RVJA’s work on Kingdoms of Discovery in Dalian, China is the most complete example of theming the firm has developed, working to a schematic level on the five zones the firm designed. The site is planned around an existing natural lake, a melt-water-fed reservoir. The climate of Dalian presented serious challenges to the design of this park, with long severe winters that cause it to cease operations for approximately one third of each year. Kingdoms of Discovery brought a western concept of multiple themed zones within the park, each with its own character and contrast, adding to the variety and enjoyment of its guests. The park was designed to accommodate two million visitors per year.
Budget restrictions did not allow for the development of an indoor park, a concept initially proposed by RVJA, and the first proposed in the region. Following that concept, RVJA designed a series of covered courtyards to allow for year-round operation of a majority of the park’s attractions. This RVJA-developed hybrid indoor/outdoor model would provide the ability to extend the peak attendance season significantly. Working with the topography of the site, RVJA designed a loop configuration around the lake, which includes a lagoon island to launch a spectacular night-time show. The theming intent originally began with respect to the concept of Wu Xing, a concept of five ‘phases’ including earth, wood, metal, water, and fire - in the oriental interpretation, these material representations were primarily concerned with process and change. The five proposed zones each featured a key element. A Medieval Zone featuring stone buildings has a drawbridge-style entrance over a moat, and is styled with castles and Romanesque towers topped by fluttering flags. Future Land is inspired by technological metal elements, providing fantasy and flash. A dessert-like Earth Zone recalls a primitive, nomadic past. The Forest Zone is inspired by nature and the element of wood. The initial theme was expanded upon to include a Cartoon Zone specifically for the enjoyment of children. The Entrance Zone and commercial street transports visitors to turn of the century America, with a sweeping plaza framed by cheerfully painted buildings with gabled roofs. Each of the themed zones within the park has a variety of medium and large sized attractions and rides.
This park has been described by some locals as ‘The Disneyland of China’ - an important demonstration of viability of theme park tourism in the region. The multiple themed zones in the park and the resultant high quality guest experience have made this park profitable since 2002, and it continues to operate successfully.