Dream Job With Dream World in China
Local architect lands big landscape contract for huge amusement park
By Manny Cruz
Soon after landing the landscaping contract for a multi-million dollar Disney-quality amusement park in Fushun, China, David McCullough discovered two startling things about big business in China: money is no obstacle and speed is essential.
“Cost was never an issue,” says McCullough. “In fact, at one of our first meetings, we brought up cost and we were immediately asked to never do so again, as long as what we proposed was to Disney standards or better. This was our first preview to the fact that in China, things are done much different than in the United States.”
McCullough and his design team also were surprised by the quickness by which the Chinese implemented its designs. “As soon as we delivered drawings, they began construction,” says McCullough. “We sent them site design development grading and drainage design intent drawings one week and were informed next that they had begun grading the site and pouring foundations.”
While there are apparently no agency approvals necessary in China for such projets, the landscape architects were instructed to comply with the Universal Building Code and the American Disabilities with their designs.
McCullough, a North Park resident, heads McCullough Landscape Architecture Inc. with his wife, Catherine. They run their business on Fifth Avenue in Downtown’s Gaslamp Quarter.
The amusement park in Fushun — called Fushun Dream World — is being financed by Duan Xing, owner of one of the largest road and highway construction companies in China. The 200-acre park is to be 200 acres in size — larger than Disneyland in Anaheim — and will include an array of features, including a high-rise hotel, high-end shopping area called Diamond Promenade, an indoor water park, a family entertainment center and five theme-specific areas, ala Disneyland.
Fushun is located in northeast China, north of North Vietnam. It’s a famous tourist center, located close to Houshi National Forest Park and is within the Saer Hu Scenic Area which contains the Dahuofang Reservoir, the largest man-made lake in northeast China.
“We were given the responsibility of creating a one-of-a-kind great experience,” says McCullough, 41. “There were also no budget limitations to the ideas and designs we proposed. If we mentioned budget concerns, the developer would say that it just wasn’t a problem.”
McCullough says Fushun Dream World has similarities to Disneyland both in its layout and quality. “The park itself has a central hub that is accessed after passing through the ‘Diamond Promenade’ and then branches out into the five different themed areas,” he says. “A train system traverses the outer rim of the park with three main stops along its route to allow park patrons easy access to all of its areas.”
The McCullough firm’s $200,000 landscaping contract for the China amusement park is from The Goddard Group, a major theme park and entertainment design firm in North Hollywood that is headed by Gary Goddard. The firm performs work around the world and “employ some of the most talented people in the industry, many of whom come out of Disney and Universal Studios,” according to McCullough.
The landscape design for the amusement park was put together by McCullough and fellow architect David Allen Taylor Jr. The firm subcontracted out to a San Diego-based architectural design firm, DeBartolo + Rimanic Design Studio, for building and architectural design. They subcontracted to Nieto Consulting Engineers Inc., a civil engineering firm, for site grading and drainage.
McCullough was brought into the amusement park project by Kirk Powell of The Goddard Group, whom he met while both were involved in the Viejas Casino expansion project several years ago. Powell was the project manager for the casino expansion and McCullough was the landscape architect on that job for another firm. “We had developed an excellent working relationship at Viejas and had kept in touch over the years,” says McCullough.
“Gary Goddard’s office was not interested in a large firm that could produce large drawing packages,” says McCullough. “They were more interested in a small firm that would focus on creative, unconventional design with team members that had experience with similar projects.
No wonder Goddard turned to McCullough’s firm. It has a broad hospitality and entertainment venue experience. Count them: the Viejas Casino and Outlet Center, Viejas Concert Park, Valley View Casino master plan, expansion and hotel project, Four Seasons Resort Aviara, Indian Wells Luxury Resort, Hawaiian Gardens Casino, Upper Lake Casino and Grover Beach Resort. And that’s only a partial list.
McCullough obtained his bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1992 and was licensed by the state in 1994. He is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects and the outgoing president of its San Diego chapter. McCullough also serves on the board of the San Diego Architectural Foundation.
With this latest venture in his portfolio, McCullough envisions more growth in the entertainment and hospitality arena for his firm, although he is mindful of the sour economy’s affect.
“The economy,” he says, “has definitely impacted the entertainment and hospitality industry as with most industries. But generally speaking, the planning of such projects takes many years from conception to completion. Developers realize this and those that can obtain financing or have funding for the planning and entitlement efforts of these types of projects realize that now is the time for these efforts to have a project ready to go as times improve.”