Construction of the Disney Polynesian was done during the period when we were operating under Rockefeller ownership and before we went out on our own in 1980, having won the right to construct our own hotel on Disney property. It was to be an 814-room hotel, timed to open when EPCOT did. That eventually happened, but not easily and thereby hang several tales.
First, the tale of EPCOT itself. Disney’s Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow was actually a larger construction project than the World Trade Center had been in terms of the amount of area covered, the number of buildings each one distinct and the complexity of all the elements. Each main building was to be known as a pavilion, and there would be twenty pavilions, plus associated support structures and infrastructure, and an enclosed lagoon. The whole would cover some 600 acres, which was to be carved out of very swampy land, including some large sinkholes, that teemed with alligators, snakes, and other critters in the muck and mire. Each pavilion was to appear physically very different from the other nineteen, and many of them were to be quite intricate and unusual, containing such machinery as moving platforms, as well as theaters, restaurant facilities, carnival-type rides, and the largest aquarium in the world.
The way that the Disney Company worked, its “Imagineers” first created the basic design for each pavilion, sort of impressionistic sketches for freestanding sculptures and their surrounding environments. Then these sketches were turned over to outside architectural firms that would complete the actual working drawings and details that construction teams could execute. They awarded the design for each pavilion to a different architect. Although the work was lucrative for the architects, the chosen firms had to sign very restrictive contracts: they were not permitted to claim ever that they had designed the pavilion, or to use a photograph or a representation of their work on it in any of their brochures or advertising. For us, this Disney design system meant that for each pavilion in EPCOT, we had to deal with separate architectural and engineering firms.
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Monthly, I flew to Disney headquarters in California to brief top Disney executives and members of their board on the progress of EPCOT, as I had begun to do with the Polynesian. The attention of the top executives to every detail of the construction and its scheduling was extremely high.
Our production schedules were at the heart of our work for Disney on EPCOT. Such schedules are the guts of any Construction Manage-mentjob; everything flows from them the final revisions of drawings, the assembling of bid packages for the multiple contractors and materials, and the development of strategies for contracting, purchasing, and staffing. For EPCOT’s schedules, we began by making up a preliminary milestone chart that showed, to us and to Disney, the scope of the job in broad strokes. Then we broke that chart down into smaller sections, each with its own chart. Eventually we produced hundreds of schedules interrelating about 2,000 different activities.
The method of scheduling was the same as for the World Trade Center towers, but while during the WTC project the logistics had a vertical axis, at EPCOT the need was to plan the logistics on a horizontal axis. In turns, this meant such things as having to plan for and carve out parking lots for the construction workers’ cars, some 2,500 of them each day. We had to create those lots, and a lagoon (where there had not been one) and a major monorail system, as well as major access roads leading to and from EPCOT to the nearby highways and all of this had to be done before any pavilions could be erected.
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