The history of mankind’s understanding of what lies beyond Earth’s atmosphere is implicitly linked to our ability to observe and measure it. From the romance of the stargazer to the pragmatism of nineteenth century astronomy’s use of parallax during our path around the sun to map distances of stars, vantage point matters.
Yet the fruit of observation is bound by the conceptual bias of the viewer. Scale, so far at least, forms an impenetrable boundary that limits direct observation. In the last hundred years, the scale of the cosmos has gotten a lot larger and less organized. The way we think about the building blocks of space has gotten both less rigid and much, much smaller. The very fundamentals of mathematics and matter have been turned on their head to create a framework that correlates with what is observed.
The interplay of observation and conceptualization informs the ever evolving construct that defines our understanding of the universe and our place within it.
The premise of the planetarium is to utilize the physical architecture to emphasize the scale of the human body in confrontation with the cosmos. Through moments of compression and expansion, the journey through the planetarium creates a confrontation of the individual, in the vessel through which we encounter spacetime, with the expanse beyond and the question of the infinite, as well as positioning the body above the earth to allow one to look back upon the terra inhabited.
Upon approach, the scale of the building takes on the scale of the subject matter; massive, enduring, daunting as is looms above. From a grand domed forum at the ground level, the individual is forced to enter the planetarium as they experience the world, alone. A conveyor sized for just one person rises up into the main level. A nod to the history of models of the solar system, they begin at the center but shortly find themselves dislocated from a clear, comprehensible order.
The main floor of the planetarium is completely interior, cut off from any perception of the outside world, but through the use of immense size and reflective surfaces, infinite. Architectural surface creates an expansive volume, through which the visitor explores, encountering information displays that constantly changes in the completely open plan. From the individual this floor can be experienced as a collective; with no defined partitions visitors encounter the exhibit material but others as well.
From the main floor a central interwoven double circular stair brings the visitor to a moment where they are alone again, but this time in a direct encounter with a view of the vastness of space beyond. Instead of relying on project this convex dish obscures views of anything put the sky above.
After experiencing isolation, the infinite, and the real photons of the skies above, the upper level is a surface of natural leisure where guests can observe both the skies above and the world below.