Biodiversity Museum in Panama Frank Gehry
Biodiversity Museum in Panama – or how Frank Gehry proves again that being afraid is something you do not do if you want to be one of the world’s architects.
The museum’s site tells us its official story: “The building was designed to tell the story of how the isthmus of Panama rose from the sea, uniting two continents, separating a vast ocean in two, and changing the planet’s biodiversity forever”, and that the construction has “4,000 square meters which contain eight permanent exhibition galleries designed by Bruce Mau Design”. The exhibitions will be mainly led by the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Panama, and will “focus on Panama’s biodiversity” .
The museum is a wonderful testimony to what architecture should be today. We have incredible digital and manufacturing tools, yet we seem too scared to take advantage of them. We have become afraid of color, ornament or shape created just for the sake of beauty, that we sometimes come to limit ourselves. The building is definitely an inside into the Panamanian soul, since Gehry’s wife, Berta Gehry Aguilera, was born in Panama. At first, the museum may seem somewhat kitsch – but in my opinion it is reminiscent of works from architectural artists such as Friedensreich Hundertwasser or Antoni Gaudi. By making this comparison, I refer to the fact that their work might seem extreme – but when looking at buildings like these, we have to think of one thing: contextualization. What is architecture if not the defining element of its surroundings and the testimony of a city’s vibe? Probably Frank Gehry’s Museum of Biodiversity would be very strange in Copenhagen or Vilnius, with its overlapping shapes, change of angle, undulating roofs and bright colors. But in Latin America, what could be more appropriate?
The buildings is also wonderfully taking advantage of the country’s warm climate by having a surrounding botanical park and an outdoor atrium as the main piece of focus for his design. Located at the entrance to the Panama Canal, the museum offers panoramic view towards the ocean, but also towards the old town, bringing together the many sides of the city.
The museum will hopefully create a new social and culturally focus point for Panama, as Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum created for Bilbao, and it is another testament of Frank Gehry’s intelligent use of form and materials to create innovative structures.