Meet Dennis Tanida, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, hospitality and themed entertainment architect and recent addition to VOA Associates L.A. office
Recently named VOA Associates Design Principal, Dennis Tanida brings nearly 35 years of experience in the design industry to the company’s L.A. office, where he is poised to help the company expand its themed entertainment portfolio. InPark asked Dennis about his rich background and opportunities for the future.
You have an impressive portfolio in the attractions and entertainment industry. How will you be helping VOA grow and expand?
From Los Angeles, I will help lead and manage VOA’s design pursuits on the west coast with a focus on culture, arts and entertainment projects. The L.A. office will continue to expand our reach in the themed entertainment market by establishing a presence closer to the headquarters of the major players in the industry.
What markets do you think are prime for growth in the architectural design sector?
Improvements in the U.S. economy have brought significant increases in hospitality, retail and entertainment projects. Asia, especially China, have an overwhelming interest and enthusiasm for RD&E destinations and theme parks. As individuals, we seek environments designed for places to gather that promote a sense of community and belonging. We see a great deal of success in projects that deliver a sense of place.
What are some of the trends you are noticing as themed entertainment expands to a global stage?
New reservation technology will enhance the guest experience by reducing attraction wait times which will significantly alter the planning and design of theme parks. The theme park’s queues, food, and merchandise venue layout will change as less waiting in lines occurs, and guests will be seeking and expecting to fill their time with more engaging things to do.
What advice do you have to people looking for a design career in themed entertainment design?
Be curious about everything. I imagine most people in the themed entertainment design world did not follow a prescriptive path to get to where they are today. Be knowledgeable about the themed entertainment business, dabble in everything, and seek to meet and learn from a diverse group of people in the industry. Be willing to take risks. The most amazing opportunities arrive when you least expect it. That’s been my experience.
How important is building green to developers around the world?
Sustainable design is essential for each project whether the client’s scope requires it or not. Designing our entertainment venues intelligently and sustainably saves developers money by reducing ongoing operational costs. Whether the features are explicit or implicit, our future entertainment venues can certainly be a showcase for great imaginative sustainable design.
What are your favorite examples of architectural design that has helped push boundaries and advanced the industry?
In themed entertainment design, there are two aspects of architectural design – iconic structures and place-making venues. As a child growing up in Southern California, Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland was an iconic design that evoked fantasy, magic and wonder. Little did I know that in my career, I would be the design architect for the Fortress at Tokyo DisneySea, which is the castle icon for that Park. Spaceship Earth at Epcot is another iconic structure that provides the imagery and setting for the Epcot experience. Not only is it the symbol for Epcot, it also contains an incredible attraction inside the sphere. These kinds of buildings have contributed to the indelible iconography of themed entertainment architecture.
As for place-making venues, the first totally immersive environment was New Orleans Square at Disneyland. It was not a duplication of the real French Quarter, it created a romanticized version that evoked the French Quarter with an incredible Pirates attraction, authentic shops and themed food. It created a fully dimensional experience for guests of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell.
Why did you decide to join VOA?
The opportunity to do great work in a collaborative manner was the key reason to join VOA. They have an incredibly talented group of individuals who are passionate about entertainment projects. The client list is top notch and I hope to continue developing those magical worlds our guests want to inhabit. • • •
VOA Associates Incorporated, founded in 1969, is an international planning, architecture, interior design, and landscape architecture firm with offices located throughout the U.S., China, Colombia, and Brazil. VOA has extensive experience in designing theme park attractions and entertainment venues world-wide, and has been a supporter and member of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA)for the past seven years.
Dennis Tanida, AIA, LEED AP BD+C can be reached at [email protected]