Architects unveil 3-D model of planned Discovery Park
By: Glenda H. Caudle Special Features Editor
By GLENDA H. CAUDLE
Special Features Editor
Discover something breathtaking.
Discover the fluid nature of steel and glass, undulating across unremarkable farm land, cresting the slight rise in the landscape, then reaching for the stars in a mighty sweep of imagination.
Discover Douglas Cardinal’s architectural concept for Discovery Park of America’s centerpiece — the museum and the “Great Hall” of the convention center.
This week, the award-winning Canadian architect lived up to his reputation for innovative structures, functional creativity and imaginative use of the environment when he unveiled his three-dimensional model of the museum that will anchor the local multi-million dollar education-entertainment-tourist attraction project being financed by the Robert E. and Jenny D. Kirkland Foundation.
Members of the Discovery Park of America board of directors, meeting at the Obion County Public Library Tuesday morning, were the first group to view Cardinal’s multiple sketches of ideas he had considered over the past few weeks since his last visit to Union City. It was during that early November trip that he and his team (which includes his son and fellow architects, Bret Cardinal and Mark Conley) spent many patient hours listening to the dreams of the Kirkland-appointed Visioning Team’s 13 committees — the “locals” charged with determining what should be included in their community’s eagerly-anticipated adventure known as Discovery Park of America.
The park’s board of directors also heard the Texas-educated architect explain the progression of creative thought that led him from initial sketches of a single-story building peeping over the surrounding trees; to drawings of a two-level nod to vitality and a stretching toward the clouds; and, finally, to color-coded renderings of a multi-floored wave of excitement that builds to a shimmering curved peak, visible from miles around.
It was an impressive presentation. But the best was yet to come.
To bring it all home, the team of architects finally unlocked the “mystery” box that had tantalized the crowd throughout Cardinal’s explanation of his work: the simple wooden container the trio of design-masters had carefully shepherded through the skies from Ottawa to Memphis and on to Union City.
They freed the clay-sculpted model of Discovery Park’s museum and convention center from its dark confines and set it center-stage.
And the light dawned.
Board members approached the model they had been striving to understand in two-dimensional form, stooping to explore it from eye-level, reaching out tentative fingers to trace its moving lines, circling the table to exclaim over the mysterious alterations of form each shift in focus afforded.
Later in the afternoon, the board of directors of the museum itself took over the conference room.
Their overwhelming approval — including a statement from Mrs. Kirkland: “I cannot tell you how thrilled Robert and I are with it” — took the form of an informal vote to accept the design as a working model of the first phase of Discovery Park of America’s museum, subject to modifications necessary to accommodate the planned exhibits and the initial budget.
Wednesday, the Cardinals and Conley devoted multiple hours to meeting with the exhibit committees, displaying their design yet again, explaining how it evolved and how it will function and discussing information the committees have been collecting and using to modify their initial plans over the past month.
“From the beginning, I have felt this project was best steered by the committees, and what I have heard today says I am on the right track,” Cardinal told the museum committee Tuesday in explaining why he is still anxious to speak to the planning committees. “This is a series of evolving ideas. And it is easier to change now. Once we get on site (in early spring of 2008), it will be much more difficult,” he said of the need to have a clear understanding of the vision of the community for Discovery Park as soon as possible.
The sketches provided by the architects also show a Phase Two expansion that can be added without detriment to the original design.
Throughout the planning process, committees have been encouraged to “think outside the box.” With these directives in mind, some dreams have stretched beyond the limits of the budget and will have to be modified or postponed. Cardinal says, however, that he believes money will follow the excitement and the success of Discovery Park of America’s opening and that Phase Two will prove a reality and should be planned for in the initial work so that it will complement the design instead of detracting from it.
Kirkland has asked the designers to minimize “wasted” space and find ways to utilize every square inch. With that in mind, Cardinal explained his plan to make the city-financed convention center or “Grand Hall” an integral part of the museum building so that it can “share” behind-the-scenes storage, food preparation and restroom space with the museum itself and utilize second and third story “walk-through” areas as sites for additional seating for exhibits and programs staged on the base-floor convention center. That designated space can, likewise, be used to showcase some special museum attractions and can serve as the primary entrance to the museum.
Other features that captured the enthusiasm of Tuesday’s viewers included a glass-sided and glass-floored elevator rising six-stories into the air and affording visitors with a head for heights a sweeping view of the countryside for miles around. The elevator tower is also guaranteed to attract the attention of travelers on the soon-to-be-constructed I-69 superhighway from Canada to Mexico that will run parallel to Everett Boulevard in the area around Discovery Park of America. Since the museum’s stories are, in effect, double the height of conventional buildings, the elevator tower will actually stand as tall as a 12-story edifice.
And then there is the roof.
It will be green.
Because it will be grass.
In keeping with the museum’s commitment to utilize energy-conservation measures to the fullest extent possible, it will provide the crowning eco-friendly glory to the design. Another nod to environmental consciousness will come in the plan to collect rain water from the roof, channel it to the ground in a design-enhancing manner and collect it at the base of a small water fall in a reflecting pool. The plan is both functional, in that the water can then be used in the building’s systems, and attractive.
Sketches of the Cardinal-team plan and the model will be available for viewing on an upcoming video interview segment with the architectural team. The presentation will be a feature on The Messenger’s new site, NWTNToday.com.
Discover it for yourself — as soon as possible.
Readers may contact Mrs. Caudle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: A video-taped interview with Douglas Cardinal, Bret Cardinal and Mark Conley will be available at The Messenger’s new Web site, NWTNToday.com during the next few days. A previous video-taped interview with Robert Kirkland about Discovery Park of America has already had more than 700 visits and is still available to viewers.
Published in The Messenger 12.06.07
Discovery Park of America, Douglas Cardinal
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