Brian LonswayFollow

Document Type

Book Chapter




Theming, Experience Design, Retail, Shopping, Consumerism, Alzheimers, Lifestyle, Architecture




Advertising and Promotion Management | Alternative and Complementary Medicine | Architectural History and Criticism | Bioethics and Medical Ethics | Environmental Design | Hospitality Administration and Management | Interior Architecture | Marketing | Medicine and Health | Place and Environment | Real Estate | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Tourism


This essay traces the evolution of themed environment design from theme parks to a series of new architectural types – Urban Entertainment Destinations, Lifestyle Enhancement Centers, and Lifestyle Villages – as a chronicle of spatial mediation from urban décor to urban design technique. Culled partly through semiotic deconstruction and partly through ethnographic investigation, this history examines the environmental design techniques employed in these spaces in order to better understand the relationship of design practice to the cultural practices of work and leisure.

From spatialized branding strategies to the neo-urbanist configurations of location-based entertainment, leisure/entertainment ventures use these narratively motivated techniques to produce space according to a discreet set of behavioral guidelines. They introduce a kind of micro-managed spatial articulation through environment design techniques like "cognitive mapping," "entertainment capacity design," and "leisure strategy planning." Learned originally from a positivist strain of urban theory (primarily North American, circa 1950’s-1960’s) and subsequently, from theme park designers who adopted the work of these theorists, these techniques serve to simultaneously create a new commercial narrative of ‘proper’ leisure time expenditure and embed this commercial narrative into the experience of space. No longer contained within the physical limits of a theme park or shopping mall, these spatial modulations are spawning a widely copied architectonic of leisure: a system of constructing, reproducing, and marketing spatial design techniques at the service of highly controlled “leisure.”

Additional Information

Originally published in The Themed Space: Locating Culture, Nation and Self. Lexington Books: 2007.