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Rose Center for Earth and Space
Ennead Architects

July 23, 2012 /

New York, New York, USA

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Within the existing footprint of the Museum of Natural History, the Hayden Planetarium was replaced with the Rose Center for Earth and Space, and facilities along the museum's north side were enhanced for additional exhibitions, educational programs, and visitor amenities.

James Stewart Polshek describes the design concept for the Rose Center as a "cosmic cathedral," in which the spatial experience would awe and inspire visitors with an understanding of the wonders of our universe and the power of scientific inquiry, "in much the same way that the monumental spaces of medieval cathedrals inspired visiting pilgrims.

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The centerpiece of the Rose Center is a 2,000 ton sphere that houses the Hayden Planetarium.  The iconic sphere, housed within a 95 foot high cube of suspended glass, contains a state-of-the-art planetarium and "Big Bang" theater, whose program describes the origins of the universe.

The arched entrance way has the same radius as the sphere: forty-three-and-a-half feet.  Adjacent to the planetarium structure is a parking structure for 300 vehicles topped with a planted terrace and upper level access to the planetarium.

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The lowest level of the Rose Center contains the Cullman Hall of the Universe where a thematically linked sequence of exhibits reunites the new building with the old and heightens the public's understanding of the importance of astronomy and its connection to the other natural sciences.

The exhibits, designed by Ralph Appelbaum Associates in collaboration with museum scientists, educators, and exhibition designers, is very high-tech, with video screens,   buttons, blinking lights, and sound effects. Above the Cullman Hall the sphere seems to be floating in space surrounded by planets and satellites.

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The  87-foot-diameter sphere, clad in white aluminum panels, is supported by three pairs of 60 foot long tapered steel legs. The legs also anchor a spiralling ramp that connects one of the theaters inside the globe to the first level of the building.

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Traditional columns have been replaced by two-way roof trusses and unique wall trusses that support the glass curtain walls.

The suspended glass curtain wall, entirely tension supported, is among the first of its magnitude to be built in the United States.  A vertical and horizontal tension truss system holds the 736 individual panes of glass in place.

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The Rose Center is designed to be experienced from the top down with the the best view of the space from the bridge where you exit the Space Theater.  In the 429-seat  Space Theater, located in the top of the sphere, visitors are taken on a tour of the known universe, rendered as accurately as possible with data from such sources as NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratories and Hubble Space Telescope.

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The Big Bang Theater is contained in the lower part of the sphere.  Here visitors stand around a circular screen  in the floor with representations of the origin, expansion and cooling of the universe as a clock counts up from the beginning of time. From the Big Bang Theater the Heilbrunn Cosmic Pathway, a spiralling ramp that encircles the lower portion of the planetarium, is imprinted with the history of the universe, laid out in linear precision, from the "Big Bang" until today.

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Other project elements are the new Columbus Avenue entrance, expanded restaurant and retail facilities and an educational resource center. A glass enclosed walkway connects the Columbus Avenue entrance with the Planetarium.

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Facts about Rose Center for Earth and Space

Total area:

335,000 ft2

Client:

American Museum of Natural History

Last updated: December 19, 2013

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