There's an Entire Miniature World That Fills This New York City Block
Gulliver’s Gate, opening in April 2017 in New York City’s Times Square, spans an entire city block and transports guests throughout Europe, North America, Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, all through its whimsical miniature displays.
The 50,000-square-foot wonderland was created by model-makers from around the globe, the exhibit includes everything from Beijing’s Forbidden City to the destroyed Colossus of Rhodes in Greece, all 87 times smaller than their original size.
Travel + Leisure stopped by to get a glimpse of the interactive miniature world before it opens to the public on April 4 for a soft launch and on May 9 for the official grand opening.
From a functioning miniature airport to a scanner that lets you create a miniature version of yourself, here are some of the incredible sights you’ll find inside.
Welcome to New York
When guests arrive at the space, they’ll start with the model makers’ interpretation of New York City, where they'll see iconic landmarks ranging from Rockefeller Center to the New York Public Library.
Over 600 artists and makers from around the world worked on the display, helping bring in touches of local expertise and humor.
“The model screams with humor, winking back at you at every moment,” Jason Hackett, marketing officer of Gulliver’s Gate, told T+L.
A Familiar View
In the New York City model, the focus lies on buildings' first five stories to mimic the street view you'd typically see when strolling through the city.
Details radiate throughout, from a replica of the intricate ceiling of Grand Central Terminal to tiny little screens against the windows that showcase what you'd see inside each of the structures.
You'll also see modern buildings like the Standard Hotel, complete with glass windows showcasing figurines lounging in their room and even a group of mini partiers on its rooftop bar.
North America in Miniature
After seeing New York, you’ll walk into the North America exhibit, which features scenic locations such as the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the ski slopes of Massachusetts, and the Maine seashore.
Europe in Miniature
In another room, guests will find an expansive display of Great Britain and the British Isles on one side and continental Europe on the other.
Be sure to look closely, as you’ll soon start to notice the humorous touches Hackett mentioned, including a scene where you’ll see tourists snapping photos of the Loch Ness Monster emerging from the water and an Aurora Borealis display in Scandinavia where Santa Claus makes an appearance.
Asia in Miniature
Visitors will also walk through the vast landscape of Asia, where they'll see iconic landmarks like India's Taj Mahal, Cambodia's Angkor Wat, the historic Pearl Theater in China, Mount Everest, and Japan's famed Mount Fuji.
A Greener Side of Asia
Stylistic differences play a role throughout, particularly when it comes to the way model-makers in Asia decided to convey the continent.
"Our makers in Beijing wanted to make sure that rather than showing the western connotation of teeming cities, they showcase the vast natural landscape of Asia along with its iconic landmarks," Hackett said.
That's why, once you walk into this room, you'll notice a vast amount of greenery that covers the space throughout, while model-makers also chose to incorporate bright white LED lighting into non-glass buildings and colorful internal LED lighting in each of the glass structures.
Latin America in Miniature
While the South America display is still being constructed, it will include a Panama Canal with fully running water and boats that move up and down its locks.
There will also be depictions of popular attractions ranging from the Iguazu Falls in Argentina and Machu Picchu in Peru to Brazil's Sugarloaf Mountain.
The Middle East in Miniature
Next, visitors will be transported to the Middle East, where they'll see ancient structures like Jerusalem’s Western Wall and Al-Aqsa mosque, plus more recent architectural designs like Santiago Calatrava’s Chords Bridge.
The CEO and founder of Gulliver's Gate, Eiran Gazit, was inspired to create Gulliver's Gate after working on a similar project called Mini Israel, a miniature park that showcased the best of Israel, Hackett said.
Gazit first found inspiration for his miniature masterpieces at Holland's Madurodam, a mini park showcasing replicas of Dutch homes, canals, landmarks, and markets.
Make Your Own Magic
Guests will be able to control all of the interactive scenes through a RFID key.
With the turn of the key, visitors can watch a monk descend in a tiny basket down a cliffside to join in on the celebrations in Santorini below, or watch zombie mummies chase after tourists in the ancient pyramids that lie within the Africa exhibit.
"Those playful reactions is why we're doing this," Hackett said. "If you look at and interpret the world with a sense of joy and a sense of humor, it becomes a delightful moment to experience."
Lighting and Sound Features
Each of these interactive depictions has clever audio and lighting elements, from little specks that light up when tourists are "taking photos" to musical figurines that range from the Rolling Stones and The Beatles to Adele and The Clash, all of whom you may catch performing a song during your tour through Great Britain.
The entire exhibit will also have a day and night cycle that will allow guests to see what the buildings look like in the "sunshine" during the day and lit up in the evening.
What truly makes the world come to life for the viewer is all of the moving bits and pieces.
For example, wander through Italy and you’ll notice tiny gondolas making their way across the water, while ski lifts carry passengers up and down the slopes in the North America exhibit.
