PROJECT ANNOUNCEMENT: Toasting Jim Beam's Newest Brand Attraction

October 09, 2015

Last week, Beam Suntory, the world’s leading Bourbon maker, celebrated the grand opening of Jim Beam’s new visitors’ experience in the heart of Louisville’s Fourth Street entertainment district.

Last week, Beam Suntory, the world’s leading Bourbon maker, celebrated the grand opening of Jim Beam’s new visitors’ experience in the heart of Louisville’s Fourth Street entertainment district.

Beam Suntory, the world’s leading Bourbon maker, today celebrated the grand opening of Jim Beam’s new visitors’ experience in the heart of Louisville’s Fourth Street entertainment district. The 4,300-square-foot Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse not only establishes a highly visible presence for the world’s No. 1 Bourbon in the most vibrant tourist destination in Louisville, but also offers guests a hands-on bourbon experience unlike any other.

“For more than 220 years, Jim Beam Bourbon has made history and continues to do so by opening its first visitors’ destination outside of our flagship distillery,” said Kevin Smith, Vice President, Kentucky Beam Bourbon Affairs. “We’ve taken the brand’s rich heritage and put an urban spin on it, offering guests an interactive Bourbon experience coupled with a retail location, right here in downtown Louisville. The Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse is another place Jim Beam fans can call home as an extension of our Jim Beam American Stillhouse experience in Clermont, Ky.”

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer joined 7th generation Master Distiller Fred Noe, company leaders and local dignitaries to officially open the doors and commemorate Jim Beam’s unwavering commitment to the Bourbon industry – an industry it helped create when Jacob Beam made his first Bourbon whiskey in Kentucky in 1795.

“Bourbon is one of Kentucky’s most historic and treasured industries – a thriving $3 billion economic engine that generates more than 15,400 jobs with an annual payroll topping $700 million, and $166 million in tax revenue every year,” Gov. Beshear said. “With the opening of the Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse in downtown Louisville, the company is once again raising the profile of our Bourbon industry and giving visitors another great reason to come to Louisville.”

“We are happy to see Jim Beam expand its footprint in downtown Louisville,” added Fischer. “Fourth Street is a booming destination for tourists from near and far, and places like the Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse offer a great opportunity to spotlight Kentucky’s heritage while driving increased visitors to Kentucky Bourbon distilleries.”

The new location is located in the heart of Louisville’s 4th Street entertainment district and includes a small working distillery, bottling line, tasting experience and its own exclusive bourbon, Jim Beam® Urban Stillhouse Select.

Located 25 miles from its flagship distillery in Clermont, Ky., the Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse operates as a small working distillery and visitors’ experience like no other, with special features that include:

  • • A distillation system showcasing a small copper pot still with a unique rectifying column and see-through glass vapor condenser.
  • • Interactive displays and décor that immerse Bourbon enthusiasts in the Jim Beam® brand and educate them on the fine nuances of whisky making;
  • • A one-of-a-kind tasting bar crafted from reclaimed wood and designed to reflect barrel staves and flowing Bourbon;
  • • A sculptural American Oak tree built from barrel staves. The tree features a canopy crafted from laser-cut steel leaves and illuminated Jim Beam bottles, symbolic of the First Family of Bourbon;
  • • A full retail store offering branded items, as well an opportunity for guests to label, fill and customize their own bottle of the site’s exclusive Bourbon offering, Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse Select.

JRA provided complete master planning, design and project management for both the Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse in Louisville and the Jim Beam American Stillhouse and Distillery Tour in Clermont. According to Noe, the Urban Stillhouse is a natural extension of its Clermont distillery, likening it to "putting a new room on your house."

"We enjoyed working with the 'Beam Team' to create a spectacular urban presence for Beam Suntory in Louisville," said Rob Morgan, JRA Senior Project Director.  "The Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse is a unique addition to the 4th Street Live District, reflecting Beam's rural Clermont origins with a sophisticated twist in an exciting downtown setting."

The Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse is located at 408 South Fourth Street in Louisville, Kentucky, USA. Like Jim Beam on Facebook or follow #UrbanStillhouse on Twitter for the latest updates.


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Keith James Talks Intellectual Property at the 2015 IAAPA Euro Attractions Show

October 06, 2015

JRA CEO/Owner Keith James addresses the crowd for

JRA CEO/Owner Keith James addresses the crowd for "TEA Presents: The IP Landscape" at the 2015 IAAPA Euro Attractions Show.

Earlier today, JRA CEO/Owner Keith James spoke to the "IP Landscape" as part of the Theming, Storytelling and Design Track at the 2015 International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions' Euro Attractions Show (EAS). The track, presented by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA), explored intellectual property (IP) from a variety of perspectives, and Keith offered a designer's view of why and how IP is currently used at attractions around the world.

In case you weren't able to fly to Gothenburg, Sweden for EAS, below is a transcript of Keith's presentation, which not only addresses the question of "Why IP" but also some of the benefits and challenges of incorporating branded (and often guest-cherished) material.


IP Opportunities

Over the past few years, it seems that more and more IP’s are making their way into the attractions industry, so I’d like to look at some of the opportunities and challenges in designing attractions based upon intellectual property. But before we look at designing with IP, I think it’s important to first look at why owners decide to invest in IP-based attractions in the first place.

Reason #1: Familiarity

First, using IP allows the licensee to capitalize upon years of the public’s familiarization and affinity for the selected IP’s stories, characters and environments. For example, would you rather..

Visit a theme park based upon this story….

or this story?

Reason #2: Credibility

The use of IP also provides instant credibility to the public, potential project investors and the industry. As another test, would you rather invest in a new attraction based upon these characters on the left, or this character on the right?

Reason #3: Filling in the Gaps

IP also can help an existing theme park fill in a gap with an existing target market.

Kings Island, a successful regional theme park back in my home town of Cincinnati, in the United States, has done a good job of this. Over the years, they've used a variety of IP’s to develop themed lands specifically targeted to younger children and their families, beginning with Hanna-Barbera characters, such as Yogi Bear and Scooby Doo, which they used from the early 1970’s until 2006.

This land then changed to a Nickelodeon theme...

...and most recently to Planet Snoopy.

So by using a variety of known well-known, family-oriented IP’s, the park has been able to continuously attract and entertain a valuable segment of their audience since its opening in 1972.

Reason #4: Increasing Attendance

You can also add new IP to existing theme park to increase attendance, both in the short-term and long-term. Paulton’s Park is a 140-acre park located 2 hours southwest of London. Founded in 1983, the park featured no IP-based attractions and averaged about 500,000 guests per year. That was until 2011, when the park added the world’s first Peppa Pig-themed attraction - Peppa Pig World. That year, visitor numbers to the park increased from 500,000 per year to over 1 million, which has been mainly attributed to adding the new IP land.

The IP has been so successful that the park has now embraced the land as a significant part of its marketing efforts, even resulting in a change in its logo and branding.

Probably a more well known example of an attendance boost through IP is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which, as Lesley Morrisetti pointed out in a recent article, boosted the park’s attendance by 70% in its first two years.

It also recently led to the development of the new Diagon Alley area, which created an additional 17% spike in attendance after its first year of operation.

(…meaning that it really doesn’t look like this too often, but ….more like this.)

Reason #5: PR and Marketing Opportunities

And finally, IP provides valuable marketing and PR opportunities and assets for the license holder. For example, the new Hunger Games traveling exhibit is able to tap into iconic characters and imagery from the movie franchise to market its current run in New York. The license holder also benefits from the IP’s own marketing, so the exhibit will certainly benefit from the media blitz accompanying the series’ final movie premiering next month.


So, those are some of the benefits in using IP.  From a designer’s standpoint, what are some of the challenges in working on IP-based projects?

