Theme Park Design: From Concept to Reality Requires Architects and Engineers

It should be noted the evolution from cool theme park concept designs and renderings to the opening day built environments for Guests requires years of hardworking theme park Architects and Engineers. You can’t build, design, or even accurately estimate a theme park design from any of the concept art that is released to the public. It is physically and legally is not possible.

While we all love the conceptual renderings and Creatives that make them, it is a fact that none of theme park projects ever made or that will ever be created can actually be built and brought to fruition without licensed Architects, Engineers, and Interior Designers.

Though the theme park design creatives get all the press, all the major interviews, and all the recognition for theme park projects, the true unsung heroes are the licensed professionals extensive efforts that take napkin sketches, pretty drawings and paintings and translate them into legal contract documents that can be:

  • Estimated
  • Permitted
  • Implemented or Built
  • Legally modified for future enhancements
  • Insured and inspected against

Licensed Professionals Bring Theme Park Projects to Life

In our ‘How To Become a Theme Park Architect‘ article on this website, I go into great detail of the steps required to become a licensed Architect in the United States of America. The process for licensed Architects, licensed Engineers, and licensed Interior Designers are similar in that they require the following steps:

  • Minimum High School GPA and Portfolio requirements for College Application and Admission acceptance
  • We suggest you enroll in an accredited degree (architecture, engineering, or interior design) program
  • Minimum degree class requirements must be met to be qualified to sit the role’s respective licensing test requirements
  • Minimum post-graduation work hours/internship requirements also required to meet the role’s respective licensing test requirements
  • Pass all respective professional tests (tests will vary depending on role)
  • Post-test completion meet all respective State Board requirements to submit application to obtain license: will vary state-by-state

For each of the four different roles requiring a license to practice: Architect, Landscape Architect, Engineer, or Interior Designer, each state within the U.S. has a respective professional Board. It should be noted, that not all states in the U.S. require a professional license to practice and legally call oneself an ‘interior designer’.

Interior Designer Licensure

For interior designers, some states it is mandatory to be licensed to practice while other states it may be voluntary. One should confirm each state’s requirements for interior design licensure and testing requirements with the NCIDQ (National Council for Interior Design Qualification). Here is a graphic provide by the IIDA – the commercial interior design association for reference:

Interior Design Laws by State and Providence – Image courtesy IIDA

Building Systems Engineer Licensure

Individuals interested taking an engineering path – more specifically for this discussion – becoming a building systems engineer that works on theme park design, they should follow the requirements of the national association that monitors their path to licensure, the NCEES (National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying).

The NCEES – the NCARB equivalent for Architects – provides a plethora of information for engineers looking to become licensed in one or multiple states in the U.S. They provide the following general information:

  • Engineer Exam registration
  • Multistate engineer licensure requirements
  • CPC tracking
  • State-by-state licensing requirements resource

Landscape Architects Licensure

For our readers interested in becoming licensed architects in the U.S., they have a similar professional society that assists future, licensed landscape architects on their pre and post path to become licensed. The ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects) provides a great deal of information specific to this role.

The ASLA provides information to candidates on the following topics:

  • Educational requirements to sit the LARE tests
  • LARE preparation and testing requirements
  • Maintaining your LA license – post exam completion
  • Track state legislation information and news
  • State Landscape Architecture Board regulations

✳️ Check out my interview with a Theme Park Landscape Architect

Why Licensed Professional are Required in Theme Park Design?

Fantasyland Train Station Architectural Drawing – ©Disney Image courtesy Disney

As we have stated many times on this website, no commercial project or theme park project can be built from concept sketches or artistic renderings. Theme parks are built from the contract drawings and contract documents created by the licensed professionals utilizing the creative input and the owner’s project requirements.

This is all due to the legal requirements the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) – a.k.a. the building department, building code officials, and fire marshals – that provide the permits allowing for construction to commence, construction inspections to occur, and for final sign off for the Certificate of Occupancy at the end of construction – or substantial completion – to allow Cast Members, Team Members, operational employees, and Guests to fully utilize and occupy the exterior areas and the facilities contained within the project’s limits of work.

Though conceptual artwork is generated throughout the early portions of a project’s design and it is utilized to establish the storyline and general design aesthetics for a project, to fully complete the project the licensed professionals permit documents are actually used to complete a final estimate, a final target budget, used for permit drawings for construction, and are updated prior to the project completion as a point of record upon handing the final project over to the theme park operator.

It is the professionals of record: the Architect, Landscape Architect, Engineers, and Interior Designer (if applicable) whose work and deliverables are the legal binding documents used for the project completion. And, they are the licensed professionals who hold the legal liability for the project’s lifecycle if something were to come into question post project turnover to the theme park operator.

Take a look at some of our other articles related to this subject matter:

Scroll to Top