Hello, and welcome to Dateline Disney World! We’re kicking off 2015 with photos of the new Polynesian lobby, some Magic Kingdom photos, as well as saying Adios to the Sorcerer’s Hat at the Studios. We are very curious to hear  your thoughts about some of today’s controversial images.

The lobby at the Poly looks quite a bit different now.
The Polynesian lobby looks quite a bit different now. Far more modern and open.
The lights high up are very nice.
The lights hanging from the ceiling are tiki inspired.

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The lobby is much more open now, with a lot more seating.
The lobby is much more open now, with a lot more seating. But no real visual icon.

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This water feature is substantially smaller than the one that used to be here
There is a very small water feature in the lobby which is a tiny homage to the former iconic falls which once took up the entire center of the lobby.

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I'll say that I miss the old waterfalls, and the new lobby does feel like it lost a lot of its soul. But it isn't the end of the world like it is being reported on in many places.

The lobby has certainly changed. Some think the hotel has lost its soul. Others like the openness. But what do YOU think?

Now, let’s move on to the Magic Kingdom.

Welcome to the Magic Kingdom!
Welcome to the Magic Kingdom!
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The horseless carriages were parked like props.

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Still Christmas here for now.
Still Christmas here for now.

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Much of the Co-Op merchandise has made it to the Emporium.
Much of the Co-Op merchandise has made it to the Emporium.

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Character statuettes are still missing from the Hub. I'm thinking they'll end up in new places after the remodel.
Character statuettes are still missing from the Hub. I’m thinking they’ll end up in new places after the remodel.

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Some Hub photos from the Tomorrowland side.
Some Hub photos from the Tomorrowland side.

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Details on the new Hub lamps.
Details on the new Hub lamps. We assume the cylinder hides speakers.
The view from the Crystal Palace side.
The view from the Crystal Palace side.

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Refurbishment still happening in Adventureland.
Refurbishment still happening in Adventureland.

 

Rumor has it that a Sunglasses Hut is going here. If so, meh.
Rumor has it that a Sunglasses Hut is going here. If so, meh.

 

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Painting near Pirates.
Painting near Pirates.

 

Splash Mountain is down for its yearly refurb.
Splash Mountain is down for its yearly nap.

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Love the Rivers of America in the morning.
Love the Rivers of America in the morning.

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Some of the large trees along this walkway by Cinderella Castle have been cut down and replaced with new, smaller trees.
Some of the large trees along this walkway by Cinderella Castle have been cut down and replaced with new shrubs and tiny trees.

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Royal Table is closed for a bit.
Royal Table is closed for a bit.

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Time to head to the Studios!

 

Time to head to the Studios!
Welcome to Disney's Hollywood Studios!
Welcome to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where a famous hat is soon to disappear.
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When the park first opened, the icon at the end of Hollywood Blvd was the beautiful Chinese Theater. For a 2000 promotion, a giant sorcerer hat was installed in front of the theater facade as a temporary icon. But “temporary” became permanent as the millennium campaign came and went but the hat stayed behind.

 

Much of the walls are down at The Trolley Car Cafe, where Starbucks will be featured in this park.
Much of the walls are down at The Trolley Car Cafe, where Starbucks will be featured in this park.

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The new sign is very Buena Vista Street in my opinion, which is a good thing.
The new sign is very Buena Vista Street in my opinion, which is a good thing.
Walls are still up on the Sunset Blvd side of the Cafe.
Walls are still up on the Sunset Blvd side of the Cafe.
Starting today (1/7), the Sorcerer's Hat that has been around since 2001 is being removed.
Starting today (1/7), the Sorcerer’s Hat that has been around since 2001 is being removed.

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This pin shop will obviously be disappearing.
This pin shop will obviously be disappearing.
Walls are already up around the back of the Hat.
Walls are already up around the back of the Hat.
I love how the Earful Tower is being used here.
I love how the Earful Tower is being used here.

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The Chinese Theater will be the icon again soon!
The Chinese Theater will be the icon again soon!

 

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A beautiful day in Hollywood.
A beautiful day in Hollywood.

