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Cardinal discusses his vision for Discovery Park

Cardinal discusses his vision for Discovery Park

Posted: Monday, October 13, 2008 9:05 pm

By GLENDA H. CAUDLE
Special Features Editor
To admire it as an innovative building — no matter how dramatic its impact — is to miss the point. Consider the shape-shifting structure, instead, in terms of an invitation — delivered in an imagination-tempting envelope — to discover limitless possibilities.
Canadian architect Douglas Cardinal encouraged such a vision as he described his work on Discovery Park of America at Thursday’s Academic Speaker Series at the University of Tennessee at Martin. His lecture, “Discovery Park of America: Reflections of an Architect’s Life and Vision,” was part of the university’s “Great North in the Deep South” speaker series. Honors Programs at UTM co-sponsored the event with the Center for Global Studies and the Canadian Consulate General in Atlanta.
Canadian Consul Général Brian Oak and Judith Costello, the consulate’s political advocacy and academic relations officer, attended the lecture at Watkins Auditorium and also hosted a reception honoring Cardinal and his wife, museologist Idoia Arana-Beobide de Cardinal, Wednesday evening in Martin. Oak introduced the internationally-acclaimed architect at Thursday afternoon’s session.
UTM’s connection to Canada extends to offering students the opportunity to pursue a minor in Canadian Studies, with at least six hours of credit earned through study at the University of Quebec at Chicoutimi, University of New Brunswick at St. John, Olds College in Alberta or another approved Canadian institution or through a travel-study program or through an international internship, with students spending at least a month in Canada.
The director of the Center for Global Studies and International Education and the coordinator of the Canadian studies program, Dr. Paul Crapo, said Cardinal’s visit to the area and his address accomplished two important objectives: “I think his visit allowed us to highlight an important project for our area —  Discovery Park of America — which will have enormous aesthetic and economic impact for this region. In addition, it allowed us at the UTM Center for Global Studies to bring recognition to our program in Canadian studies, which we introduced four years ago. Our commitment is impressive because it is one of the few such academic programs offered in our state, in spite of the fact that Canada is by far Tennessee’s and our nation’s most important trading partner.”
Also on hand for Cardinal’s Thursday presentation was Robert Kirkland, the Union City resident who envisioned DPA as a mind-expanding complex whose dramatic exterior impact would not only tempt local residents — particularly children and youth — to explore its treasures but would also lure visitors from across the nation and around the world. The Robert E. and Jenny D. Kirkland Foundation is also providing the bulk of the multi-million dollar price tag for the project, which is being constructed across Everett Boulevard from Union City Second Baptist Church and just south of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
Kirkland was accompanied to Thursday’s speaker series by his long-time friend and his wife, Jim and Martha Rippy of Union City. Rippy is president of the DPA board and, in that capacity, he announced earlier in the week that site preparation at the 50-acre plot is essentially complete, with construction expected to begin by the end of October when concrete is poured for the foundation piers.
The Cardinal ‘rule’
Cardinal began his visual presentation with photos of several projects he has designed or is currently involved in, ranging from a convention-defying Catholic church in Canada to the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., to an entire village planned by the Cree people, Oujé-Bougoumou, in Quebec.
Each photo was print-accessorized with comments reflecting Cardinal’s philosophy of architecture and life.
Driving his purpose is the belief that people must learn to operate from a mindset of commitment rather than fear. “Commitment is, of course, totally unreasonable and people will try to ‘reason’ you out of your commitment,” he told his audience. “Fear, though, keeps us powerless and small and collapses the power of our intentions. … We owe it to our Creator and others to operate from commitment rather than fear. We are totally connected, so we really have nothing to fear. There is a vast knowledge out in the universe and in that vast space there are unlimited possibilities.”
Another Cardinal mind-challenger, offered with an impish grin to his audience, was: “True creativity lies not in what you know, but in what you don’t know you don’t even know. As soon as you have the ‘answers’ and preconceived ideas, you have blocked creativity.”
Cardinal was selected for the local project because of his documented-in-structure willingness to see beyond the ordinary and the usual. Kirkland’s vision called for an attention-grabbing exterior that would deliver all the drama promised — and more — within walls that would function as inducements to limitless exploration of the past, present and future. To implement that goal, Cardinal and his team, which includes his son, Bret Cardinal, have been calling not only on their own creativity but also that of the community in which their structure is taking shape.
In fact, Douglas Cardinal arrived ahead of his speaking schedule and devoted his time to meeting repeatedly with representatives of the all-volunteer citizen planning committees for the DPA exhibits — an approach his team encouraged and helped establish from the beginning to firmly fix “ownership” of the project. Cardinal’s insistence that the creative power of the community needed to be freed to benefit DPA was supported by Kirkland, who encouraged the 200-plus area residents to “dream big.”
“I like ‘working the building’ from the inside out and from the bottom up, around people’s needs, so that’s why we talk to the people who will be using it,” Cardinal said.
Cardinal provided an overview of those big dreams in his final slides, showing both exterior and interior drawings of DPA and eliciting excited murmurs of approval.
The response, one he is familiar with, is fuel for completing the journey to his goal. “When people buy in to it, they will make the vision happen, no matter what,” he said.
Mrs. Caudle may be contacted at glendacaudle@ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 10.13.08

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