THE BRIDGE OF LIFE

Panama 2014 | TOURISM | FOCUS: MUSEO DE LA DIVERSIDAD

Art and science merge to showcase Panama's biodiversity, and to host the country's major cultural events.

Situated at the entranceto the Panama Canal in the Pacific Ocean, on the Amador Causeway, the new Museo de la Diversidad, known as BioMuseo, is the first building in Latin America designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, famous for sights such as the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

Overlooking the skyline of modern Panama, the Old Town, and the Bridge of the Americas, the colorful design reflects Panama's tropical environment. Its bright red, green, blue, orange, and yellow perspectives are signature to this iconic structure that can easily be noticed from the Bridge of the Americas, or even from the numerous cruise ships arriving in the city. Over its 4,000 sqm expanse, BioMuseo explores the isthmus and the wide range of species in the region. There are eight galleries featuring different aspects of Panama's history and geography. Outdoor exhibits will be hosted in the 2.4 hectare botanical park surrounding the building, and the complex also features a shop, a public atrium, and a café.

This $60 million project opened its doors in October 2014, almost 10 years after construction works began, with the purpose of changing the perception of the environment, and to explore Panama's history presented as a “Bridge of Life" between North and South America. This bridge refers to the fact that until a shifting of tectonic plates created the isthmus, there was nothing but water between the two continents.

In an interview with TBY, Victor Cucalón Imbert, BioMuseo's Executive Director, explained the importance of the isthmus in terms of biodiversity on the American continents; creating a divergence of animals between the two Americas. And this is the theme at BioMuseo, an important project both in terms of education and culture for the country.

Panama's excellent flight connections, and attractions like the canal, the Old Town, and other exotic paradisiacal areas such as Bocas del Toro and San Blas, combined with the safety the country offers, among others, are the drivers of growth in the number of visitors. According to Cucalón, the museum will complement the existing offering, “On one hand, there is significant information available on the country, and on the other we can show and tell the history of the isthmus and how it has changed the world," he added.

BioMuseo is the only museum beyond the US that is affiliated to the Smithsonian Institution, responsible for a vast percentage of scientific discoveries, and it is expected to host between 400,000 and 450,000 visitors during its first year.