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Downtown

Kid-inspired designs

The architect for the Children's Museum of Tampa says he's still a kid at heart - and that's where his ideas come from.

By REBECCA RICHARDS
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 14, 2003


The Children's Museum of Tampa, known as Kid City, has dreams of a new home, perhaps in the Channel District.

For now, they're just dreams.

But guests at a fundraiser Saturday night got a sneak preview of an architect's vision for the proposed museum. It was designed by John Curran Jr. of Gould Evans Associates, inspired in part by suggestions from museum staff, board members and kids, who gathered last week for a workshop.

City Times snagged Curran for a few questions about the rendering.

* * *

Q. What's the most important thing to notice about this concept?

A. I think the bridges. They connect you to what we call islands. Each island is an exhibit. The bridges are elevated planes. One may be at eye level or lower or up to 6 feet in the air.

They will give us more interesting space, instead of placing all the exhibits on the floor. If we have a plaza, for example, we could pull an exhibit outside, possibly with a tunnel.

Q. What are five favorite stops along the way?

A. The bubble wrap. Kids would be engulfed in the wonder of bubbles. The island may be transparent and kids could jump on it to change bubble shapes. Hula hoops could extrude giant bubbles, and the kids could be engulfed.

At a music factory, kids could play a piano with their feet.

A play area could have an outer space theme, with rockets and planes to climb on and play in like a giant jungle gym.

Our Florida would be a miniature town with interactive buildings like an art gallery, supermarket and kids cafe.

A Florida forest land exhibit could have rubber playground pieces like manatees and panthers and an archaeological find where kids could climb on dinosaurs.

Q. How would this differ from the Museum of Science and Industry and the Florida Aquarium?

A. We see this complementing other museums. It's not intended to compete with the science focus of MOSI. It's more about interacting in a playful manner.

Q. How did you pick the colors?

A. One of the kids at the workshop pulled out an architectural book with colorful images and said, "This is it! It's got to have lots of colors!" Everyone was in favor of color. We're focusing on primary colors and tones of them.

Q. Do you have children? How did they influence your design?

A. I have a 3-year-old daughter, Grace, and a baby boy on the way. One other person involved, Alain Valdes, has a baby boy. We thought about what would be a fun place to go. When Grace saw the drawings, she said she wants to go there, so I thought we had something good. It's going to be a fascinating adventure.

Q. Have you ever designed anything like this before?

A. It's my first children's museum.

Q. What other kinds of projects do you tackle?

A. I've done some art galleries and a lot of sports and entertainment architecture. I designed the Brockton, Miss., minor league ballpark and the renovations for the Phoenix baseball stadium. I was heavily involved in the renovation of Tropicana Field. Our firm did the Jazz Hall of Fame and the Negro Baseball Hall of Fame in Kansas City. We do work locally and nationally for AMC.

Q. How old are you?

A. 40.

Q. What age are you at heart?

A. A kid. I think I'm still a 15-year-old trying to become a professional baseball player. This fun stuff allows me to live that fantasy.

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