Mysterious empty hallway at Disney World hotel

The always-excellent Passport to Dreams blog (devoted to design analysis and critique of Disney parks) looks at the strange case of the Contemporary Hotel's out-of-place second floor mezzanine, a large and echoing emptiness that was once part of a busy convention space.

Today the Level of the Americas mostly houses a reception area for the California Grill restaurant which supplanted the original Top of the World supper club in 1994. Neo-modern furnishings scatter the handsome wide hallways randomly, sometimes housing guests, slumped in couches like vagrants waiting to be evicted from a train station in a snowstorm. Other times, guests wander aimlessly down those lifeless wide hallways, looking furtively for someone or something that's never there. Since the addition of the new Fantasia-themed convention center wing in the early 1990s designed by Michael Graves, those original Contemporary meeting rooms and banquet spaces seem desolate, remote, and unloved. Very few places in all of Walt Disney World exude the same sense of not belonging as the Level of the Americas. "Is this supposed to be here??"

It wasn't always this way. Convention going was a big part of Walt Disney World's bottom line all through the 70's and 80's, and continues to be so today. All through the first twenty years of the resort, the absolute top spot for Conventions in all of Walt Disney World was the Contemporary, and the cutting-edge Ballroom of the Americas featured a hydraulic stage which could raise or lower and even closed-circuit television linking one ballroom to another. All drenched in 1970's earth tones, full of hustle and bustle and strange geometric patterns. Because nothing says "here and now" like geometry.

Snapshot: Mysteries of the Second Floor