Each year, Walt Disney Imagineering holds a student design competition as a way to allow students to showcase their talents in themed entertainment design. In 2019, I joined forces with Kennedy Behling, Abby Zuber, and Abby Henning to create our own submission for the competition. Out of over 300 entries, we were chosen as 1 of 6 finalist teams who were flown out to Glendale, CA to present our project in front of executives from Walt Disney Imagineering. After an amazing week in Glendale, we were awarded 2nd Place! Check out our project below.
My primary responsibilities for this project included market research, copywriting, interaction design, graphic design, and presentation deck building. I heavily researched the traditions of our campus and the history of Aggie Muster and summarized my findings for our team to easily include in our project. I also collaborated on the graphic design and branding of our installation, and designed the interactive element of the installation. For our initial PDF submission and our final presentation, I designed the layout, order, and pacing of our slide deck, figuring how to present our information to best tell our story. I also wrote the copy for our PDF submission and the script for our final presentation, keeping our voice consistent with the tone of our story.
"Create an iconic installation on your campus or city that serves as an inspiration, honors the past, and is a vision of the future. It can be architectural, ornamental, static, active, whatever your team feels is the best way to represent your unique chosen location. It can be intimate or grandiose, but it should always be appropriate for the location selected. In telling the very unique story of your chosen spot, it should respect and integrate local traditions and geography. Your icon should be a place to gather and celebrate, as well as reflect and educate the community. A concept that will go down in history as symbolic of your campus or city."
Below are a selection of images and quotes from our final presentation.
Note: This project was conceived by the Texas A&M University: HERE Team and created for the 2020 Walt Disney Imagineering’s Imaginations Design Competition. This project is the sole property of Walt Disney Imagineering and all rights to use these ideas are exclusive to Walt Disney Imagineering. The competition is a way for students and recent graduates to showcase their talents and for Walt Disney Imagineering to identify new talent.
The Story of Aggie Muster
Deep in the heart of Texas lies a campus built on tradition, where a brand new tradition has found its place. out of a rich history rises a living memorial like no other. Here. a place where current and former students alike can gather to relax, reflect, and remember those who came before them.
The Muster tradition at Texas A&M University began as a yearly celebration of camaraderie on San Jacinto Day, April 21st. However, the tradition took a somber turn in 1942, on the island of Corregidor, where brave American soldiers were struggling against Japanese forces in World War II. Brigadier General George F. Moore, a graduate of Texas A&M, was desperate to get news off the island, to let those back home know that they hadn’t given up hope. On April 21st, he gathered the names of the 27 Aggie soldiers on the island, and held a roll call, known as a muster in army terms. When word of this “muster” reached the States, the story caught on like wildfire. Nationwide, headlines espoused the tale of the 27 fearless Aggies who had gathered together despite the raging battle. Through the dark fog of a world at war, the brilliant light of the Aggie Spirit brought hope to millions. Few survived the ensuing battles, but their courage solidified the tradition of Aggie Muster, which has lived on to the present.
Today, Aggie Muster is a cause for celebration as well as remembrance. Now, once each year on April 21st, Muster engages thousands of Aggies worldwide to honor and celebrate the Aggie Family – past, present, and future. On campus, we hold the official Muster Ceremony, honoring Aggies who have passed away over the last year. During the most somber part of the ceremony, the Roll Call for the Absent is read. As the name of each fallen Aggie is spoken, a family member lights a candle for them, and the crowd together answers the call with a resounding, “Here,” showing that while that Aggie is absent from this world, they will always be marked “present” in our hearts.
While Muster Ceremony only occurs once a year, Here offers a year-round experience. It creates a space for Aggies to pause, remember those who walked these grounds before them, and revel in the camaraderie of this special tradition.
Here is located on the eastern corner of Simpson Drill Field, in the center of Main Campus. Referred to as the “front lawn of campus,” this is a location brimming with historical significance, as Muster Ceremony took place here for many years. Due to the Memorial Student Center and nearby main campus bus stops, this is also a heavily trafficked area, as indicated by the dashed lines on the site map. Simpson Drill Field was also cited as a specific area for future improvement in the 2017 Texas A&M Campus Master Plan.
Installation Site Master Planning
The overall design of the installation is divided into three levels of space. First, surrounding the installation is a set of seating steps, where guests can relax, socialize, or study. Second are the Muster Gardens, where guests can immerse themselves in the story of Muster past and present. These gardens act as a functional buffer, visually and audibly to guests approaching the installation. Finally, in the middle, stand the Candlelight Towers, the main focus of our installation. Inside, guests are encouraged to participate in a moment of reflection.
