So where did I get this notion of crafted places? Now that I've identified my affinity for them, I can see many instances where I've encountered versions of them:
My family used to have a motor home which we'd use for road trips. I remember a particular RV park (not the one in this photo) with beautifully-tended lawns that I loved. Now, there's no element of simulation in this example, but as a young teenager I fantasized about owning and running such an oasis. So you can already see my leaning toward the hospitality industry.
NIOSA Old West Town??
I'm asking my siblings to help me identify the time and place that my sketchy memory won't pinpoint, but I distinctly remember a sort of indoor recreation of the out-of-doors old west, that I used to love. I'm thinking it must have been part of A Night In Old San Antonio.
This is the earliest memory I can recall of an indoor environment designed to simulate the outdoors.
The Spee-Lunker Cave [sic]
This now-defunct attraction was a flume ride at Six Flags Over Texas. Looking back at it now, it seems a very crude affair but I was quite impressed by it as a 12-year-old! You boarded boats to cruise past different scenes featuring these minimally-animated "Spee-Lunker" creatures which inhabited the cave.
What impressed me were the environments they created. You travelled through a storm at one point, and there was white neon which flashed to simulate lightning. Later there was a blast of cold air as you passed a blizzard scene. I liked the sense of being in another world when you were in there.
The mother of all crafted environments, we could talk either about individual rides like Pirates of the Caribbean or the entire park as a whole. I went for the first time as a teenager expecting to be bored by a "kiddie park" and couldn't have been more blown away by the attention to detail and the technical wizardry that went into the environments they created. Such was my enjoyment of the place that I dreamed of wallpapering my room with blown-up photos taken from the central hub, so it would seem like you were always there. Sort of like Street View on Google Maps.
The Designer's Hand
I've often wondered why artificiality should be a required component of such places. Doesn't artificial = bad? The word often carries that connotation, for example in conjunction with food. But I think I like synthetic places because I can see the designer's hand in them.
When we enjoy any form of art, we are in a sense enjoying something artificial. This is especially true of representational art — we are viewing a facsimile of that which is represented, and part of what gives it value is the skill required to produce it. How many people are not fascinated by the The Writer automaton, especially realizing that it was built in the 1770s! Such things are awesome precisely because they're artificial.
Now we could watch a real person sit down and write, and one could correctly argue that we are in a sense artificial representations of God and that something even more awesome is happening, but this is perhaps too wonderful for us. Dialing it down to a (relatively!) simple collection of cams and gears allows us to take it in.
Disneyland, I believe, is misunderstood in this way. People sometimes react negatively to the artificiality of the park, but in my mind the delight is precisely in its being fashioned for you. You can see the designer's hand in creating this oasis, and a berm surrounds the park to shut out the outside world.
John Hench was one of the Imagineers which helped Walt Disney create Disneyland. He eloquently formulated a doctrine of "reassurance." In Disneyland, the environment is carefully designed such that the visual elements harmonize and flow into each other. From an article in "New West" magazine, December 4, 1978:
Hench describes Disneyland as a "storyboarded" environment, one in which the sequence of impressions and experiences is carefully regulated by a supervising intelligence.
After discussing how the dissonant architectural and visual elements in our cities add up to chaos which we find threatening, Hench says
But the order here at Disneyland works on people, the sense of harmony. They feel more content here, in a way that they can't explain. You find strangers talking to each other without any fear.
Entertainment is usually thought of as an escape from problems, an escape from responsibility, but as far as I know [Disney] had an original idea —and there are some practicing psychiatrists that happen to agree with us, that what we are selling is not escapism but reassurance.
In this sense, the crafted place is like a sculpted garden which refreshes because we ourselves are designed for beauty and harmony. Call it escapism if you will.
Heart, Head and Hands
I mentioned wanting to work with my heart, head and hands. on the different segments of the "TRIPLE H" logobuttons to find out more. →
You're probably familiar with the famous book for job-seekers, What Color Is Your Parachute? I first encountered it in high school and came back to it many years later while contemplating what to do when I grew up. If you do the homework, it helps you to take inventory of your skills and understand what environment suits you. The "Values" exercise really caught my attention because I had to honestly admit that Entertainment was a higher value for me than say, The Human Spirit or The Earth. :)
From the section on Entertainment:
When you are gone, do you want there to be more lightening of people's loads, more giving them perspective, more helping them to forget their cares for a spell, do you want there to be more laughter in the world, and joy, because you were here?
And then the section on Eyes and Other Senses:
When you are gone, do you want there to be more beauty in the world, because you were here?
These words resonate with me — they describe the values I want my life to serve. Sometimes when I'm listening to really beautiful music I find myself wanting to "dive into" it, to immerse myself and "swim" in it. I would like nothing more than to create that kind of beauty myself.
So for my heart to be properly involved in my work, I should be in the entertainment and/or hospitality industry and I need to create beauty.
I have a bachelor's degree in physics. Since high school I've enjoyed tinkering with electronics and building things. I like programming computers to make them do cool things.
I enjoy design, not mainly in the "graphic design" sense, but in the sense of architecting systems. Oddly, this affinity does not extend to my work as a web developer; I do not consider myself a good software architect. But in the physical world I like putting together complex systems.
For a crafted place to be really fun for me, it has to have a technical component to it, whether comprised of gears and pulleys or wires and computer processors.
I am a craftsman. I love working with my hands and doing detail work. I'm skilled as a woodworker and sculptor and will learn how to weld soon. I've designed and created a "ride vehicle" out of fiberglass.
Working with my hands is therapeutic. If I were only involved in the design of a space, a key component would be missing. That is part of the reason that I've shelved a long-term desire to be a Walt Disney Imagineer. I want to be involved in all facets of a project, and that is only possible if they are of a smaller scale.
In the "heart" section I mention my desire to be in the hospitality industry. Now that I think about it, this seems to be a 4th "H" which binds them all, delineating the fields I want to be working in. From the wikipedia entry on "Hospitality Industry":
The hospitality industry is a broad category of fields within the service industry that includes lodging, restaurants, event planning, theme parks, transportation, cruise line, and additional fields within the tourism industry.
I think Pixar does wonderful work. I'm really enjoying this golden age they seem to still be in. Their attention to the craft of storytelling and excellent animation are inspiring. But for all that, it has never been my goal to work there.
My church used to have a Fall Festival around Halloween time. One year, a friend of mine and I served up coffee and drinks in a pirate-themed area we called "Pirates of the Coffeebean." In addition to brewing some excellent coffee, I built a mast with custom black-lit signage and used a fog machine to create ambience. I look back on that time with a lot of fondness, and this really settles it for me. I need to combine placemaking with hospitality.
The Heart-Head-Hands Logo
You may be wondering if there's special significance to the triangular logo I created. Not really. I wanted to convey that the three facets are intertwined, or should be, and I like celtic knots.
This is a called a "triquetra," and it also has a Klingon-esque, Star-Fleety vibe to it which appeals to me. So there you go.