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One last look down Hollywood Blvd with the Hat in place.
One last look down Hollywood Blvd with the Hat in place. By this time next week, this will once again look like an authentic street from Hollywood’s golden age.

There’s an entire generation of Disney fans who have grown up in the era of the hat. For them, the removal may be bittersweet. For many Disney fans, the hat never really seemed to fit the park and made for an awkward thematic element on a historical street.  What are your feelings? Are you glad to see the hat go, or will you miss it?

2015 is off to an interesting start! What would you like to see at Walt Disney World in the year to come?

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  • SFMike

    Well, new Polynesian lobby looks OK but to me it now makes it look kind of WDW generic. At least it doesn’t look cut-rate like a lot of past upgrades. It has lost a certain old Disney charm that the jungle planting had but now fits the high room rates better.

    As far as that damn ugly hat, good riddance! It destroyed the whole theme of the park and always looked like it was done on the Eisner cheap. We will now have Hollywood Blvd. again.

  • M69

    like the lobby. miss the original. but well done.
    the tiny water feature is of interest, i will leave it at that.

    kingdom looks great but the hide-the-speakers feature on lamp posts is uninspired.
    always hard to say good-bye to larger trees (near castle).

    never liked the hat.
    look forward to this park getting the love and attention it deserves going forward.
    still the best tower of terror.

    thanks for the pics / update – as always.
    happy 2015!

  • danyoung

    As others have said, I’ll miss the Poly lobby fountain, but at least they did a nice job on the rebuild. And I also never liked the hat. Or to be more precise, it was a great structure in the wrong place. I felt the same about the wand in Epcot – it took a beautiful, well themed view and turned it into a cartoon. Disney needs to knock this off! They have amazing architecture and world-class vistas. They need to stop mucking these up with animated nonsense.

    • Edward Allen

      Agree with all posts made so far regarding the Poly lobby. By itself, without any reference to the original lobby, it looks okay. But in the context of what was replaced and what is now lost, it’s heartbreaking to me. And not just the visual aspect. That huge water feature had a unique smell as well as sound that was transcendent. Like the waterfalls at the Disneyland Hotel Bonita Tower, it’s gone forever. We’ll not see the likes of this again.

      • Buffett Fan

        Agree Completely. I don’t dislike the new lobby. However, the old lobby was unique. The new lobby is clean, generic, and there are now better Island Themed lobbies in Vegas. Walking in the front door of the Poly used to bring a smile to my face. The sights, the sounds, the smell.

  • Ken Goldenberg

    The Poly lobby now looks like a modern open-air lobby that is very indicative of other newer Disney resorts and nicer mid-level to upscale hotels in general. Overall, I like it, at least by the photos. The waterfall-tropical setting of before was beautiful, but also made the lobby visually claustrophobia – you couldn’t see from one side to the other.
    Disney needs to move their older resorts into modern times, at least as the flow of guests is concerned and what people expect of an upscale and expensive resort. They want plenty of places to sit, plug-in their devices, connect to wifi, etc. Sorry to say but a huge waterfall “island” that takes up a huge amount of valuable space, while pleasing to look at and calming. is not a priority anymore. The Poly lobby was over 40 years old – it was time!

    • Country Bear

      I disagree with your perspective on the modernization of classic Disney resorts. By making (all) of their resorts now look like the neighborhood Marriott, I think Disney has removed the very charm that attracted people to them. The magic is being removed to make them “more like” the rest of the world. Disney has stood on its own two feet in hotel theming for many years with no competition, and has done a wonderful job. Who isn’t staying at a Disney resort because they can’t see across the lobby or the theme is just so dated? Nobody, I dare say. Their hotels are full almost all the time and people are attracted to them BECAUSE of the theming, not the absence of it. These changes to generic resorts will have long term impacts on their occupancy because they have taken “Disney” out of Disney. Suddenly hotels outside WDW boarders seem more appealing because they look the same, but the price is less than half what Disney is charging. Many non-Disney hotels provide good service, a nice room and good food. There is nothing which makes the Disney hotel experience magical anymore, because they are no longer unique. Their only retaining value now is their location. So much for the “Disney Experience”. Apparently that now looks the same as the “Ramada Experience”.

