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A Planetarium and Observatory for Jackson Hole, Wyoming, USA

The sphere of a planetarium is an icon of both form and function: the platonic solid references the shape of a planet and also expresses the logistics of the instrument that it houses. Moreover, the seamless and smooth nature of the sphere creates the perception of wholeness or infinity. In the traditional planetarium – dating back to the early 20th century – a central projector maps a two-dimensional image of the night sky onto a concave surface. Though fully immersive and awe inspiring, the user is merely a passive participant in a spectacle – fixed within a geocentric perspective of the universe. Therefore, this planetarium for the 21st century transforms the user into an active participant in the experience of space, exploring the universe from multiple centers through an architecture of decentralization and the aid of wearable augmented reality devices wherein the user becomes the viewing instrument.

Mixed or augmented reality devices use geolocational software and environmental sensors to map holograms onto real space. Through the aid of these devices, the architecture of the planetarium can become an active backdrop for the user and device to enhance through direct interaction. No longer bound to a single location, visitors can meander and orbit about 8 main exhibition spaces, oriented in pairs on concealed central axes and proportional to each other based on the Golden Ratio. The former sphere of the planetarium becomes a labyrinth of curved surfaces, meandering pathways, and spiraling colonnades.

The site is located at the base of Yellowstone Park, Grand Teton National Park and the Rocky Mountain Chain in Jackson Hole, Wyoming*. This area is known for its excellent stargazing and outdoor activities, which has made it popular amongst tourists. The building is largely submerged to maintain ideal lighting conditions for the holograms and to create minimal light pollution in the surrounding environment. The roof of the building is an observation deck for stargazing and has penetrations that can house large Zeiss telescopes, coelostats, and solar telescopes.

*There are only 2 planetariums within a 500 mile radius of Jackson Hole, WY: The Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana (230mi) and the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyoming (400mi).