Challenge #1: Balancing IP and Client Desires

One of the biggest challenges as a designer or architect is that you are typically hired (and paid) by the licensee, but also have to answer to the IP owner. And sometimes what a brand wants - and what it will take to fund or operate these wants - creates conflict.

For example, Ferrari licensed their brand to Aldar to create Ferrari World Abu Dhabi. The park’s spectacular building was created by Benoy, with a roof painted in vibrant "Ferrari Red".

…which becomes not so vibrant when the desert sand coats it.

As this specific red color is an integral part of the Ferrari brand, it was important for Ferrari to ensure that the roof’s color remained consistent. The idea for an automatic washing mechanism on the roof was suggested, but this option wasn’t operationally or financially viable for the Owner.  So, a compromise between the IP and Owner was reached in order to keep the roof clean and authentic to the brand…

...which consisted of a team of workers climbing on to the roof to clean it on a regular basis.

This creates some pretty interesting photographs, but it also symbolizes the lengths that often go into protecting an IP’s assets, and how early design decisions can have operational ramifications down the road.

Challenge #2: Sensitivity Toward Translating 3D Characters, Environments

A designer also has to be aware of the IP’s holder sensitivity toward creating three-dimensional versions of their characters and environments, especially when they have only been seen in a 2D format, such as print or traditional animation. But there are techniques that can be used to make this translation authentic to the brand.

For example, when JRA created a themed land based upon Curious George, we took the beloved children’s books as our design inspiration...

...and created designs that matched the illustration styles found within the books.

As seen in these facade drawings, our team worked hard to keep the lines loose. The drawings were then translated into three dimensional environments.

We even used giant reproductions of the books themselves to provide context for the guest through their exploration of the space.

Sometimes, the best way to translate 2D characters into the three dimensional world is to keep them as 2D.  This technique is used quite well within Springfield at Universal Studios, where you’ll find all of the series’ characters throughout the three-dimensional recreation of the Simpsons’ hometown,

from Bart and Milhaus... Homer and Maggie.

Designers and fabricators of IP-based environments must also share the same magical attention to the details, as do the IP’s creators. For example, representatives for JK Rowling review every detail of any attraction or environment based upon the popular books and movies.

Even if those details can’t be seen by the naked eye (such as this turret top) they have to meet the IP’s guidelines, because a guest might be able to see the detail through a telephoto lens, and it has to remain authentic to the IP.

Challenge #3: Lack of Usable Design Assets

One of the biggest challenges in working with IP is the lack of usable design assets. Sometimes this is because the assets haven’t been created yet. In the early 1990’s, JRA worked with Universal Studios to create a children’s play zone based upon the animated film Fievel Goes West.  The problem was, we had to finish our design work before the actual movie was even finished.

So, we had to work with the studio to review their work in progress and develop the renderings based upon key sections of the film that were completed. Luckily...

...the project turned out well, and has been open for over 23 years.

Sometimes the IP’s assets are already created, but they aren’t usable from a technical standpoint. For example, our team has worked a lot with Rovio, the creators of the Angry Birds games. And while Rovio has a large inventory of digital characters and environments, they were formatted for mobile phones and iPads. Needless to say, the resolution of their graphics wasn’t high enough for themed environments. 

So our team had to recreate all of their graphics for a large-format output - beginning with their characters and building blocks… their lush background environments... that we could create large printed murals. 

So, again, another challenge in working with with IP is that their assets might be available, but unusable.

Challenge #4: Changing IP Assets

Another challenge in working with IP is that some IP is constantly changing.

For example, keeping with our work with Angry Birds.  When we began designing an indoor attraction based upon the IP, the characters looked like this, as they are seen in the game (no wings, no feet, and they don’t talk). Then, midway through our design process, the characters had evolved (for use in Rovio’s animated shorts or Toons), and now looked like…

...this. So, we had to change many of the attraction’s graphics to reflect the updated characters.

