Saucier + Perrotte's design for new Planetarium has Montreal seeing stars
Suspended between two worlds – one at a cosmic scale of space and the stars, and the other close to the Earth (the microcosm in which we find humankind) – the new Planetarium begins to materialise. It transports visitors to another place, inviting them to discover a snapshot in the formation of matter, a narrative of substance taking shape, in a state of flux from rough to precious. In a time rooted neither in the present nor the future, we discover this matter in transformation, perforated and distorted – architecture as a symbol of perpetual mutation.
Inspired by changing matter, the Planetarium presents to its visitors a glimpse into the varying states of matter in space. At the climax of the tour, they can observe the transformations of the planets taking place. This matter – a dense, dark object that becomes the architecture – provides the visitors with a totally immersive, sensitive and emotional experience that offers insight into the astronomical phenomena of our universe.
The sun at the centre of this metaphorical galaxy is Theatre No.1. The light which shines from it creates a signal, or beacon, from Pierre de Coubertin Avenue. At the heart of the project, this bright element structures the overall planning of the Planetarium. The public spaces of the Main Hall put the visitors at the centre of this system and immerse them in a world of discovery, contemplation and knowledge.
The dark and dense matter, disconnected from the ground, shapes the interior spaces while concealing all the technical and structural elements in its thickness. The volume contains the Planetarium’s scenographic system. Inside its upheaval, the transforming matter of the building reveals the main museological elements: the two large theatres appear as orbs encrusted in the matter; the smaller spherical elements are used to describe the spaces and exhibits, provide directions, and define gathering spaces for visitors. Light enters the interior spaces by means of dramatic light wells and through unique perforated black planes, reminiscent of cratered surfaces. The distorted outer skin of folding embossed aluminum appears to be constantly in transition as visitors and passersby move around the object.
The new Planetarium functionally considers all the programmatic needs of the client, but strives to break the mould of what traditional planetariums have been over the years. Designed in accordance with principles of sustainability, the building meaningfully connects to and emerges from its site, positioning itself as a discrete architectural element firmly rooted in the heart of the touristic and scientific de Maisonneuve district of Montreal. Conscious of the important role it has to play in its context, the architecture respects its relationship with the other elements on the site, such as the Biodome and the Olympic Stadium. Its strategic position and shape allow it to become a complementary contemporary landmark, further forging the identity of this major museum area.