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It started with a fairly straightforward request; create a theme park based around the earth. Make it an ecological theme park, a park with a focus on the harmonious balance with the environment, which teaches conservation and ecological discovery to all its visitors. David Edmonds of Falcon’s Treehouse explains the processes involved in designing one of OCT Tourism’s newest resorts.
The brief just set out is exactly what we at Falcon’s Treehouse were tasked to do when OCT sought to break the mould of building traditional amusement parks, and create a new destination resort in Southern China. The site was on a steep mountainside and OCT, known for its Happy Valley, Windows of the World and Splendid China parks, wanted a concept that was fresh and unique to China, which respected the land it was built upon. It wanted to not only entertain, but to educate its guests.
The result was OCT East, a resort destination comprising theme parks, hotels, a golf course and tea gardens which celebrated its first anniversary this summer. It is truly a total resort that immerses guests in the beauty and nature of the land, with complete respect to Feng Shui and ecological awareness.
One of the four theme parks inside OCT East is Knight Valley, the final part of the resort to open, and set to debut next month (December).
During the design process, we created three full park concepts for Knight Valley before OCT decided that the backstory was right to meet its goals for Knight Valley.
Designed around the concept of the “EcoAdventure Institute,” home to the “Econaughts,” brave adventurers embark on thrilling voyages of discovery and awareness. Guests will be invited to join the Econaughts on their expeditions, and return with tales of adventure, as well as insight into planet Earth.
The steep mountainside location proved to be both a blessing and challenge from the very beginning. The landscape was a perfect canvas upon which to create an environmentally aware resort; lush, green hillside, with beautiful vistas of the ocean and the land beyond its borders. It is a beautiful, yet extremely challenging location to fit a theme park, especially when the concept mandates minimal impact on the land. Everything in our design, from the location of the buildings, locations of the rides, the sight blocks and even the walkways were heavily influenced by the natural landscape. Areas such as the show buildings and back of house facilities were built into the mountainside, ensuring a harmonious park.
We designed a park that met OCT’s needs, but much the same as any park, it will be constantly refined, and will continue to evolve and grow throughout its existence. As new areas of the park are opened and guests are given fantastic new experiences, their needs and opinions must be taken into account. That is a key part of success in any park or resort.
Another key to success is ensuring that guests understand the park and its messages and motives. They want a clear understanding of the park they are in and what it is about. We can create a very in-depth theme that inspires guests and makes them think, but that theme cannot come across as muddled or confusing. To this end, it was important that the environmental integration and positive theme be carried out throughout the entire OCT East resort.
This environmental theme is presented in a number of different ways. Knight Valley, for example, gives guests a fantastic, Earthly-based utopia as the staging grounds for numerous adventures; including those into the ocean, under the surface of the Earth and beyond. But that is just one part of the resort. There are still the hotels, the golf course, a water park and an area of shopping and dining at the front of the park at Tea Stream Valley/Wind Valley. All of these areas work together to improve eco-awareness, in a relaxing destination-resort setting.
OCT was keen that the overarching theme would speak of relaxation to the Chinese. Within this a number of different themes can be integrated, while still adhering to the resort’s overall concept. This also allows us to offer guests a taste of new and exotic cultures they may not be familiar with. A case in point would be the Swiss theme, highligted at the entrance to Tea Stream Valley and at the OCT Interlaken Hotel.
Research found that the Chinese viewed Switzerland as a relaxing and idyllic place, but also as somewhere with which they had previously had limited exposure. For areas such as the shopping and dining area towards the front of the park, a natural theme, based around the city of Interlaken, was invoked to suit this desire of the guests.
Besides the theme, we also had to tell a story to ensure OCT East thrives. At Falcon’s Treehouse, we are storytellers, and it was very important for us that we marry storytelling to every aspect of the resort, from the masterplan to the individual attractions themselves.
At Knight Valley we were able to achieve this very well. The park includes a mix of classic, well known and well loved attractions, as well as unique new attractions designed especially for this park. The classic attractions include a log flume, a bobcart ride, and a children’s zone packed with flat rides.
Beyond those, we created a number of intensely immersive specialty attractions, including a 4D dark ride that takes guests on a fantastic journey deep into the Earth and a Splash Battle themed around disaster relief. The park will also incorporate the first CircuMotion system, a 3D, 360-degree immersive theatre to take guests far into the depths of “the ocean.” These unique attractions had their storylines developed specifically for Knight Valley, and play a heavy role in the idea of planetary discovery and awareness.
As thrilling as these rides are, it was crucial to the balance of the resort that the rides remain localised within one area. The resort was designed to engage guests differently depending which area they were experiencing. Tea Stream Valley, for example, is intended for relaxation.
The environmental awareness and eco-friendly goals OCT has integrated into its latest resort reflect a growing global sentiment to go “green.” China especially has been become acutely aware of such matters in recent years. Several recent natural disasters, exacerbated by ecological carelessness, have brought the importance of conservation to the attention of the Chinese people.
OCT East was designed at every step of the way to engage guests and increase their eco-awareness, while never forgetting to entertain them. This goal of discovery combined with the current environmental sentiment of the world make OCT East the right resort at the right time. OCT now has plans to roll similar concepts elsewhere in China.
The future is green.
Based in Orlando, Florida, Falcon’s Treehouse offers creative services designed to thrill and amaze today’s sophisticated audiences. The compnay has generated a wide range of themed attractions and experiences for organisations including Busch Entertainment, Disney, Hard Rock, Ramoji Film City and Universal Parks & Resorts.
The OCT East Resort is arguably the most experimental project developed to date by OCT Tourism. Four parks are linked by a cable car system and a spectacular elevated railway that crosses the valley. In Tea Stream Valley and Wind Valley guests can indulge in simple, low energy pursuits ranging from cycling to hot air balloon rides, set amidst carefully planned pathways, waterways and real tea gardens high, high above the surrounding landscape. The Guanyin Lotus area, focusing on religious tourism, takes guests higher still. Knight Valley, closer to ground level and within reach of the sea, will feature more traditional rides and attractions when it opens next month, but still with an eco theme. Tea Stream Valley is also home the Tea Show (pictured below), OCT’s latest multimedia live entertainment spectacular, celebrating the famous drink and its links with Zen culture. And as this is a resort, a number of accommodation options are available, from OCT-branded tents to the Swiss-themed OCT Interlaken Hotel and brand new luxury Buddha hotel.