Already famous as the city “2,700 meters closer to the stars,” Bogotá moved a little closer to the heavens last month with the reopening of a completely renovated planetarium. With more than $16 billion pesos invested by the District Arts Institute (Idartes) in improvements, including the addition of a new museum and updated technology, Bogotanos and visitors alike can enjoy a cutting-edge window to the cosmos.
After five years of construction, the iconic building in the heart of the city center offers a truly “otherworldly” experience, as the planetarium becomes the fifth in the world to boast Nanoseam screen technology, which eliminates visible borders between panels, and a digital PowerDome projection system designed especially for large-format screenings.
Other notable attractions include the Space Museum, which takes visitors on a tour of the known universe, the Astroteca, a space-themed public library and a kids’ area where workshops and activities will be held on a regular basis. A rooftop terrace, which provides a 360 degree view of the surrounding area including the Carrera Septíma and Parque de la Independencia, will also be reopened and will host stargazing sessions for amateur astronomers throughout the year.
The museum, in addition to the typical photos of distant galaxies and replicas of the first telescopes, provides a distinctly Colombian touch in chronicling the astronomical knowledge and philosophies of indigenous groups such as the Wayúu and Muiscas.
Providing a decidedly modern architectural counterpoint to the imposing colonial walls of neighboring Museo Nacional, the 43-year-old Bogotá landmark was originally opened just months after the Apollo 11 mission landed on the moon, a moment in which much of the world’s attention and curiosity was turned to the stars.
Funded by a loan from the Banco Cafetero, an agricultural bank supporting Colombia’s coffee industry, the spiral-shaped building, vaguely reminiscent of a flying saucer, was completed in just 18 months and boasted an advanced Zeiss projector that was utilized until the planetarium was closed for renovations in 2008. Architectural firm Pizano, Pradilla and Caro created the building’s design and would later assist in the planning and construction of the city’s tallest building, the Torre Colpatria, along with partner firm Obregón, Valenzuela and Cia Ltda.
Given the central location and versatile space of the planetarium, several fledgling museums and cultural institutions, including the Bogotá Modern Art Museum and the Cinemateca Distrital, called the building home until later moving to dedicated locations.
As a nursery for new cultural organizations, a symbolic reminder of the early days of the Space Age and an introduction for thousands of Bogotanos to the universe beyond the glow of city lights, the planetarium lives up to its slogan, offering “much more than just stars.”