Love it or hate it – Biomuseo Panama makes an impression

by Darren
Love it or hate it

This biodiversity museum features bright colours and a messy, asymmetric roof profile.


A weird and wonderful architectural icon, the Biomuseo in Panama easily catches the eye with its bright colours and messy, asymmetric roof profile, visible far across the Amador Causeway, the entrance to the Panama Canal in the Pacific Ocean.

Potentially a very important tourist attraction that could help to bring visitors and international investment to Panama, the museum’s founders wanted a unique structure that would attract attention and create a landmark, something that contemporary architect Frank Gehry was perfect for. The bold design reflects the typical outgoing and spontaneous culture of Panama.

The intention of this biodiversity museum is to depict how the Isthmus of Panama, the narrow strip of land that lies between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, changed the earth’s history. The story goes that three million years ago, Isthmus rose from the see, uniting North and South America and dividing the ocean in two, creating the climate and biodiversity of today.

Because of its interesting history and great variety and concentration of biological species, Panama has become a laboratory for the study of the evolution of life, and the Biomusea will attempt to play a role in how the environment is understood and conserved.

The 4 000m² concrete and steel museum comprises eight permanent exhibition galleries, which were designed by Bruce Mau Design to transform visitors’ usual experience of visiting a museum exhibition by conveying scientific ideas in an artistic way. Each gallery pavilion is supported by an elaborate, exposed steel structure and covered by a brightly coloured roof.

In addition, the museum includes a public atrium with a broad staircase, a space for temporary exhibitions, a shop, café and outdoor exhibits in a botanical park that was designed by landscape designer Edwina von Gal.

The exterior building finishes involved plaster over concrete, a local craft that is commonly used in construction across the city. To further match the outrageous design with the local environment, the rain screen system took its inspiration from the shed-like structures typical of Panama City, protecting the interior areas from wind-driven rain while allowing for cross-ventilation.

Endorsed by the Amador Foundation, a non-profit organisation promoting tropical biodiversity, the government of Panama and with scientific support from the Smithsonian Institute and the University of Panama, Biomuseo plans to have a profound impact on education, primarily in subjects related to biodiversity.

Full acknowledgement and thanks are given to www.biomuseopanama.org and www.archdaily.com for the information given to write this article.

How inventive architecture presents local identity
Design elements inspired by the environment:
– Bright colours and unusual geometry – spontaneous culture.
– Extravagant galleries – rich biodiversity.
– Rain screen system – shed-like city structures.
– Concrete and plaster – local building craft.

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