Hendrik Anderson’s World City and Walt Disney’s E.P.C.O.T. – The Differences

Here me out. Doesn’t this description of Hendrik Anderson’s World City remind you of Walt Disney’s Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow?

Under Andersen’s direction, Hèbrard began work on developing the architectural drawings for the World City. They imagined it as a three-mile-long rectangular settlement, three miles long and a half-mile wide, featuring a downtown district marked by broad avenues and monumental edifices. It would include administrative buildings, a bank, and various “temples” (palais) devoted to the pursuit of art, music, drama, and other cultural endeavors. There would be a world zoo, botanical gardens, and a sports center designed to host the Olympics, featuring a large stadium and colossal swimming pool (or “natatorium”). The area between the stadium and the Grand Canal would feature a recreation area, with a ball club, skating club, tennis club, and kindergarten. At the base of the grand avenue lined by the palaces of nation there would be a great circle ringed with the institutions of the new world government: an international court; ministries of industry, agricultural, medicine, and science; as well as the great library and a palace of religions. They all fanned out from the great circle, forming a kind of lopsided mandala around a central Eiffel Tower-like Tower of Progress, a symbolic center for scientific research that doubled as a radio tower to send and receive wireless signals from all over the world.

Wright, Alex. Cataloging the World: Paul Otlet and the Birth of the Information Age. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. See pg 130

At first, I thought there would be many similarities between Walt Disney’s E.P.C.O.T. and Hendrik Anderson’s World City. But turns out they’re more different than alike.

Design and Layout

E.P.C.O.T.’s design was radial. The “radial” plan it’s called. Think of a wheel. There’s a central hub, and then the spokes flare out to low density housing.

The World City had a radial element to its design too, but its main layout was rectangular.

Both cities had different central themes

E.P.C.O.T. represented the ingenuity of American enterprise and the free market. Shops, restaurants, corporate offices, and low and high density housing were the fundamental infrastructure features of E.P.C.O.T.

E.P.C.O.T.’s centerpiece was a hotel.

The World City’s central theme was sharing cultural ideas, and its grandest ambition – world peace.

Zoos, “temples” dedicated to the arts, botanical gardens, a center of sports, ministries of industry were the key components of her infrastructure.

It’s centerpiece was a communications tower called “The Tower of Progress”.

Local vs Global Perspectives

Walt hoped E.P.C.O.T. would be an example for city design across the globe. But it’s focus was local. It’s central Florida location was chosen to make travel to E.P.C.O.T. easier for American tourists and Florida residents. E.P.C.O.T. also emphasized its capacity for high and low density housing. Work and home life being close together.

As it’s namesake suggests, the World City was intended to be a beacon to the world.

The World City design doesn’t mention plans for residences. Instead it calls for institutions: places of worship, structures for a new “world” government, a “great” library, etc. The hope being, these institutions would foster communication between human beings, and promote world peace.

Wrapping Up

While their urban visions differed, the brilliant similarity between Walt Disney and Hendrik Anderson was courage they possessed to imagine cities in a new way.


Cataloging the World: Paul Otlet and the Birth of the Information Age. By Alex Wright

Walt Disney – City Architect. By Suthen Siva

Walt Disney’s E.P.C.O.T film (1966)

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