PRINT February 1997



“THEMING” HAS BEEN a feature of urban design and planning for some time now: private and public properties alike are being gussied up like Disney sets, as if tailored from some grand wardrobe of stage effects, so that the new built environments of America’s developing neo-urban spaces smack of “variations on a theme park,” as Michael Sorkin put it. This phenomenon—what it actually feels like and where it is leading—has been discussed and theorized more than it has been documented on the ground. At the very least, we can say it must be different from living in a real theme park, as Uncle Walt did when he occupied an apartment above Main Street USA, in Disneyland.

The Disney company is now building a whole new town, called Celebration, in central Florida. On a recent trip there I met and talked to people who are themselves living in apartments above the main drag. Residents of this upscale,

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