Space travel may still be out of reach for most of us, but exploring the cosmos in all its visual glory just became possible in Montreal at the city’s brand new, high-tech Planetarium….
The silver, shining Planetarium sits right next door to the bustling Biodome, where visitors walk through diverse, lively ecosystems of animals and plants – the two buildings, in appearance and content, might seem like different worlds, one of space, one of earth, but they have much in common.
“What we’re doing here is really connecting people to nature, exploring the position of human kind in nature through not only science but through emotion and experience so that people fall in love with nature and protect it,” says Charles-Mathieu Brunelle, General Director of Space for Life, the group of science and nature-focused attractions comprised of the new Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, the Biodome, the Insectarium and the Botanical Gardens.
The Planetarium’s main attractions are its two high-tech domed theatres, where the many facets of our universe come into clearer focus. The Milky Way Theatre is classic Planetarium fare with the latest high-tech, optomechanical twists, able to reproduce the night sky as it is above Montreal or anywhere else in the world at any time – thankfully, an astronomer is there to narrate us through the complexity.
The Chaos Theatre adds a more creative element to the Planetarium experience, with its bean-bag and Adirondack chairs and pitch-black, high-shine floor. For the next year, visitors can sit back and travel through the cosmos via immersive audio-visual, digital-projection creation Continuum, created by artists Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon and featuring the symphonic music of Philip Glass. Add to that the permanent interactive exhibition, Exo, which includes an investigation of life on Earth as well as a collection of meteorites, and the Planetarium is a complete educational-entertainment experience.
The building itself is pleasing to the senses too, with curving corridors, high-ceilinged darkened theatres and bright open spaces. From outside, its mirrored surfaces seem to blend in with the sky, whatever the weather. Designed to the highest sustainable-building LEED certification, the Planetarium is based on the concept of low-energy use, making great use of natural light, grey water in the bathrooms, and building with a focus on reused, recycled and locally sourced materials.
By late spring, we’ll even have a chance to lay on the building’s green roof and look at the real stars too. “Connecting humankind to nature is important to us and we want to do it wholeheartedly in every way we do it,” says Brunelle. “When people come to see the performances and the shows, if they come out with this emotional bond with nature, we will have done our job.”
Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, opening April 6, 2013
4801 Pierre-De Coubertin Avenue, (514) 872-4530