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Medal Winner 2006


Part 2 Dissertation 2006
Timothy O'Callaghan
University of Westminster | UK
This study emerged from a personal interest in the fascinating history - and uncertain present and future - of contemporary tourism. Tourism recently became the world's largest industry, and as it continues to evolve and diversify it is becoming an increasingly significant part of our lives. As tourism expands, it exerts an increasing influence not only on the global economy but also on global culture. Consequently, as the topic takes on greater importance in many academic fields, then so do the spaces and locations of mass tourism become increasingly worthy of study from an architectural and social perspective.

CenterParcs is Europe's largest short-break holiday operator with twenty 'villages' in Northern Europe; these cater, in all, for over 4 million visitors every year. It has become something of a cultural institution, particularly in Holland where it originated, and where around 10% of the population holidays there every year. The CenterParcs brand also enjoys an extremely high profile within Europe, and has undoubtedly become synonymous with a 'quality' holiday and as a refuge for the middle-classes. CenterParcs is as a result a slightly bizarre and therefore intriguing holiday formula, worthy of futher examination. All this was hinted at when I began my study, and the research process subsequently revealed rather surprising influences and origins.

The dissertation therefore charts the evolution of the CenterParcs formula from the very first parks in the Netherlands, which were little more than luxurious camping grounds when compated to the current and more sophisticated incarnation of the holiday chain. Particularly fascinating is the origins of CenterParcs in the ideas of its founder, a fanatical Catholic entrepreneur, and his chosen architect, Jaap Bakema. The latter was leading member of the radical architecture group Team X, and brought the latest modernist architectural thinking into his design for the camp environments. As well as looking at these architectural influcences, the study deals openly with the social intentions and meanings. Hence the dissertation also attempts to analyse the potential for a further evolution of the CenterParcs formula into a permanent (sub)urban community, blurring work and leisure completely.

Timothy O'Callaghan

The student was a joy to tutor. As well as getting a distinction in design, he threw himself wholeheartedly into dissertation research. From a spell working for Rem Koolhaas/OMA, he developed a fascination for the mixture of Calvinism and bodily pleasure embodied in Dutch culture, typified by the CentreParcs concept.

The student spoke to all the main characters involved, thought deeply about the subject, and did not let any snobbery enter his architectural and social analysis. Totally publishable, it is astonishingly original and refreshing to read. There is loads here that you just did not know. Exemplary stuff indeed.

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