The Watering Hole

Semifinalist in the Walt Disney Imagineering 2017 Imaginations Competition


Apply Imagineering design principles to create a new outdoor space within VCU that addresses current student, faculty and visitor needs while providing a respite from the stresses of college life.


Everyone relaxes differently.


The Watering Hole was designed to not only serve the purpose of hydration, but also to provide different arenas for stress relief and social interaction. However, just like the animal kingdom, people are incredibly diverse, which means that people relieve stress in different ways. Visitors can explore three separate environments, each a unique experience, but all with the same goal: to alleviate stress.

We created a savannah-inspired hub called The Watering Hole that connects to three different biospheres: The Arctic, The Jungle, and The Meadow.

Each biosphere serves a different need for alleviating stress:

  • The Arctic — a soothing, calming space to just kick back and relax
  • The Jungle — physical activities and games
  • The Meadow — imagination and creativity

The Watering Hole

Once inside, visitors can refill water bottles at the hydration stations next to the waterfall. Savannah-themed seating and resting areas allow visitors to sit down and enjoy food from vendors in the lower level. The structure is supported by pillars in the shape of elephant tusks. On the far end of The Watering Hole, near the base of the waterfall, are three pathway entrances, each leading to a unique biosphere.


Inside each pathway, motion sensors track the movement of visitors and project them on the digital walls as animals. The environments and animals will vary depending on which biosphere the pathway is leading to. For example, in the pathway leading to The Arctic, visitors would see themselves as polar bears and penguins. But in The Jungle pathway, they might appear as tigers and monkeys.


The Arctic

After being greeted by Owen the polar bear, visitors enter The Arctic, a tranquil and celestial environment that allows everyone to slow down and gain a sense of calm. A snowy landscape provides comfortable spaces for visitors to lounge or take naps. The ambience is enhanced by the underwater sounds of humpback whales accompanied by projections of stars and aurora borealis overhead.

The Jungle


Visitors will be led to The Jungle by Lulu the elephant. Inside, visitors will discover an exciting environment full of obstacles and mysteries designed to encourage play. Lush greenery, a climbing wall, and a hidden temple jungle gym allow visitors to feel like they’re on a jungle adventure. There’s also a space for group exercise classes. Tropical beats and the sounds of wild animals in the distance further enhance the experience.

The Meadow

The final biosphere, The Meadow, guided by Penny the field mouse, stimulates the mind and imagination of visitors by allowing them to take on the perspective of a field mouse. This is accomplished by playing with scale: giant blades of grass surround massive dandelions, forming a maze. The maze operates on an electronic railing system, which allows the pattern to be changed occasionally. Visitors can challenge themselves by going through the maze, or simply watch others from atop the dandelion viewing platforms. Should a participant choose to give up at any time, she can simply look up at the mirrored ceiling to locate the nearest exit tunnel.