“The purpose of life is the investigation of the Sun, the Moon, and the heavens.” – Anaxagoras
In February 2017, NASA launched the Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 program which brought citizen-astronomers and enthusiasts to work together with scientists in finding a series of celestial bodies like brown dwarfs and planets by identifying them in photos and videos captured by NASA’s WISE space telescope. If the public sees something of noteworthy, they can mark its location on the images.
This crowd-sourcing method engages the public through active participation – a hallmark of 21st century research method that is also apparent in other scientific disciplines – and emphasizes the specificity of place as well as counting on subjective observation of phenomena through one’s own ideas. It is one of many that have been devised by institutions such as NASA, IES, and the University of California Berkeley.
This is a shift away from how planetarium operates today: while an indispensable source of knowledge, it bases its operation on the simulation of the sky and the universe.
The crowd-sourcing effort of NASA perhaps is a new kind of curiosity of wanting to engage further in space exploration short of being an astronaut. And, perhaps, we like to think that we have been so detached from the heaven. And a planetarium is the manifestation of the desire to remake that connection.
We propose a new planetarium that embraces the general public to get away from the city light and into the vast open night. A planetarium that provides a platform where the citizen-astrophysicists and amateur-astronomers work with academic scientists to explore the sky together. A planetarium that, through a simple architectural form of a perfect circle, compels us to take an infinite walk – and to spend time under the night. When the sky is not to be observed, it is there to observe us.
The loop is a three stories floating structure with a continuous circular strip of public space sitting on a series of indoor programs underneath. The circumference is 600m, with 9m wide platform.
The loop does not make obsolete the existing planetarium, but rather recognizes the difference and thus complements it. It works not as a “ride”, but as a quiet place detached from the noise of the city to observe the sky.
As such, this is less of a bespoke architecture and more of a system that has the potential to be replicated in almost all major cities in the world.
We pick East Coast Park in Singapore as a context. The site, approximately 6km from Marina Bay and 8km from the CBD, is close to the busy part of Singapore to remain easily accessible. The loop floats on the sea roughly 500m from the beach. The sea is the closest place to be away from the city light.