Imagine science itself as an inescapable governing force, hovering over us. It is a presence impossible to avoid, not because of an anthropomorphized, vaguely-sinister intent, but because it is a defining characteristic. The result is an amplification of our awareness of science and of our place in the cosmos – a sense mitigated by our light-polluted cities. What if that awareness could materialize into a physical manifestation?
In the time since Hobbes wrote Leviathan about an idealized world, albeit one ruled by an absolute sovereign, the meaning of the term has evolved. Rarely today is it used to vaguely refer to large sea creatures, but is generally synonymous with power. Not what comes to mind when thinking of a planetarium. But an idealized world with science as sovereign is perhaps less of a stretch.
Our current definition of a planetarium is a moderately-sized hemispherical theater, often attached to a science museum, that replicates the night sky for a thirty-minute show. A somewhat limited and specific scope. What Leviathan proposes is that the idea of the planetarium, as a typology, expands to encompass a broader mission: a beacon for science awareness, education, and literacy with an experiential dimension that offers a variety of types of engagement for different occupants.
Traditional elements are present, but with a greater range of potential interactions with the architecture, from a first-time visitor gaining a new perspective on their home planet to a professional research scientist with a permanent laboratory space. The museum focuses on space exploration, astrophysics and planetary science with interactive exhibits and virtual reality suites for in-person exploration of other planets. Two observation decks offer expansive, uninterrupted views of the sky and world below, with opportunities for reflection and contemplation in what is often a communal experience. The planetarium proper occupies the top of the sphere, utilizing the curvature of the ceiling as a projection surface, but with the option of exposing a transparent ceiling to create a direct connection to the sky.