MONTREAL - Like a giant Meccano set, Montreal’s new planetarium is rising next to the Olympic Stadium. Aluminium skeletons arc against the sky in odd shapes that will soon become showcases for the cosmos.
Given the grand theme, it seems fitting that those in charge of the nascent $48-million facility have sky-high expectations for it when it opens in spring 2013.
“It will be the most avant-garde, audacious planetarium on the planet,” said Charles-Mathieu Brunelle, director of Montreal’s Space for Life, comprising the Planetarium, Biodome, Insectarium and Botanical Gardens.
The Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, as it will be known, will debut with a multimedia show created by Quebec artistic producers Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon.
“There’s nobody else in the world that has their level of artistic quality in terms for planetarium shows,” Brunelle said as he gave journalists a tour of the busy construction site.
The builders have also set the bar high when it comes to the eco-friendly rating of the structure. It is being built to attain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum status, awarded by the Canada Green Building Council.
The three-level building will have lots of natural light inside, a green roof to absorb heat and moisture, the most energy-efficient equipment available, a rain-water recycling system and it will use geothermal energy from deep underground.
“It’s very challenging but also a really stimulating job,” said France Beaulieu, the project’s chief engineer.
The two domed theatres, both 18 metres in diameter, have cone-like shells, but they will be on different angles, she noted.
“We had to figure out how to build this very complex, geometric structure right in the middle of a busy site that is still open, receiving more than a million visitors a year,” Beaulieu said, referring to the campus that includes the Biodome and the stadium.
The job was divided into 14 structural areas, and Beaulieu said crews are about to start on the 14th. That will involve demolishing part of the roof of an underground parking garage and transforming it into a sky-lit subterranean garden in a new basement-level welcoming area linking the planetarium with the Biodome.
The demolished concrete will be sent to a recycling facility to be crushed and re-used in another construction job. Many of the garage’s existing pillars are being used in the new planetarium – another LEED notion.
Pierre Lacombe, the Planetarium’s director, proudly pointed to an area that will be an astrobiology exhibit room, with interactive displays and room for all the planetarium’s collection of 250 meteor rocks.
“There will be a laboratory over there for those who want to study meteors,” Lacombe said. “There are amino acids in some of those rocks. It’s a nice way to see life that came from space.”..................................................................I like the old one(jmho) .Cheers ! HF&RV - Les