      So sad.

      • SFMike

        You hit it right on the head. Disney seems to think adding a meet and greet to everything, like a generic hotel makes the whole place a magical experience but that only works on four year olds. They also seem to think a meet and greet is a major attraction……sad.

      • Buffett Fan

        Well said!

  • DaveDizney

    For me, I’ve found it helps to look at something new at a Disney park as if the new feature was actually original, and the original was new. Reversing it this way helps me determine which I like best. So, if the Poly lobby was originally open and then they put in a monstrous rock – I’d most likely be upset. So I let that one go – makes sense.

    I’m still on the fence about the hub – I’ve been there on crazy crowded days and having more room during Wishes would be a welcomed change. The design looks good, but I’ll miss the grassy areas. We shall see.

    The hat – it would have never made thematic sense much less covering the worlds largest hidden Mickey to have constructed it at the parks opening. Yet, is the Chinese Theater really the weenie of this park? So far, the hat remains the park icon on their website – so what replaces it? Maybe TCM has a plan on how to plus TGMR outside (but I doubt it).

    • Ken Goldenberg

      Dave – Great way of looking at change! You make very good points, particularly on the Poly Lobby!

    • SFMike

      The whole reason for the hat was always to block the view of the Chinese Theater for stupid legal reasons and for no other reason. It NEVER fit into the theme and I’m glad it’s finally going to the scrap yard. Once you look down Hollywood Blvd. at night and see the light behind the theater you will not miss the cheap reminder of the sorry Eisner era.

      • sinatra12

        From what I’ve read the Hat being there had nothing to do with legal reasons, as it was a promotion for the 100 years of Magic thing, Similar to the wand

  • matthunterross

    After my last visit, I did feel that the lobby needed to be opened up – it not only felt cramped, but felt odd that you couldn’t see through to other side of the room. At times, our group wasn’t sure which way to go – they felt lost. On the other hand, I completely agree with Edward Allen (above), in that the original Poly lobby fountain had a transcendent quality about it. The sound, the smell, and obviously the size – the height of the structure, reaching into the second story – quickly brought you into another world. Nothing will ever replace that sound and smell and overwhelming, lush atmosphere that made the Polynesian great – except perhaps, another fountain!. I like the photos of the new lobby – especially the lights – but when revamping the most iconic structure of the resort, why not just replace it with a more vertical fountain with a smaller central footprint (using actual plants that climb up past the second floor – why just a small pile of lava rocks? Seems like a missed opportunity there.

    When visiting there last, the hub was insanely packed – it’s a good thing they’re opening that up. My only thought: bring back the Swan Boats. Having not only another ride in that area, but another level movement as you come into the core of the park was pretty great.

    And finally, good riddance to that icon of ’90s design.

  • Mousing Around

    The original lobby looked liked you arrived in Polynesia, immersed in a world that would make you smile. The new lobby looks like you have arrived at a hotel.

  • timwuzhere

    I was wondering when the work on the hub will be finished, I’m going for the first time in October and I really hope it will be done by then.

  • Dan Heaton

    I’m really hoping that with some of the construction projects completing, Disney will really take a hard look at the parks and where they need help. The Magic Kingdom is in good shape, but DHS and EPCOT need work. I love the removal of the hat and the TCM sponsorship of the Great Movie Ride, so that’s an excellent start. I’m hoping for more updates on that level for both Future World and DHS on the whole.

  • yellowrocket

    ‘But “temporary” became permanent as the millennium campaign came and went but the hat stayed behind.”

    The hat was constructed for the 100 Years of Magic campaign – not the millennium.

  • Big D

    The lobby was beautiful but it did look very dated. The new lobby looks fine, although it kind of looks like the Wilderness Lodge / Animal Kingdom Lodge / Grand Californian lobby (all of which are beautiful). I would have liked something more unique but this is fine. As for the hat, I really don’t care either way. I’ve never seen it without the hat, so that will be something different next time I go, but it never bothered me.

