Liberty Science Center: Designing the largest planetarium in the Western Hemisphere
Liberty Science Centre
At the Liberty Science Center (LSC) in the state of New Jersey lies the largest and most technologically advanced planetarium in the Western Hemisphere. This 27-metre dome-shaped theatre contains a high-quality 88-million-pixel resolution screen, a projection system that can produce trillions of colors and sounds. Universally accessible to all guests, the theatre educates and informs audiences from across the continent about the wonders of the cosmos and the mysteries of space.
With the lofty ambition of becoming the largest planetarium in North American, LSC chose us because of our expertise in designing planetariums all over the world.
Our challenge was to take the existing traditional dome theatre, assess the needed renovations, then convert the space to accommodate a state-of-the-art projection and sound system. Like most traditional theatres, the projection system was in the middle of the theatre. Our charge was to completely modernize the space and incorporate 11 LED laser projectors around the theatre’s periphery, so the audience truly felt like they were flying through space.
The team needed to soften the space, create more accessibility, and ensure all of this met stringent state code requirements. All of this required major adjustments to the 400-person theatre, without compromising the number of audience seats.
It’s incredibly challenging to introduce new enhanced technology into buildings whose infrastructure was designed to accommodate technologies now outdated. This requires experience. And that experience is why planetarium-related institutions from around the globe are calling us.”
Our Arts & Culture Team began by focusing on the functional requirements for the space. Our team collaborated closely with the projection equipment suppliers Evans & Sutherland. We used our in-between thinking to create the perfect environment to accommodate seven projectors at the back of the theatre and four at the front.
We also worked to ensure the planetarium was able to accommodate differently abled groups by designing features for hearing accessibility and mobility assistance.
We spent as much time as possible focusing on the experience we wanted to create for guests of the planetarium. For this project, we let the equipment drive the architecture of the space.
Kasian worked very closely with us to integrate our projection systems into the building’s existing infrastructure. The results speak for themselves. The planetarium is an unrivalled success, thanks in large part, to the collaborative spirit taken by all involved.”
Executive VP & GM, E&S
Our team carved into the structure of the building in four separate places to properly place the projectors. This was a significantly complex structural event requiring careful collaboration with engineers. We created special rooms that held the projectors back behind the screen dome and angled the projectors in a way that did not disrupt the audience’s experience.
To create some additional magic, we cleaned up the area behind the dome and installed perforated metal to amplify the somatic wonder of the theatre’s visceral stimuli. Intricate lighting highlights the speakers to allow the audience a ‘behind the scenes’ peak into the dome. We also invested in enhanced ventilation systems, so cool air passes through the dome’s metal to the seats below.
We designed long-lasting infrastructure, a front stage, and multiple barrier-free environments to maximize accessibility – filling the most valuable piece of real estate (the centre of the theatre) with comfortable, dark-coloured seating for guests instead of projectors.
We are proud to have worked with multiple suppliers and specialists to create a cohesive team for this project.
Recently named one of the ‘Best Science Museums in the U.S.’ by
USA Today, the Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium is the biggest and best experiential planetarium experience in North America. LSC boasts over 600,000 visitors annually and is one of the most visited cultural spaces in the metropolitan area.
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