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De Biesboch Planetarium (Caelus), reinvents the form of the planetarium by expanding the functions incorporated within the programme to allow for a greater public experience. Inspired by Saturn’s form and planetary titles, Caelus is named after the Father of Saturn, the roman God of the sky. Influenced by astrology and the concepts expressed by Étienne-Louis Boullée in his Cenotaph for Newton, the design results in an iconic new planetary form centred around the experience of the planetarium sphere.

The site is located within De Biesboch National Park, Netherlands, within close proximity of Rotterdam. National parks provide the best experience for star gazing through naturally low light pollution levels. De Biesboch is a tourist location due to its iconic wetlands, tidal rivers, wildlife and newly developed museum, making it a suitable site.

Caelus is located within a tidal river, as an independent island, not interfering with the local wildlife. The distancing of the project as an island helps create a boundary between the wetlands and planetarium, whilst travelling to an island is suggestive of new discovery. Tidal changes allow access to the planetarium to alter from footpath at low tide to boat transfer at high tide, displaying how planetary movements directly affect the daily living on earth.

The Planetarium’s form is derived through pragmatic needs, therefore expanding the programme of the building will result in a new design needs and a unique output. By adding leisure (hotel, camping grounds and public paths) to the planetarium’s education, exploration and research functions the design will result in a new form based concept with a greater public experience.

Through dividing and organising the programme around the projection dome, two sub-sets of functions are created; a public ring and a private ring. Derived from the spherical nature of planets, the sphere is an extension of the dome, creating a 360-degree projection experience. Further, the rings of sub-functions are inspired by Saturn’s form allowing for a clear visual hierarchy of functions. Like Boullée’s design, the dome as the quintessential shape is emphasised offering a greater experience and monumentality to the design. The sphere is roughly 1:2000000m the size of Saturn. Further enhancing the experience, the sphere’s roof opens to allow for a live experience of the night sky available because of the low light pollution.

The rings are naturally flat in form and aesthetics, providing the opportunity to utilise the roof space for observation through; public walkways, camping facilities and gazing for stars and the surrounding landscape. The walkways are emblematic of Boullée’s design and his use of trees to define scale and grandeur.

The planet inspired form gives a new take on the planetarium, acting as a catalyst for experience with futuristic architecture gravitating towards the futures of space. The relationship of the projection dome to Saturn’s size gives a physical manifestation of the immensity of the universe. Inspired by Saturn’s composition and pragmatic needs, a new form is invented to serve the modern-day planetarium. Creating a new planetary form, for a new planetarium experience.