    • Gamertara

      “The new lobby looks . . . kind of looks like the Wilderness Lodge / Animal Kingdom Lodge / Grand Californian lobby (all of which are beautiful).”

      My thoughts exactly. I do miss the larger fountain and would have liked something a bit bigger in homage, but I’m glad we got a fountain at all.

  • Stephen123

    Agreed…hat never worked. Poly lobby is fine. New Main Street speakers look stupid. Much the cheapening of New Orleans Square in Disneyland with sub-par building facades related to the updated Club 33. Plastic stained glass doors. Really!?

  • jcruise86

    Glad the hat is going, though it didn’t rank with some of my all-time Disney fails (the birthday caked Cinderella’s castle, the wand above Spaceship Earth, Gangster Mickey, and the Globe of Death on Disneyland’s Main Street as part of a circus promotion in the 80s.)

    The Poly Lobby isn’t that bad, but it’s kind of garish yet boring at the same time. It looks expensive, but not fun or tropical enough for me. It reminds me of the “classier,” more subdued and boring looks of 4 & 5-star Vegas resorts these days.

  • tooncity

    I’ve never been to the Polynesian Hotel. I must admit, I past by the above pictures looking for the pic of the Polynesian. If the theme isn’t obvious then it’s really a poor job. I see nothing in the above pics, but a really cheap kitschy style of what a Polynesian should look-like. If you didn’t tell me it was the Polynesian, I would have never guessed. These are the folks who built a Polynesian resort in Hawaiian??? They want me to go spend money THERE after seeing this piece of C&*@#P. Not bloody likely. Where’s the department of Common Sense at the WDW? Does anybody even look at this stuff before they do it? Give me some Tiki Room here!

    The Hat has been supposedly coming down for the last 10 years. Excuse me if I wait to celebrate until I actually see it removed and NOT replaced with a Doper version of the same hat. Al La The Polynesian Resort lobby. Who knows, Maybe they got the plans mixed up and the Hat gets the Polynesian treatment the Poly Lobby was supposed to get.

  • DisneyGator

    I think the Hat leaving absolutely STINKS! I never knew the park without it, but I’ve seen pictures before it was there and they look very blah to me. The Hat represented Disney at it’s best – Mickey as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. It also tied in perfectly with Fantasmic! My favorite Icon for pictures, too. The Mann Theater? Yawn. “By this time next week, this will once again look like an authentic street from Hollywood’s golden age” – minus the drunk bums sleeping in front of the lobby. The it would be authentic Hollywood.

    • inferno032

      So I take it you have never been to the Manns Chinese Theater? There are no bums sleeping in front of the lobby . Wellll maybe at 1am in the morning after the crowds have gone.

    • MikeBlakesley

      Disney’s building was never supposed to represent “Mann’s” theatre. The park icon represents that theatre when it existed under its original owner during Hollywood’s golden age and was known as Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

      • 9oldmen

        The Graumann’s Chinese Theatre is no longer called the “Mann’s” theatre. It hasn’t been called that for over 3 years. It ceased to be the Mann’s theatre in December of 2011 because, as of around then “Mann’s Theatres” ceased to exist. There are no more “Mann’s Theatres”, at least not the chain that operated the Graumann’s. There is another Mann’s Theatre chain back east (in Minnesota), but it has NO connections with the one that ran the Chinese.(although it was started by the brother of Ted Mann, who started the chain that ran the Chinese). The theatre is now called the “TCL Chinese” Theatre, consisting of the Chinese Theatre proper, and the multiplex inside Hollywood & Highland. For what must surely be historical/nostalgic reasons, the original Chinese still is referred to as “Graumann’s”.
        The one in WDW should NEVER be referred to as the “Mann’s” or the “TCL.”

  • Edward Allen

    It seems we all agree on the Hat…….probably the most overwhelming agreement among posters ever since I started accessing this site! Kind of like that really bad “2000” Hand and Wand that curled up next to Spaceship earth at EPCOT. Seeing was believing when that monstosity came down for good.