Then, Rovio created a new game based upon their relatively new Stella character, so a new themed zone had to be created to reflect these new assets.

And, most recently, images for how the birds would appear in next year’s animated feature were released - showing dramatically different looking birds - who now have wings, and feet, and speak. So, future attractions will have to accommodate the changing look of these characters and need to make decisions on which assets to use - the game version, the Toons version or the Movie version.

Challenge #5: The Lifespan of IP

Another challenge in creating attractions using IP is that they all typically have a lifespan and will need to be changed at some point - either due to an expired licensing agreement, or a change in park ownership or strategy.

Using the Kings Island theme park again as an example, when I first worked at the park in the 1970s, this restaurant was designed around a generic Octoberfest beer hall theme. However, when Paramount purchased the park, they asked us to turn it into a themed restaurant based upon one of their more popular movies.

So, the Fest Haus became a Bubba Gump Shrimp Shack, based upon the movie Forrest Gump.  Our designers were careful to limit the theming to decorations and paint treatment only, however, so that the facility could easily be changed to future themes once the IP agreement expired, which it did when Paramount sold the park to Cedar Fair and their designers took over. 

So now if you visit the restaurant, instead of Bubba Gump Shrimp Shack, you’ll find Big Hank’s Burrito Shack.  So again, it’s important to keep that flexibility built into your designs when working with IP.

Putting It All Together: The Benefits and Challenges of Working with IP

So, to recap, the are a variety of benefits in working with IP, including…
    •    Capitalize on proven popularity, stories, characters and environments
    •    Instant recognition and credibility
    •    Can instantly fill in a gap with desired target market
    •    Can provide short-term and long-term boost in attendance
    •    Valuable marketing and PR

But, there are also a variety of challenges that accompany these benefits from a design standpoint, such as…
    •    Sensitivity toward translating 3D characters, environments
    •    Lack of usable design assets
    •    Changing IP Assets
    •    Lifespan of IP

As the use of IP seemingly becomes more and more popular, I think that it’s great to have these discussions, so that we can all learn from one another and ultimately create attractions that benefit the owner, the IP owner and, most importantly, the guest. 

Keith answers audience questions alongside Ray Hole of Ray Hole Architects and David Camp of D&J International Consulting.

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PROJECT ANNOUNCEMENT: China Welcomes Its First Stand-Alone Children's Museum

June 24, 2015

In the wake of last week's dizzingly successful IAAPA Asian Attractions Expo, we are pleased to announce that Lao Niu Children’s Discovery Museum of the China National Children’s Center (CNCC) is now open to the public. Lao Niu Children's Discovery Museum is China's first stand-alone children's museum, a collaboration between the Lao Niu Foundation and Beijing Normal University. The 50-million yuan museum, located in the Xicheng District of Beijing, enables children from infancy through age seven the opportunity to enjoy an interactive and innovative experience of discovery.

Children and parents alike enjoy the interactive water table.

The Museum’s philosophy of education is to respect children, to value the moment when parents and their children interact with each other, and to improve cooperation, attentiveness and perseverance. JRA (Jack Rouse Associates) provided overall planning, design development, and fabrication and installation project management for the Lao Niu Children’s Discovery Museum’s 26,000 square feet of exhibit space, which is themed around the animals of the Chinese zodiac.

Playing pirate in the Drama area.

Within the museum’s five exhibit halls and fourteen galleries, children will be able to exercise their minds and bodies through observation, practice and exploration via a series of interactives and creative play experiences. They will also learn how to exercise proper judgment through testing, exploring and problem solving. Specifically, children will have the opportunity to:

  • • Immerse themselves in various scenes in the Drama area
  • • “Cook” and serve food in the Café
  • • Sell groceries in the Market
  • • Build a brick wall two stories high in the Construction area
  • • Role play as a veterinarian in the Pet Hospital or mechanic in the Auto Shop
  • • Ascend a colorful climber within the Museum’s Skylight Room
  • • Splash in the Water Table
  • • Discover the principles of gravity in the Flight Zone and
  • • Design and create art projects in the Art Studio

Learning about the human body through play.

