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Swan and Dolphin

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Project Description

1989 P/A Award Citation
For Disney World, Michael Graves Designed A Pair Of Hotels With Playful Cartoon Imagery.

There was some serious calculation behind the two adjoining hotels designed for Disney World in Orlando, Fla., by Michael Graves & Associates (with Alan Lapidus, Architect, successor to legendary hotel designer Morris Lapidus). To diversify its extensive hospitality facilities beyond family-centered environments, the client commissioned two adult-oriented convention hotels: the Dolphin, with 1,510 guest rooms, and the Swan, with 760—both including extensive entertainment facilities. There had to be serious calculation, since the two structures total about 2 million square feet.

While most of the Disney World hotels simulate actual places either past, far off, or both, these two played on a kind of Pop imagery: forms of toylike geometry and colors, capped by the super-scaled rooftop creatures that lent the hotels their names. These fraternal twins are situated on either side of an artificial lagoon, linked by an axial causeway. Convention wings for each are on their far sides, bordering their respective parking lots.

The P/A jury carefully hedged its approval of the project. “It’s fantasy architecture, and it belongs in Disney World. That’s where it is—which makes it acceptable,” said juror Adrian Smith, FAIA. Writing in the October 1990 issue of Progressive Architecture, after the hotels were completed, architectural historian Vincent Scully observed that “one would have to be a mean old curmudgeon indeed to be less than delighted … at least for a while.” But he went on to deliver a judgment that seems less than positive: “The Swan and Dolphin are cosmic cartoons in toto, their shapes abnormally few, obvious, and vast.”

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