    One last remark on the Polynesian Lobby. I think some kinetics could be added at not much cost that would create a better sense of place. If we can’t have a lot of running water, how about adding a few torches. Those flames would look cool and could be positioned in such a way so guests could not get to them. Also, how about a few more tikis that have some simple routine movements, rocking back and forth, etc. Sort of like those at the pre-show in Disneylan’d Tiki Room. Just thinking out loud here……..

  • Skimbob

    I have never been to Poly but I am not a fan of what it currently looks like.

    I am happy the hat is going. I never did like it in its current location. I will get to see if anything has been done when I visit on Friday.

  • RickNacino

    wait, do we Really think the hat will be gone in a week?

  • Slightly

    “The lights hanging from the ceiling are tiki inspired.”

    Hardly… they’re glass buoys lit up from the inside.

  • Country Bear

    Thanks for the great report Cory. I am always stunned at the quality of your photographs and look forward to each of your articles. Thanks for sharing your talent with us!

    I’m finding myself taking more of a “wait and see” attitude about anything at WDW. Based on past decisions that TDO has made, I find having lowered expectations to often hit the mark perfectly. I’m very supportive of growth, but change is often confused as the same word when referring to WDW. Being a visitor for over 30 years, I feel the Eisner changes were more about growth (not all of them – but many). The Iger changes are more about change. I have seen almost no growth since Iger took over. I think it’s great that we are seeing changes, as long as those changes speak to growth. I am optimistic about the changes to the Hub and the removal of the hat (I knew the park without it – when it still was based on a theme), suicidal for what they have done to the Poly Lobby and terrified for what they are going to put in the back of Hollywood Studios. I think if they put that cheap Toy Story Playland in there, that will be my last visit to that park. It has so much potential but they just won’t spend any money on it.

    I think that’s a fair way to look at that park from a consumers point of view as well. Spend some money on it and I’ll visit. Put in cheap carny rides and I won’t. Used to be refreshing when Disney stood for quality.

  • SteveColorado

    As usual, I love the photography – nice job.

    When I made my two trips to WDW around 2000, there were two things I loved that made WDW unique: Epcot’s World Showcase and the themes of the various resorts. In fact, my second trip was devoted solely to those two things. (I even wrote about their themings for Al back then.) Even though I emphasized the sanitized, OSHA-approved versions of history and geography (e.g., you can’t have cotton dust flying around at Dixie’s Cotton Mill), the themes do try to invoke some elements of “being there”. That included walking into Poly’s lobby and see and feel something unique about the place. But like what Vegas did several years, I feel that WDW will go much more towards utilitarian functions over style and unfortunately, less of a magical experience.

  • figmentbear62

    I have to say that I will not miss the Sorceror’s Hat in Disney’s Holywood Studios. While I understand what it was for, it overstayed its welcome, in my opinion. Granted, I was visiting Walt Disney World at a tourist in the early 90’s and fondly remember seeing the Chinese Theatre at the far end of Hollywood Blvd at the Studios. Looking forward to being able to see again, once I walk back into the Studios with my Annual Pass.
    I also feel that the Hat never had a true purpose, as the other three (3) Icons of WDW do. Cinderella’s Castle provided the staging to one of the most popular character meals in all of WDW. Spaceship:EARTH, of course, shows the history of communication within the Great Sphere. The Icon that ALWAYS takes my breath away is the Tree of Life, which is the theatre for the wonderful “It’s Tough to Be a Bug” presentation. The Sorceror’s Hat never seem to have a reason to exist and provide anything vital to the Studios, as the other Icons do. So I am not going to miss it much and hope either the Chinese Theatre or Earful Tower remains the Studio Icon.

  • imagineer97

    Poly lobby changes take away some of the charm of the hotel. It’s not a good change, but it’s not too bad.

    Can anyone actually tell me what they are doing to the Hub? I jumped on the Disney news train too late to actually find out what they’re doing.

    Also, so glad the hat is going down. It’s been there for as long as I can remember!

  • daveyjones

    THE HAT COMES DOWN! this is a glorious, glorious day for the studios. the chinese theater will finally be returned to its status as the park’s “castle.”

