The Amsterdam Dream

Read in ‘’Landscapes of Power’ (1991) of Sharon Zukin:


Walt Disney, the urbanist, is one of my heroes. His EPCOT, dating from 1982, was a very optimistic, brave enterprise, a utopian landscape of imagination that inspired many ordinary people. EPCOT is the abbreviation of the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Disney wanted to build it in Orlando, Florida. He wrote: “It will be a city that caters to the people as a service function. It will be a planned, controlled community, a showcase for American industry and research, schools, cultural and educactional opportunities. In EPCOT there will be no landowners and therefore no voting control. No slum areas because we will not let them develop. People will rent houses instead of buying them, and at modest rentals. There will be no retirees. Everyone must be employed.” Doesn’t that sound great? It was the American dream. Sharon Zukin describes it as a conservative utopia. She thinks Disney’s ability to abstract the desires of the powerless and project them as a landscape for mass visual consumption was new and very influential. With EPCOT, she writes, Disney stimulated a whole regional complex of service-sector activities around tourism and real estate development.

So why do I admire Disney? Because of his braveness in the first place, and his utopian vision. But also his effectiveness in boosting an economy. Our People’s Industry Palace (PIP) that will open mid April this year in Amsterdam, is, in a way, a different EPCOT, a fair, an exhibition, a playground, a community center, and a showplace of beauty and magic. It is a very optimistic enterprise on the future of the city that will abstract the dreams of children and project them as a landscape for mass visual production, (not mass consumption). It is utopian, but progressive this time, and everything will be out of control. It is a European dream. In the Palace the young will share their personal dreams on the future, and all their dreams might come true. Why? Because the people will empower themselves. They will no longer be consumers like my generation, but producers of their own future. Their future will be more prosperous, sustainable, far better than the one we created by consuming ourselves to death. They will succeed because they will cooperate, not compete. PIP will be their platform. It will generate a new kind of economy. Mr. Disney, you inspired me.





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