Almost fifty years after opening, Disney’s Contemporary Resort Tower remains an icon on the landscape of Walt Disney World. With its distinctive “A” frame structure and monorail trains passing through the soaring Grand Concourse graced with 90-foot tall tile murals by artist/animator Mary Blair, the Contemporary Resort Tower is still a one of kind among hotels. The prefabricated construction process used to build its nearly 500 guest rooms was perhaps even more innovative than its architectural form.
Disney’s Contemporary Resort opened with the Magic Kingdom on October 1, 1971. The design and construction were a collaboration of WED Enterprises (Disney), the United State Steel Corporation, Welton Becket (architect) and Don Wexler (designer of the prefabricated guest rooms). Construction started with the erection of the nearly 200’ tall concrete central elevator core followed by an ‘A’ frame of structural steel forming the two long sloping sides of the hotel. Large steel trusses span across the Grand Canyon Concourse ten floors below.
Disney’s Contemporary Resort Tower was the first large scale commercial use of pre-fabrication to build hotel rooms. US Steel purpose-built a factory approximately three miles from the hotel site to fabricate guest room modules for the tower as well as those for the nearby Disney’s Polynesian Resort. The prefabricated rooms, complete with finishes, furniture and bathrooms were raised by cranes and slipped into the steel “A” frame structure. While the guest room interior design has changed several times over the years, the original guest room modules remain in place.
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