Peter Dominick, From Colorado to Disney World

Disney Architect (1941-2009)

Denver Architect Peter Dominick
Denver Architect Peter Dominick. Press Image, 4240 Architecture (cropped)

Colorado-based architect Peter Hoyt Dominick, Jr., FAIA became well-known for designing rustic buildings inspired by vernacular architecture of the American West. Although he designed hotels, office buildings, homes, and interiors throughout US, he may be best known as a Disney architect. 

Dominick's massive and evocative Wilderness Lodge at Walt Disney World in Florida resembles an old wood-timber lodge.

At the center is a vast lobby with six-story high log columns, enormous chandeliers topped with glowing teepees, two 55-foot hand carved totem poles, and an 82-foot-tall stone fireplace. The effect might be kitsch or comical if it weren't so impressive—and so respectful of American history.

Dominick drew his inspiration for the Disney Wilderness Lodge from several famous Western inns—the Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park, the Ahwahnee Hotel at Yosemite, Lake McDonald Lodge at Glacier National Park, and Timberline Lodge at Mount Hood, Oregon.

Outside the Disney Wilderness Lodge, Dominick created a striking landscape with a steep waterfall cascading into a steaming geyser.

Dominick, the son of Colorado Senator Peter H. Dominick (1915-1981), died at age 67, after a cross-country skiing excursion in Aspen, Colorado. Both he and his father died of heart attacks while in their 60s.

Background:

Born: June 9, 1941 in New York City.

From age 5, raised in Colorado.

Died: January 1, 2009

Education:

  • St. Mark’s School in Framingham, Massachusetts
  • 1963: Bachelor of Science in Architectural Studies, Yale University. Studied under architecture professor and historian Vincent Scully.
  • 1966: University of Pennsylvania, studied with architect Louis Kahn
  • 1966-1968: Traveled through the South Pacific, Asia, India, the Middle East and Africa
  • 1971: Master of Architecture, University of Pennsylvania

Professional:

  • 1971: Dominick Architects established
  • 1989: Merged with Urban Design Group
  • 1994: Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA)
  • 2003: 4240 Architecture established, combining the Denver and Chicago offices of the Urban Design Group, and named after the latitudes of both cities

Selected Projects:

  • 1982-2009: Involved in the redevelopment of Denver's Riverfront Park, reclaiming rail areas of the Central Platte River Valley, Colorado
  • 1990: Involved with the redevelopment of lower downtown (LoDo) Denver warehouse area, Colorado
  • 1994: Wilderness Lodge, Disney World, Orlando, Florida
  • 1998-2012: Revitalization of Vail, Colorado, including Lionshead Welcome and Transit Centers
  • 2000: Platte River Road Archway Monument, Kearney, Nebraska, a museum that is also a bridge across Interstate Highway 80
  • 2001: Animal Kingdom Lodge, Disney World, Orlando, Florida
  • 2001: Disney's Grand Californian Hotel, Anaheim, California
  • 2008: Stowe Mountain Lodge Resort, Stowe, Vermont

Tribute to Dominick's Design Philosophy:

"To Peter, regionalism was a universal concept available everywhere—enabling the firm to create places and spaces that harmonize with their particular site, community, use, and culture....Although much of Peter’s work entailed new structures, he focused equally on preservation, renovation, infill, and revitalization—a bona fide champion of the value in existing structures and urban fabric."—E.

Randal Johnson, 4240 Principal

Disney Years:

No one was more surprised to work with the Walt Disney Company than Peter Dominick himself. During the Michael Eisner years of Disney's expansion, Dominick became what could only be described as one of the Chief Mousekitects at Disney. "We poured a ton of energy into it and found that a client like Disney had resources, questions, and demands that were bigger, deeper, and more thorough than we were used to on a smaller scale," Donimick told The Pennsylvania Gazette. I’ve never believed in a style at all; our work is about absorbing a philosophy and building something appropriate." Nevertheless, the Disney Company wanted Dominick's Colorado lodge style that today anyone can experience in Orlando, Florida—"something appropriate" for the Disney World theme park.

Sources: Prominent Colorado Architect Dies Suddenly, New West, January 8, 2009 (content provided by Peter Dominick’s firm, 4240 Architecture); A Sense of Place by David Perrelli, The Pennsylvania Gazette, Last modified 08/31/06 [access October 11, 2016]