Studio Emergence proposes an astronomy inspired planetarium in south India

The Mumbai-based practice used the recently-caught images of the Black Hole by NASA as a reference to create the abstract yet geometric structure in Visakhapatnam.

by Devanshi ShahPublished on : Jan 26, 2022

When one considers the scope and function of a public building, we restrict ourselves to thinking of utilitarian and cultural spaces. We forget the immense value of public educational spaces such as science museums, zoological estates, aquariums and planetariums. As an architectural typology, these public spaces have an incredible potential not only programmatically but also as an architectonic form. Studio Emergence, a Mumbai-based parametric architecture studio, has proposed a planetarium whose overall form is inspired by the planets themselves. The Visakhapatnam Planetarium, a project spearheaded by VMRDA, Government of Andhra Pradesh, is a confluence of technologically driven design processes and aesthetically intriguing architectural forms. Sitting on top of the Kailasagiri Hilltop Park, the proposal embeds itself within the eco-tourism development spread across 380 acres.

The proposed design of the planetarium is inspired by the planets themselves | Hybrid Planetarium by Studio Emergence | STIRworld
The proposed design of the planetarium is inspired by the planets themselves Image: Courtesy of Studio Emergence

Part of the 'science city initiative', the project is part of the governing bodies effort to create edutainment (a portmanteau of education and entertainment) centres for the children. Incorporating a theme that is 'inspired from the past' and 'advancing towards the future', the Hybrid Planetarium has all the elements to formulate a contemporary and distinct architectural silhouette.

Rendering of  the interior of the Inner Ring | Hybrid Planetarium by Studio Emergence | STIRworld
Rendering of the interior of the Inner Ring Image: Courtesy of Studio Emergence

A cursory review of the proposed design, which is currently processing tenders, reveals the influence of architects such as Zaha Hadid who used biomorphic geometries and digital fabrication to create structures that do not look like they belong to this world. In addition to biomimicry, and the principle of aero-dynamicity, Studio Emergence looked into various studies related to astronomy. Intrigued by the unpredictable nature of black holes the studio used the recently-caught images of the Black Hole by NASA as a reference to create the abstract yet geometric morphology of the structure.

Rendering of the inner lobby | Hybrid Planetarium by Studio Emergence | STIRworld
Rendering of the inner lobby Image: Courtesy of Studio Emergence

Using parametric and computational design the studio abstracted the image and optimised the infrastructure. The design consists of four major structural segments; an external ramp connecting the entrance, the outer ring, the inner ring, and the dome. Akin to how we visualise the planet Saturn, the ramp and ring sections come together to create a dynamic and fluid exterior frame. The dome is meant to replicate the glowing doughnut-shape of the black hole. The exterior lighting design will see the surface of the dome graphically representing celestial bodies. The outer curvilinear ring wraps around the structure and is an abstraction of the dust and gas orbiting the black hole.

Rendering of the gallery space | Hybrid Planetarium by Studio Emergence | STIRworld
Rendering of the gallery space Image: Courtesy of Studio Emergence

As one walks through the ramp, one would enter the upper level of the Planetarium Inner ring, which houses the main Celestial Lobby and Planetarium Dome. On the lower level, the astronomy and physics experiment gallery takes patrons through a more playful section. The interior spaces throughout the planetarium take their cue from the outer form of the building. Ancillary spaces such as the cafeteria, exhibition spaces, administration offices, astronomy club, and library are designed keeping in mind the circulation patterns, proximities, and accessibility.

Rendering of proposed installations | Hybrid Planetarium by Studio Emergence | STIRworld
Rendering of proposed installations Image: Courtesy of Studio Emergence

Keeping in mind the structure’s location, which is a cyclone-prone zone, the geometry and aerodynamics properties are moulded in a very specific layout. After undertaking an intense study of the wind patterns and daylight analysis, the studio created an optimised design solution that responds to a sensitive environment. Geodesic dome roofs or buildings have low drag coefficients and can withstand higher wind forces than a square building of the same area. Openings have been strategically placed on the outer ring of the structure and act as conduits for air movement and reduce the wind stresses on the structure. Rings of skylight have been provided in the design to maximise the amount of daylight entering the public space, also utilising less electricity throughout the day.

Rendering of the playful installation inside the planetarium | Hybrid Planetarium by Studio Emergence | STIRworld
Rendering of the playful installation inside the planetarium Image: Courtesy of Studio Emergence

In a joint statement, co-founder Khushbu Davda and Seeja Sudhakaran say, “As the architectural landscape of India is growing and evolving, we at Studio Emergence believe in a vision that’s different, bold, yet intuitive. We believe architecture, when amalgamated with context and technology ethically, can synergise built spaces with nature and inspire experiences that reconnect us to our roots.” They worked in a collaboration with the National Council of Science Museums (NSCM), AP Urban Infrastructure, Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) Mumbai, and Visakhapatnam Metropolitan Region Development Authority (VMRDA) to ensure the proposed design is structurally stable. The project is slated to begin construction soon.

Render of the exterior and interior view of the dome | Hybrid Planetarium by Studio Emergence | STIRworld
Render of the exterior and interior view of the dome Image: Courtesy of Studio Emergence

Project Details

Name: Hybrid Planetarium
Location: Andhra Pradesh, India
Architect: Studio Emergence
Structural Engineer: Gloentech Private Limited
Detailed Project Report: Creative Museum Designers, NCSM Kolkata
Status: Tender Stage

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