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2013 Award of Honor - Legoland Florida
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Project Category: Resort & Entertainment

Project Name: LEGOLAND® Florida

Project Location: Winter Haven, FL

Date of Completion: October 2011

Landscape Architect: Todd M. McCurdy, FASLA, Morris Architects | MorrisTerra with ValleyCrest Design Group


Owner: Merlin Entertainments / LEGOLAND®  Florida, Adrian Jones, General Manager 

Landscape Contractor: ValleyCrest Landscape Development  

Historic Cypress Gardens site resurrected as LEGOLAND Florida. Located in Winter Haven, LEGOLAND Florida is built on a site that was the former home of Cypress Gardens, Florida’s first theme park. The new family park has rides, shows and attractions geared for families with children ages 2 to 12 and ultimate LEGO fans. From the outset, LEGOLAND Florida was created to be a Park within a Park. 

Recycle / Repurpose / Restore.  Early-on in the design process, the Team spent substantial time assessing site conditions including topography, drainage, views, existing structures, attractions and utilities, tree canopy and other specimen plant material. The Landscape Architects, with the help of an arborist, studied each existing tree which was then documented and cataloged for their locations relative to the conceptual masterplan, current health and appearance, expected viability during and after construction, and their ultimate value to guest experience.

The Landscape Architects massaged, or in some cases redesigned the site plan many times over to minimize impact on existing tree canopy. Through those efforts, over eighty percent of the existing canopy on the property was able to be preserved in place. In addition, 20 large specimen trees weighing up to 78,000 pounds each were relocated by crane to strategic locations within the property, providing an instant character that many parks wait years and years to attain.

Over one hundred sixty specimen plants including one-of-a-kind Cycads, Tabebuias, and White Birds were also relocated to new strategic locations throughout the park. The Landscape Architects were able to impart their passion for the site and its existing assets with the Owner, helping him to understand the value that the mature tree canopy adds to the project. Maintaining this canopy was instrumental in helping to achieve the challenging time and budget constraints of the project, making a better final product in less time and for less money.

All existing concrete from Cypress Gardens’ non-ADA compliant walkways was recycled, separated, and ground for reuse as the sub-base for all the new hardscape areas within the park, substantially reducing the amount of material that would have to be sent to the landfill. Recycling old materials and reusing many of the existing assets of the historic Cypress Gardens gives LEGOLAND Florida a feel different than any other theme park. The intimate scale of the buildings, the extensive canopy of mature large trees, and the inclusion of the amazing LEGO models gives LEGOLAND Florida a genuine character unlike any other.

Responsibilities | From the beginning of the design process, the landscape architects focused on melding the Owner’s vision of the LEGOLAND park brand identity with valuable assets of Cypress Gardens that together create a special, one of a kind place for guests of the LEGOLAND experience.

LEGOLAND Florida was executed as a Design/Build project, with the design/build team made up of landscape architects, architects, engineers, the GC, and LEGOLAND design, management and Modelshop staff all working together to achieve the final goal in a short timeframe. The park’s site design was led by the landscape architects, whose responsibility included site planning and arrangement of all site elements as well as the overall design vision of the project, mass grading, hardscape and landscape design and layout and integration of LEGO elements throughout the park.

Working closely with the LEGOLAND Design and Modelshop staff, the team helped create an engaging, functional solution that raised the bar for what a LEGOLAND park could be.  On LEGOLAND Florida, the landscape architects’ strong vision created a carefully integrated, appropriately scaled spaces with an emphasis on spaces for people as a setting for the stars of the show, the models. 

This project provided its share of design challenges including  a very tight budget and time frame.

In this case, tight budget  means design and build an entire park for less money than other theme parks often pay for one new attraction, and do it all in only 412 days. Through great effort and teamwork, the park opened on time, under budget, and has been wildly successful, with many, many people commenting on how beautiful the park is. The parent company for LEGOLAND in fact, refers to it as "The most beautiful LEGOLAND in the world.” As icing on the cake, Cypress Gardens’ famous Botanical Gardens were protected during construction and have been reopened with Cypress Gardens’ signature Southern Belles recreated out of LEGO bricks to the delight of LEGOLAND Florida’s guests. 


General Manager: John Ussher, LEGOLAND Development

 Managing Directors: John Jakobsen / John Ussher, LEGOLAND®  Parks

 Senior Project Director: Ian Sarjeant, LEGOLAND Development

 Senior Pr

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