To design the galleries, Mr. Gehry helped recruit fellow Canadian Bruce Mau, founder of Bruce Mau Design and co-founder of the Massive Change Network. The main objective, said Mr. Cucalón, is to “reconnect the visitor with the wonder of what we experience every day”.
Visitors are greeted by a stained glass window 26 feet high by 45 feet wide illustrating biodiversity and the state of the environment. To show the natural wonders of Panama in the “Panaramama” multimedia gallery, 10 screens recreate experiences like swimming with a whale, traveling in the forest canopy and witnessing extreme thunderstorms. In “Building the Bridge”, three rock formations 45 feet high explain the creation of the isthmus.
In “Worlds Collide,” which captures the moment of Panama’s formation, two sculptural groups of large animals rush towards each other, illustrating their migration from one continent to another.
What can people learn from this exchange? On the one hand, southern species have struggled to adapt to colder climates. Anthony G. Coates, a Smithsonian scientist who worked on the Biomuseo, wrote that “today over 60 percent of mammal species in South America are derived from northern forms. However, only three southern species have survived in North America (the opossum, armadillo, and hedgehog) although some species, such as the capybara, still migrate north today.
Few experts in natural history, outside of Panama, have yet seen the Biomuseo. But Jane Goodall, the British primatologist renowned for her work with chimpanzees, visited three times before the opening and left a video statement saying she was “very, very impressed” and called it “a wonderful place. to learn about Panama’s fascinating geology, natural history and diverse cultures.
Panama relies heavily on the Biomuseo, which officials hope will be an economic engine, attracting foreign tourists as well as Panamanians. It cost $ 60 million, up from an initial estimate of $ 40 million, and the total budget for everything, including educational programs, is almost double. Margot Lopez, a spokesperson, said that “this far exceeds any other investment in culture in Panama.” Of the $ 115 million price tag, $ 15 million remains to be raised.
And the last three galleries containing aquariums also need to be completed. Mr. Cucalón expects them to be completed within 18 months.