Panama’s Biomuseum Set To Open

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Panama’s Biomuseo, designed by renowned Canadian architect Frank Gehry, is set to open Oct. 2. Before the public opening, a ceremonial dedication takes place Sept. 30.

The colorful 44,132-square-foot building’s opening is long overdue. Construction began in 2005 but has been delayed by government funding issues. The US$100 million project is a partnership between the nonprofit Amador Foundation (a foundation created by residents of Panama), the government of Panama, and the Smithsonian Institution.

The building is afforded views of the Bay of Panama and the Panama Canal. Its design is unique, with a roof of colorful metal canopies that can be seen from miles away. The jagged appearance of the canopies represents Panama’s rising out of the sea to connect the North and South American continents 3 million years ago. While the use of free-flowing shapes is reminiscent of Gehry’s style, much like the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain, the use of bright colors contrasts his regular approach of using metallic colors.

The biomuseum seeks to raise awareness about Panama’s natural environment and its cultural history. Permanent exhibitions will focus on the origins and biodiversity of Panama’s isthmus. The outdoor space includes a 6-acre park that features exotic plants and some observation areas. The biomuseum will feature a total of eight galleries as well as a shop and a cafe.

Local schools will benefit from the biomuseum, with an expected 40,000 students visiting per year. Furthermore, the museum will help train science teachers.

The biomuseum is the first of its kind in Central America.

“This has been a very personal project for me. I feel close ties to the people of Panama, and I believe strongly that we should all be trying to conserve biodiversity, which is threatened everywhere. I hope that the design by our team at Gehry Partners, and by my friend and colleague Bruce Mau, will make a real contribution toward the success of the important work of the Biomuseo,” Gehry has stated.

Vanity Fair magazine labelled Gehry “the most important architect of our age” in 2010, and in 1989 he received the coveted Pritzker Architecture Prize. Gehry holds 17 honorary doctorates from a range of universities, including Southern California Institute of Architecture, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and the Univeristy of Toronto.

Gehry himself will not be in attendance for the opening due to a schedule conflict.

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