07.11.2014 Annika Schröck

Species diversity and a welter of colour: The BioMuseo in Panama

Foto: Fernando Alda

Panama, a country with barely 3.6 million inhabitants, has more mammal and reptile species than Canada and the United States put together. A  science museum enveloped in a spectacular and colourful multi-panel roof opened in Panama City on 2 October 2014 to showcase the unique diversity of the Panamanian eco-system, and as such is Frank Gehry's first project in Latin America.

Architect: Gehry Partners, Los Angeles
Location: Calzada de Amador, Ciudad de Panamà
The museum, the result of a collaborative effort between the Smithsonian Institution, the Amador Foundation of Panama and Panama City Council, has come about on the Amador causeway. Not only the building but also its location are spectacular, offering views of the skyline and bay of Panama City on one side and the Pacific Ocean and the entrance to the Panama Canal on the other. 
The centrepiece of the BioMuseo is formed by a public outdoor atrium that is covered by an imposing steel structure with brightly coloured metal canopies in reference to the colourful buildings and tin roofs of the vernacular architecture of Caribbean homes. At the same time the canopy solution offers protection from Panama's copious downpours. The central atrium is surrounded by freely-accessible areas, such as a museum store, a café and a space for temporary exhibitions, and also connects the two wings where the main exhibitions are shown. 
A permanent installation titled 'Bridge of Life' and five of the planned eight display galleries show how the Central American isthmus came about three million years ago and how it has developed since. A multi-media exhibition produced in collaboration with Canadian interior architect and designer Bruce Mau enables visitors to experience immersive installations on Panamanian species diversity and related wonders. 
The Biodiversity Park, which is also accessible for local residents, extends the exhibition into the surrounding landscape, with stations scattered through the park showcasing the connections and correlations between the country's flora and fauna.
Project data

Client: Fundacion Amador, Maria del Pinar Arosemena de Alemán (Präsident)
Exhibition design: Bruce Mau Design
Area: building: 4,100 m², biodiversity park: 2.4 hectares
Begin of planning phase: 2000
Start of construction works: August 2006
Inauguration: 2 Oktober 2014
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