According to Hackett, almost all of the pieces are autonomous, though some have tiny magnets underneath them that allow them to travel.
All of the tracks on display will be filled with moving cars, trains, and even planes. The exhibit has a total of about 900 trains, 7,000 cars and trucks, and 52 different planes that visitors can watch take off.
You'll see a network of roads, highways, bridges, and tunnels that line the displays, with the longest track running for about 8 miles.
"The closer you look, the more you'll start to see," Hackett said.
A Fully Operational Miniature Airport
Gulliver’s Gate will also include a functioning airport, made with a 3D printer.
The airport will include a variety of planes that feature the attraction’s made-up airline, Swift, with its very own livery, and noted airlines of the past, like Braniff International Airways and Pan American World Airways.
The planes will be able to autonomously move on the 2,000-square-foot airport’s tarmac, before taking off and being propelled into a socket.
Portraits of People
As you wander through each display, you'll notice an array of figurines engaging in everyday stories throughout.
Walk through Italy and you'll see a wedding taking place in Lake Como. Head to the streets of London and catch the Beatles walking through Abbey Road.
Take a look beneath the waters of Greece and you'll notice small scuba divers through the glass, a move the company purposely made to give visitors a new view from every angle.
Playing With Time and Space
Though the exhibit is based on reality, model makers did get creative, strategically shifting the locations of buildings and including architectural concepts that never actually came to fruition.
For example, as you walk through the New York City model, you’ll notice that the Empire State Building sits next to the High Line.
While gazing at the scenes of the Middle East, you’ll come across the Pyramid Tower, which was to be built in Jerusalem.
“We think of Gulliver’s Gate as its own universe,” Hackett said. “We start with the real world as an inspiration and put it inside of our Gulliver machine to create our version."
Old Meets New
This also allows for displays to move through time to show you historical structures and cultures, like ancient indigenous villages alongside modern metropolises, and a 19th century depiction of the Eiffel Tower in Paris as it was being built.
Gulliver's Gate will also be creating a Mars and moon colony to give visitors a glimpse into what the future could look like.
A range of techniques have been used to create the mini-world, including hand crafting the components from wood and designing elements on the computer and having them 3D printed.
Some displays operate heavily off the 3D printing technique, like that of Jerusalem, while displays like Russia's were created almost entirely by hand.
Finding the Right Dimensions
To scale the buildings, model-makers looked at several options, according to Hackett.
For contemporary buildings, they were able to directly load the plans into the computer and simplify them to print each individual piece before assembly.
For those that aren't contemporary, they either went on location to get in-field measurements of approximately what the size would have been, or looked at imagery of ancient sites to create their interpretation.
A Global Project
The exhibit's model-makers come from the United States, Montreal, Italy, Russia, Israel, Denmark, Germany, and other nations across the world.
"We see this as being a truly global project and completely inclusive, so when any visitor comes here, whether they are a resident of the U.S. or a visitor to the U.S., we want them to see themselves in the models," Hackett said.
One of the most exciting interactive elements to the exhibit is the 3D scanner that allows you to create a mini version of yourself and your friends.
Those who want to live in the model world can get their figurines placed in one of 20 locations of their choice, and have an extra copy to take home.
Behind the Scenes
You can also catch a display of the control room, where engineers will be on hand to explain how the models function, or watch a documentary film showcasing the work that went on behind the scenes.
Finally, when moving from the New York exhibit to the North America exhibit, make sure to peek at the projection in the center.
The projection, which is made up of drone footage, will showcase Niagara Falls, while a bathtub underneath will emit steam to make it feel like you’re there. The coolest part, though, is getting your photo snapped and watching as your face begins to appear in the droplets of the falls.
A Name With a Meaning
Using its intricate displays, Gulliver’s Gate invites visitors into a new world, where playfulness is present throughout.
The project's name is no coincidence either, alluding to Jonathon Swift’s "Gulliver’s Travels," which tells the story of an adventurer and the hidden destinations discovered.
According to Hackett, it also calls on you to think about the world in which you live.
“Gulliver’s Travels was also commentary on the British crown, with satire and parody, and it succeeded because it was creatively intelligent and clever, in the same way we’re trying to ask you to think about your world,” he said.
Going Small to Make a Big Impact
While some of the pieces in the space are strikingly small, like tiny chickens in Russia that are each smaller than a grain of rice, the impression that they leave on you can be quite powerful.
“It’s amazing how something so tiny can make you feel so small,” Hackett said. “You really begin to understand your place in the world when you look at it from this scale.”
How to Visit
For those interested in seeing the space in person, Gulliver's Gate will host a soft opening on April 4.
During this time, until its grand opening on May 9, tickets will be $25 for adults, kids, and seniors.
Once it opens on May 9, tickets will be $36 for adults, $28 for kids and seniors, and there will also be flex packages for those who want to visit again and again.