The Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium in Montreal is an architectural delight. Completed in 2013 at a cost of $48 million dollars, it includes two 18 metre domes, a café as well as an exhibition space.
It is located in the Espace pour la Vie (Space for Life) next to the Montreal Olympic Stadium. The Space for Life also includes the Biodome, Botanical Gardens and Insectarium.
Beautifully designed on the outside, it is also looks beautiful on the inside. Throughout the building the architects make great use of contrasting materials, wood, metal and stone. The use of light and dark materials intentionally references the contrast between night and day.
One of the domes has no seating, and simply makes use of a mass of bean bags in the middle of the room. For less agile people they have also provided some seating at the edge of the dome. The second dome has concentric seating and can accommodate 198 people.
Interestingly, an audience will usually see a show in the first dome, and when that has finished they will see another show in the second dome. We saw ‘Dark Universe’ in the first dome, and then this was followed by a realtime show on Pluto in the second dome.
The planetarium, alternates two programs. Their scientific program (as described above) as well as an artistic program, which includes ‘Vertiges- Once upon a time’, and ‘Tempo – The Celestial Dance of Time’. Unfortunately, I did not manage to see this second program.
The Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium is a beautiful modern facility, and it is fantastic to see how inspiring good architecture can make a space so inviting.