The Seating Steps
As you stroll across campus, you spot something in the distance. The sun glints off a bronze structure rising out of Simpson Drill Field.As you begin to descend the stairs or ramp, the sounds of Aggieland grow quiet around you. You’re astounded by the peace you feel in this space. This is the perfect space to relax, lounging with friends, or studying between classes.
The Muster Gardens
As you reach the bottom of the amphitheater, you enter the Muster Gardens, and notice beautiful flower beds, filled with maroon flowers and dotted with vertical lights. Beside each flower bed, you see a bronze plaque. As you approach, you begin to read, and discover the history of Muster, the story of the brave Aggies on Corregidor, and the meaning of Here.
The flowers are bluebonnets - the state flower of Texas. More specifically, they’re a unique strain of aggie maroon bluebonnets, engineered by Agronomists at Texas A&M. The number of solar lights amongst the flowers represent the Aggies honored at Muster that year, while the form is reminiscent of candles. The flowerbeds and plaques create a transition scene in terms of storytelling and guest experience. The space provides a transition between the lighthearted nature of the surrounding campus, and the more somber and respectful nature of the Candlelight Towers, while engaging and educating guests about the rich history and tradition behind the installation.
The Candlelight Towers
As you step into the Candlelight Towers, you find yourself in a space designed for reflection. The smooth bronze walls and overhead dome create acoustics perfect for an echoed “Here”. Each alcove is also fitted with a bench wrapping all the way around the wall, allowing for comfort and relaxation, and encouraging guests to stay for a moment of quiet reflection.
As you find your way to the center, you read an inscription on the floor. “In remembrance of Aggies dear, stand in this spot and speak aloud ‘Here’”. As you follow the instructions and answer ‘Here’, your word is echoed back to you by the bronze dome above you, amplified as if you were surrounded by fellow Aggies answering with you.
You look down and...
...you notice a circle of light growing bright on the floor beneath you. The dots of light cascade outward, drawing your eye to the threshold of each surrounding alcove. The echoes envelop you, and the warmth of the growing light beneath you instills in you a sense of community and comfort, as if you were standing in Muster Ceremony, surrounded by your Aggie Family.
The curved dome and gutters of the towers between the two layers of bronze walls create a hidden drainage system, collecting rainwater and funneling it into an underground reservoir, where it is then recycled to water the Muster Gardens. A path of circular cutouts spiral upwards around the walls, allowing natural light to filter into each alcove during the day, and creating a sense of transparency and safety for those inside. A pair of LED light tubes follow the path of these cutouts, flanking them on either side, and allowing the cutouts to glow with light.
Light plays an important role in Aggie Muster. Each year at Muster Ceremony, the families of the deceased light candles as the names of their loved ones are called. Throughout the night, as more and more names are called, the light of the candles grows, eventually creating a wall of light in the darkness of the arena, displaying the strength of the Aggie Spirit. This powerful imagery is reflected in the nighttime lighting effects of our installation. As the sky begins to darken each night, the cutouts start to glow, starting at the base, and slowly growing upwards towards the sky as the sun continues to set. When night has fallen, Here glows bright with a warm light, as a reminder that light shines brighter in the dark, and no Aggie will be forgotten so long as another Aggie lives.
At Texas A&M, our traditions are ever-growing and evolving. In 2018, a new activity was added to the Muster Day itinerary: Sunrise Muster. The construction of Here could be the latest addition to the Muster tradition. While this is of course, a concept, it is our hope that on the morning of April 21st, years from now, Aggies will gather Here, in sorrow and camaraderie, to honor every single Aggie that has passed in the last year, and watch as the sun rises over our installation in the heart of campus.
OUR WEEK IN GLENDALE
When we first set out to work on our project for the Imaginations Competition, we never imagined we would make it to the Finals, let alone win 2nd Place. We simply set out to do our best, honor our school's traditions, and have fun — and we ended up having more fun that we ever could have guessed!
We were honored to be invited to Glendale in January 2020 to share our project with Walt Disney Imagineering executives. During our week in Glendale, we got an inside look in Walt Disney Imagineering, spent a day behind the scenes at Disneyland, and made an INCREDIBLE new group of friends. We were so grateful to have had the chance to meet the other finalists, who were insanely talented and beyond friendly. I'm so thankful to everyone at WDI who helped coordinate this competition, and to my badass team of women who worked so hard on this project alongside me. Thank you for the experience of a lifetime!
Photos courtesy of Walt Disney Imagineering