International Museum of Astronomy

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IMOA - 1408
Aalto University / fi Finland
2 members
Antti Auvinen
Janne Karjalainen

Project type:

Nebulae consists of a main museum building with attached office and workshop spaces, a satellite building for observation purposes, and row villa-type housing since stargazing must take place during the night. The buildings are organized around a central courtyard with an interactive archeo-astronomical garden.

The museum is housed under a wide roof, floating above the desert floor like a solitary cloud. The thin shell touches the ground only very lightly by narrow pillars, reminding the structure of Bedouin tents. Round spatial elements ballooning the roof have the appearance of a group of celestial bodies that have landed in the Atacama desert.

The ground floor of the museum building is reserved for the permanent exhibition. The layout is organized freely around the circular spaces. The lobby is arranged around the atrium with the cafeteria and the museum shop surrounding it. Much of the exhibition space is located in the cool shade of the underground, safe from the harsh conditions of the desert. The underground level is laid out in a completely open flowing space that can be modified with dividing walls. This flexibility is used to stage the visiting temporary exhibitions. Museum storage space is located under the office wing.

The silhouette of the building stays close to the surface to allow the star gazers to enjoy the wide celestial dome of Atacama. The building is open to every direction and allows the visitors to enjoy the awe-inspiring nature of Atacama.

The observation building is a single-storey building which houses modifiable work spaces and classrooms with computers, where visitors can process their photos and learn about amateur astronomy practices. It is possible to both loan a telescope from the museum, or bring your own. The observation spots are on the top of the building, so the actual museum building won’t get in the way (an approximate 5 degrees upwards from the horizon must be in free line of sight). Each spot has a protective dome, electrical outlets and seating.

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