Bob Berkebile, the principle of BNIM Architects in Kansas City and the architect for the Discovery Center Project at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, did not have a vision for the building when he came to Columbia this weekend. He left that part up to the community.
Berkebile said he signed on with Rock Bridge Memorial State Park in 2001 as the architect for the Discovery Center, a new visitor’s center that would overlook the part of the park. Meredith Donaldson, director of the Discovery Center Project, said Berkebile was selected to head the project because of his reputation for constructing “green” buildings.
BNIM Architects designs buildings that embrace and use their natural environment. The company’s past projects in the area include the Life Sciences Center at MU and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources building in Jefferson City.
Friday and Saturday, Berkebile’s team of architects met with the Friends of Rock Bridge Memorial State Park and community members to begin developing ideas for the structure’s design by examining the goals for the center.
“The purpose of this was to bring together members of the community to help us identify priorities regarding the program aspects, the sustainable design of the building and its location on the site,” Donaldson said.
The group examined the proposed building’s uses, needs and goals, and through this discussion gained a better idea of how the center should look and function in its environment, Donaldson said.
“The design of the building must come from what kinds of activities it will support, and those are defined by the educational program and mission of the center,” Donaldson said.
Berkebile said he approached the meetings with an open mind and left it up to the public to help him “dream and explore” how the center could reflect the community, the culture and the building’s natural environment.
“It’s about interpreting and celebrating the community and interpreting it without destroying it,” he said.
The group addressed how the park and the Friends of Rock Bridge might use the Discovery Center.
“We want a building that teaches,” Donaldson said.
Mark Shapiro, an architect with BNIM, said the Discovery Center could cover up to 14,050 square feet. It will house a temporary exhibition gallery, library, gift shop, simulated cave and theater in addition to offices and classrooms, he said.
Donaldson said they will be unable to estimate the project’s cost until the designs are closer to completion. The state Department of Natural Resources has agreed to lease the site and cover 20 percent of the project’s expenses, up to $500,000, if the project meets the requirements of their agreement.
Katie Fretland contributed to this report.