Through the Lao Niu Children’s Discovery Museum, the CNCC hopes to provide children with opportunities to understand the diversity of their world, discover their potential and improve their resilience in the face of challenges.

Friday, we'll wrap up "Asia Month" with the fourth and final installment of our Working in China blog series. And be sure to visit our Facebook and Twitter pages for pics from last week's Expo.

The Construction area holds the building blocks for fun!

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PROJECT ANNOUNCEMENT: A Kid's-Eye View of Peoria PlayHouse

June 17, 2015

"Ideal for youngsters" - Peoria Journal Star

JRA Blog Readers, we have a special treat for you today.  For the first time in JRA Blog history, we are offering a kid's-eye view of one of our newly-opened projects, Peoria PlayHouse Children's Museum! Today's special correspondent is Keira McCoy, soon-to-be fourth grader at J.F. Burns Elementary and daughter of JRA VP of Marketing & Business Development, Shawn McCoy. Take it away, Keira!


Hi! My name is Keira McCoy. Me and my brother Finley McCoy got to go to the Peoria PlayHouse! It was so much fun! Here are some of the things Finley and me did!

My favorite thing I did was the ball pit! Finley and I both loved it! You do stuff with balls to get them into a hole. These include the ball gun, basketball hoop and the sucker thing.

Also they have a thing where you make balls float in the air! Here’s my mom checking it out.

Also, you can hear music, and when you do you go under all the balls that went into the big bucket and they drop on you!

But my brother’s favorite thing to do was to play with kinetic sand. He made sand castles and destroyed them! You can see he is making a sandcastle in this very picture!

Sand is fun, but it’s also messy! So in the next room, they have a vacuum and air machine. To work each different setting, touch the button right next to the word that says the setting you chose.

The vacuum setting sucks in sand, and the air setting blows sand off. It makes you clean, but as you can see, I used it differently!

Lights, camera, action! Those are some words you’ll hear at the Peoria Playhouse movie theater! You get to pretend to be the ticket person, draw on your face, dress up, change the setting of the movie, and zoom in.

3...2...1...Blast off! Super Keira and Captain Finley have left the movie theater!

Wait for me! Is something you’re gonna hear at the train station! You can drive the train and there is room for passengers. Also you can play with trains inside and outside the train.

So let’s hop on and go to the farm!

Cluck! Moo! Oink! Baaa! Yeeha! Rupp! Those are some of the sounds you’ll hear at the barn. Here you can pick fruit, climb a chicken coop, control a tractor, sort fruits and vegetables and see how farmers fill your kitchen.

It’s wet! It’s blue or clear. It’s water!

The water rom has a water bubble, plastic versions of what animals you might see in the water, a fish tank, a place where you can connect pipes!

In another room, you can play with tools like hammers, screwdrivers and saws! It’s like being a construction worker!

As a kid, your imagination builds up! And with this room you can build whatever you can imagine!

Also at the museum you can play a matching game, see how fast humans and animals heartbeats are, use a microscope and make music with your heartbeat.

If you’re ever in Peoria, the Peoria PlayHouse is a great place for kids to be kids.


Thanks Keira! Tomorrow, we'll profile the opening of another children's museum - one on the other side of the world...

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South Carolina State Museum Receives Six Awards for Renovation, Expansion

June 15, 2015

The South Carolina State Museum recently received six awards for its major $23 million “Windows to New Worlds” renovation and expansion that opened in August 2014.  The industry-leading awards recognize the State Museum’s project for its extensive historic preservation efforts, unique and innovative design, and outstanding construction leadership.

