This weekend, Design Montréal celebrates the creativity, ingenuity and inspiration of the designers and architects who make Montréal more beautiful. The Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, which officially opened last month, will be a part of it! Several teams of complementary talent and vision contributed to making this signature building unique, bold and distinctive, with its sun-drenched spaces, its curves inspired by planets and its noble materials evoking its connection with nature. Every detail in the theatres has been designed to make the experience as immersive as possible, while the exhibition offers a playful approach to astronomy that can be appreciated by both young and old. Meanwhile, the green roof is already attracting visitors, who stop by for a minute or two to bask in the few rays of sun available in this sluggish spring.
Architects inspired by nature
While the building consists of two aluminum cones pointing skywards like telescopes scouring the Universe, the initial inspiration for the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium was the feeling of stargazing, sprawled in the grass on a warm summer night. The consortium Cardin Ramirez Julien + Aedifica, which won the international architecture competition, has incorprated nature both inside and outside the building, which is in the process of qualifying for LEED Platinum certification.
A green roof accessible to the public, an inner courtyard and a great many trees bring a more natural character to the site, which previously held warehouses. The trees, great for sitting under, are grouped into islands (or planets, if you prefer) on the Planetarium’s piazza.
Bright and illuminated
The orientation of the windows brings sunlight onto every storey, for the benefit of both employees and the public. The artificial lighting also deserves visitors’ attention. When they look up to the ceiling, the lighting adds an artistic touch to the reception hall and utilitarian rooms such as the group dining room. Even taking the elevator becomes a cosmic experience as it evokes the night sky.
Technology enhancing the theatre experience
In the Milky Way Theatre, details such as the deeply reclining seats and the flat, raised floor allow spectators to be at horizon level, setting Montréal’s Planetarium apart; it really feels like you are in the middle of a field with nothing but the starry sky above! The theatre’s ventilation and acoustics also meet very specific criteria in order to make the immersion all the more impressive.
Reproducing a starry sky or creating the impression of wandering through the Universe requires technology that must be adapted to the particular needs of each planetarium. The challenge is all the greater in the Milky Way Theatre, as two projection systems are combined to offer the scientific interpreter more latitude and create an even more complete experience. For instance, the opto-mechanical system produces a pitch-black sky as seen from Earth, while the digital system makes it possible to travel through space. Most planetariums choose just one of the two models.
An interactive exhibition
The scenographer brings interactive, aesthetic and playful aspects to a wealth of information, some of which is aimed at adults and some at children. Visitors young and old move from one station of the exhibition to the next, discovering the Planetarium’s meteorite collection or exploring the science of life in the Universe. To learn more about the event