By: By GLENDA H. CAUDLE - Special Features Editor
The Messenger. 10.19.07
“Most of my inspiration comes from the passion in the community itself. My job is to catch that passion and wrap the building around it.”
So says Douglas Cardinal, who will be charged with creating Discovery Park of America in Union City.
The Texas-educated world-renowned Canadian architect and the team that includes Bret Cardinal — his son, fellow architect and vice president of the architectural firm — and Mark Conley — senior project manager — wrapped up three days of intensive work with the project’s Visioning Team Thursday and returned to their offices in Ottawa.
Traveling with them were the initial plans determined by the group of local citizens who were brought together for that purpose by Robert and Jenny Kirkland of Union City.
The Robert E. and Jenny D. Kirkland Foundation is financing the construction of Discovery Park’s centerpiece museum and is underwriting world-class acquisitions and helping provide ongoing support for the program to the tune of multiple millions of dollars. Financing from others who are captivated by the dream and realize the potential for educating children and adults from the surrounding area to the wonders of their own backyard as well as the world — and even the cosmos — and for luring travelers from across the nation and further afield, and thus economically supporting this community, is expected to come as the project progresses.
On Tuesday, the Union City Council voted to add a first-class civic center and convention facility to the package. State and federal officials are interested in an interstate welcome center and Kirkland hopes it, too, will be a powerful magnet to tourists moving from the northern to the southern borders of the USA, and points in between, on the new I-69 super highway that will be built through this area. His vision for this particular portion of the project — like his plans for the museum and green area – goes well beyond the consruction of an ordinary interstate “potty” station to the designing of a one-of-a-kind must-stop interruption in many families’ travel plans.
And that is …
What’s been happening
To this point, the Kirklands have dreamed dreams and shared them, over the past few years, with a small group of friends and others who might make contributions to the concept.
They have counted the cost and determined what they can give back to the community where both grew up — the place their families put down roots at least three generations ago.
They have considered the advice of those who have been charged with helping to “house” their plan and have made contact with an architectural firm.
They have reviewed the work already done by these “edifice artists” and come to understand that what they offer goes far beyond a shell of bricks and mortar and glass.
They have signed the documents that (a) make their foundation the owner of the 50 acres of property across from Union City Second Baptist Church on Everett Boulevard in Union City — the same property that Union City’s first settler, Gen. George Gibbs, selected for his homestead when he came to this area — and (b) serve as a commission for architect Cardinal to allow his imagination to soar.
They have encouraged conversation about the potential for the project with government at every level — from the city council to Washington — and have been rewarded with pledges of cooperation and support.
They have described their own ideas to their friends and neighbors across Obion County over the past week and asked them to ruminate and cogitate and thereby facilitate the reality of Discovery Park of America.
They have spent the past three days listening to plans brought to the table by the Visioning Team and helping organize the original jumble of ideas into a manageable mandate for the Cardinal group.
And so …
What happens now?
At this point, the Visioning Team broadens considerably.
Thursday morning, team members welcomed other citizens with an interest in the project to the Obion County Public Library, where deliberations have been taking place since Tuesday.
Cardinal explained his original soaring concepts and reviewed the ideas for the 13 team-proposed “sections” to be housed in the museum proper and on the Discovery Park of America property.
Each concept – still in the prenatal stages at this point — is now being given over to a mid-wife committee to “birth.”
The Kirklands are inviting the community to assist in that delivery.
And they must …
Shape what happens next
They will do this by providing the architectural team additional direction. While the Cardinal group has already sketched some soaring ideas that build on transportation and geographical themes important to the area, they must get down to even more serious business. With the “original 13” in mind, they will be considering specifics and looking at the economics of the proposal.
When they return to Union City in a few weeks, they will be meeting with each of the committees growing out of the original Visioning Team to see what specifics they have determined should be a part of the museum experience. These conversations will provide additional direction for their sketches — interior and exterior.
“We’ve committed to proceeding quickly,” said Cardinal, who encouraged the citizen committees to get to work right away envisioning their areas and figuring out not only how to proceed in making them realities by acquiring the necessary “museum pieces” but also in determining the amount and type space they will need to provide a first-class presentation for the treasures.
The ideas proposed at this point include:
• Temporary exhibits which are on loan to the museum or which have appeal for only specific periods of time
• Regional history (people of interest from this area; a Congressional forum focusing on Davy Crockett’s connection to this area, the contributions of the late Congressman Robert A. “Fats” Everett and the papers of Congressman John Tanner and other elected officials with a local connection; the history of Obion County and the surrounding area; Reelfoot Lake; life in an earthquake zone)
• Native Americans
• Transportation (antique cars, trains, water craft, planes)
• Wild life and natural history (fossils, animals)
• Exploration room for children (antique toy collections, hands-on activities)
• Pioneer village (working farm, antique farm equipment, petting zoo, demonstration areas for daily life years ago, housing, other “village” buildings)
• Military (uniforms, weapons, tools related to waging war, the Civil War and other conflicts, effect of war on soldiers and those left at home)
• Science and technology
• Enlightenment (artifacts fitting no specific category but encouraging exploration and discovery)
• Botanical gardens (green house, walking trail, sculpture garden)
• Alternative energy (conservation, emerging fuels, innovative energy solutions, ways to use these in the construction of the museum)
• Art gallery (valuable works of art – perhaps on loan from other collections)
In addition, the museum must have volunteer workers with good ideas and/or valuable contacts in the areas of
• Endowment and legacy creation
• Activities to be available at the museum site
• Gift shop
• Grants committee (to help secure additional and/or ongoing funding)
“These are your priorities,” Cardinal said as he reviewed the list Thursday. “You must now establish story lines for each area and figure out how to express them with artifacts and audio-visuals. You have given us thumbnail sketches, at this point, that will evolve as we begin to understand the community.”
“We like to have a master plan in the beginning,” Bret Cardinal added, “so when you expand it doesn’t look as though you ‘added on.’”
Douglas Cardinal agreed, noting that money always follows a good idea and it will be important for the committees to dream big — even if they know they are reaching beyond present capacity to fulfill — and then keep the vision and plan to expand in the future.
Kirkland and the architectural team stress that there is no ranking of ideas at this point. Each of the original concepts needs full consideration and planning and it is possible that all the ideals can be realized.
“This is simply an exercise to help you figure out what is important to you. It’s not a popularity contest,” Conley said. “We hope to include everything.”
“We want you to find out what you are interested in here and then commit to making it happen,” Kirkland summed up.
And that will require …
Anyone interested in serving on one or more of these committees is asked to contact ----------------- at ---------------- as soon as possible so that work may get under way.
Mrs. Caudle may be contacted at email@example.com.
Discovery Park of America