As the state’s largest and most comprehensive museum, the South Carolina State Museum offers a unique, entertaining and educational experience to visitors throughout its 225,000 square foot facility located in the heart of downtown Columbia’s Congaree Vista. The State Museum is housed in one of its greatest artifacts, an 1894 old textile mill full of character and charm. In addition to beautiful meeting spaces throughout the facility, guests can explore outer space in one of the largest planetariums in the Southeast, watch an interactive 4D movie and look through a vintage telescope in a one-of-a-kind observatory.
Through private and public funding, State Museum leadership and industry-leading firms, the State Museum successfully transformed its nationally registered historic facility into a world-class attraction with one of the largest planetariums in the Southeast, a state-of-the-art observatory and the only permanent 4D theater in the state.  JRA worked with the State Museum to develop a thematic visitor experience that would embrace and highlight the history of the mill.

The strategic collaboration of many individuals and organizations helped solidify a high-quality project that has received the following 2015 awards.

  • ·         The Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation’s Historic Preservation Stewardship Award: This award recognizes those who have ensured the ongoing preservation of historic buildings, structures or sites through long-term care, planning, management, protection or continuous ownership.
  • ·         Historic Columbia’s New Construction in a Historic Context award: This award recognizes new buildings in a historic district adjacent to or within existing historic structures that complement the historic context.
  • ·         Gilbane Construction Project of the Year Southeast Division: This award recognizes excellence on projects that embody core values, commitment to quality and the Gilbane family legacy of excellence in the construction industry.
  • ·         Construction Management Association of America South Atlantic Chapter’s Project Achievement Award for Renovation/Modernization:  This award recognizes excellence in construction management specifically for projects involving renovation and modernization.
  • ·         American Institute of Architects South Carolina Design Award: This award recognizes excellence and innovation in architectural design. 
  • ·         American Institute of Architects Charlotte Design Award: This award recognizes excellence and innovation in architectural design.

“These awards are a direct result of a quality project made possible by the hard work of many stakeholders and an outstanding design and implementation team,” said State Museum executive director Willie Calloway. “We are proud to have successfully transformed our 19th century mill building into a true cultural destination.”

In addition to JRA, the State Museum collaborated with a variety of industry-leading consultants. Awarding-winning architects, Clark Patterson Lee and Watson Tate Savory, took their cue from the thematic design with an approach that both reinforced the rich historic fabric of the original structure and introduced additions that were contemporary yet sensitive to the mill in scale and rhythm. The museum then brought on industry-leading experts to construct the project, including Gilbane Construction (general contractor), Evans & Sutherland (planetarium contractor) and SimEx-Iwerks (4D theater contractor).  The project preservation, oversight and review were provided by South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Historic Columbia and the City of Columbia.
Although the project idea was formed in 1997, it was not until 2002 that serious deliberation, fundraising and planning began. The State Museum explored several design concepts and did extensive benchmarking, including a trip made by museum executive director Willie Calloway to the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, which was the inspiration for the planetarium’s glass cube design. The final design plan focused on a historically-sensitive renovation, including repurposing existing spaces, uncovering and rehabilitating original interior features and adding modern additions to the exterior of the museum.
“Our goal was to embrace the mill and bring its original character back to life,” said Calloway.  “We paid close attention to every detail – from ripping carpeting out and refinishing 100 year-old wood floors, to bringing in reclaimed historic mill flooring, to removing sheet rock to expose the mill’s original brick interiors.  We also made sure any added features into the mill space complimented our vision of restoring and celebrating the historic mill building.”
In 2012, the State Museum broke ground on the 75,000 square feet “Windows to News Worlds” project to renovate and expand the Columbia Mills Building, the home of the State Museum and a former textile mill listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  In addition to the planetarium, observatory and 4D theater, the project consisted of adding a new telescope gallery, lobby, store, meeting and office spaces, and student entrance and lunch room.
The new expansion is having a positive cultural tourism and economic impact and is providing many new opportunities to educate and inspire South Carolina students through innovative programming that focuses onscience, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

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