  • ScroogeMcBeagle

    I think what they’re doing to the Polynesian is spot on with their target audience. Looking at the pricing for the Deluxe resorts it is plain to see that they want people who can afford 350-500 a night. The thing about that is that they are learning what the Vegas strip learned last decade; novelty and kitsch bring the tourists in but the coveted high dollar clients want refinement and subtlety. This means less kinetics and more quality in build materials and integration of whatever fads are “in” in the world of architecture. I think calling it “Marriott” is spot on as well, there is a reason why they get away with charging for wifi while the cheaper motolodge down the street is giving away.

    I agree it sucks that they are doing this to a preexisting resort that was just fun in the old days but unfortunately one of the premiums they are offering for the higher cost is location in proximity to the transportation hub and the view.

    I think over the next couple of years you will see more differentiating of the resort classes with the value having the most kitsch, moderate featuring themes that are a little more themed, and deluxe being more gilded.

    I was lucky enough through a confluence of events to stay at the Polynesian in October and I must say that other than the beds being made of granite it was an excellent experience. We are going again this year but I will be lucky if I can afford Port Orleans. I am already mourning the downgrade in transportation.

    As for the hat. The last time I visited WDW was over 20 years ago when HS was still MGM. I did not think much of the park back then. I was impressed to see they had improved it so much. To be honest, I liked the hat. I just didn’t like where they had put it. It seemed weird that they would put it in the most crowded place in the park building wise. I think they should move it to the entrance. Out of all the parks HS has the most blah entrance. The hat might make a first timer a little more excited upon arriving at the park.

  • ayalexander

    I can only guess what the inspiration of the resort hotel remodeling are about these days but judging from Disneyland Hotel and Paradise Pier hotel at DLR, and then the Polynesian at WDW, my guess is that the inspiration stems from the modern architectural and interior design theme that subtlety is more. In the older days bigger was better, big iconic fountains, big sorcerer mickey hats, big and grand features of the hotels and parks that stood out are no longer found modern in appearance but dated because they are too invasive to the eye. Its possible that Disney is going for a more subtle theming, which to the modern generation is what its all about. What we find appealing and pretty today is subtlety. A good example is womens makeup was for decades all about the bright blues, reds and even ORANGE?!? but today the makeup style is more natural tones and stuff. Styles and designs change and…I guess so must we.

  • Erik Olson

    The Polynesian Resort lobby… I guess the scale of what was there before was an issue with the monolithic rock and foliage fountain. It was massive. It blocked the room and didn’t invite exploration. When I say that, I mean that it doesn’t feel like Adventureland, where you’re always looking to see what might be hidden around the next corner or in the next shop. In the park, there are details. Properly executed, that original installation would have had a couple of footpaths, where people could explore and make discoveries.

    There was, in my memory, no central point to it. It was just a pile of rock with plants on it. Even as a water feature, it didn’t do anything remarkable. It wasn’t themed with huts or outriggers. It was a dominant, heavy eyeful of… nothing.

    The issue with the new “contemporary” design is that it is quite spartan and doesn’t necessarily tell me I’m at one of Disney’s premium resort destinations. It doesn’t look bespoke. I could decorate this way with a trip to World Market and a little time in Pier 1 Imports.

    The scale of the rock feature is now much too small for the size of the vast lobby area. As a fellow who has worked in events and in hospitality, I like the idea that Polynesian can reconfigure the space as needed, to accommodate periodic special events, promotions and so on. However, I really expected that there would be a decidedly South Pacific visual anchor in the new space and it simply isn’t there.

    The centerpiece, of course, should be a water feature. I would have attached a 12′ high by 25′ wide lava and carved stone idol waterfall on one wall under the balcony, which would feed into two lushly planted riverbeds that meander in a circular loop across the lobby. Sitting walls and more intimate seating areas would be nestled against the edge of this feature, while still affording an open sightline toward the front desk. In addition to the buoy lamps and bamboo light fixtures, a large antique outrigger canoe would be hung overhead, as if riding a wave toward the main entrance.

    Great hotel lobbies should do more than accommodate guests as they check-in. This space should provide a common space where travelers can congregate for extended periods of time and this one doesn’t quite accomplish this.