The gleaming white, high-design tower was a beacon on an otherwise unremarkable landscape, on a dull, rainy morning.
It was my second visit to Port Canaveral on the east coast of central Florida. The first time, I did what just about everyone else usually does: my film crew and I landed in Orlando an hour away in time for the embarkation of our cruise on the Carnival Dream. When we disembarked a week later, we went right back to Orlando for our return flight. Unless you’re fascinated by astronauts and visit the Space Center, there hasn’t been much to keep you in Florida’s Space Coast.
But that’s changing with a big vision and a high-concept start that looks like it’s already working as planned. Sailing in on the MSC Divina, my second visit had a goal:gar the Exploration Tower, the port’s new welcome center.
Welcome Center or Architectural Rorschach Test?
With its modernist, regionally-inspired design (that’s open to interpretation: I see the tower’s 7-story, arcing white shape as a spinnaker sail, others see a fin) and inside, a high concept recycled art installation worthy of hip design magazines, Port Canaveral’s new Exploration Tower is the core of a transformation of Port Canaveral and the Space Coast from transit zone to destination.
Here’s a quickie video of Exploration Tower’s design:
Masterpiece of Transformation
The tower’s soaring, bright atrium is home to a breathtaking art installation, itself a masterpiece of transformation. Japanese-American artist Sayaka Ganz converted plastic garbage, including some collected from local beaches, into an underwater seascape. Whales, jellyfish and rays cavort in invisible water, brilliantly evoked by wave-textured white-on-white walls. The artist hopes her work will inspire recycling and ecological awareness.
Quickie video: Sayaka Ganz’ Underwater Recycled Art Installation at Exploration Tower, Port Canaveral
Design spurs Development
The visionaries behind the tower and the redevelopment of Port Canaveral hope the 21-million dollar, extra-ordinary Exploration Tower will spur equally world-class shopping, culinary, and other blog-and twitter-worthy attractions in the region. A critical mass of unique shore lifestyle options will help Port Canaveral compete with the Port of Miami, the biggest cruise port in the world, and Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades.
The tower opened in November 2013, and only months later, the port is gaining traction. Two cruise lines have announced they’ll be making bigger commitments to Port Canaveral. Norwegian Cruise Line, currently calling at the port, is upping the ante by actually basing a ship in Port Canaveral. And Royal Caribbean has made a ten-year commitment to occupy a new Cruise Terminal One that’s scheduled to open late in 2014.
Around the world, high-design, high-concept splashes are propelling tidal waves of urban renewal that create and re-create destinations for travelers. Who knows what I’ll discover next time I’m in Port Canaveral?