newton’s discovery of gravity to modern day ideas as put forward by Benoit Mandelbrot’s discovery of fractals.  What would have happened, for instance, if it had not rained the night before the Battle of Waterloo?  Napoleon would have easily repositioned his cannon line defeating Wellington and Blucher.  Much of the world might well be speaking French had fifty cannons not been mired in the mud.  Playing ‘what if’ scenarios brings the point of chaotic dynamic vividly to light.  

 

Beyond conceptualization, initial designs, schematic plans, sections, and a written scenario, the Doultons were also responsible for developing order of magnitude construction budgets, operating projections, pro-forma projections and acquiring written endorsements from major entities whose support was helpful in progressing the overall development. 

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