Searching for Neverland: Architecture of the Millennial Generation

Belinda Gibson Netflix Ferris Wheel

Millennials or Generation Y (those born between the 1980s and 2000s) are the demographic cohort also known as the Peter Pan generation. They are relocating from the nursery – the safe haven of living at home with mum and dad - much later in life than previous generations, but they are being propelled into a world of reality, responsibilities and experiences shaped by the information revolution.

This thesis embodies a close reading of J.M. Barrie’s famous novel, Peter and Wendy, to establish a new Neverland in the context of a modern millennial world. The Peter Pan narrative depicts the conflict between the innocence of childhood and the responsibility of growing up and facing adulthood – a conflict echoed in today’s society. In the novel, the coming of Peter Pan disrupted the lives of Wendy and her brothers through their journey to Neverland and subsequent adventures, while today, the coming of the internet, the growth of social media and globalisation have disrupted the lives of millennials.

As a generation predicted to hold contrasting traits including open-mindedness, confidence and tolerance versus narcissism and entitled tendencies, this thesis interrogates who the millennials are and how they experience architecture, predominately through technology and social media.

The vehicle for investigating such ideas of architectural provocations to critique the life and traits of the millennial generation is unveiled in London’s Kensington Garden – a theme park where the statue of Peter Pan welcomes all visitors, inviting them to step through the window into the Millennial Neverland. The park negotiates the kaleidoscopic map of life in an ever-changing world unknown to previous generations. Feeding on the experience of the Peter Pan generation’s existence, the Millennial Neverland proposes a variety of rides and entertainment attractions.

Through the manifestation of a Millennial Neverland, this thesis argues that millennials as a cohort experience architecture and life in rather different ways to their baby boomer parents. Their comprehension of growing up with rapidly advancing knowledge, amplified by engagement and competency in technology, provides new understanding of world experiences that shape their perceptions. 

Belinda Gibson Peter Pan Imagery

"I don't know whether you have ever seen a map of a person's mind. Doctors sometimes draw maps of other parts of you, and your own map can become intensely interesting, but catch them trying to draw a map of a child's mind, which is not only confused, but keeps going round all them."The minds of the millennials are no different. Today's modern world has expanded so much knowing that choices are infinite and individuals are consumed by an abundance of decisions and lack of direction. 

J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan: Peter and Wendy and Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, ed. Jack Zipes (New York: Penguin Books, 2004), 2.

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