Punta Culebra Marine Exhibition Center
“This project reflects the collaborative work of an interdisciplinary team of people supported by the business community. These beautiful installations represent a significant contribution to the environmental education of Panamanians and foreigners alike. We are very pleased to be able to contribute our grain of sand to Panama, a country with whom we have maintained a friendly relationship for over 100 years.”
Dr. Eldredge Bermingham -
The Punta Culebra Marine Exhibition Center is a 3 hectare marine exhibition and educational facility located on Isla Culebra, in Amador, at the southern entrance to the Panama Canal. The center is operated by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) with support from the Smithsonian Foundation and private and corporate national and international donors. Although its primary mission includes education in the field of marine sciences and the conservation and interpretation of coastal marine ecosystems of Panama and the Central American region, it endeavors specifically to show how scientific discoveries enhance our comprehension and deepen our appreciation of the natural world. Since its inauguration in 1996, more than 700,000 students have visited the center.
In 2005 ENSITU, S.A. was invited by STRI to undertake a diagnostic of the center as a preliminary step towards the development of a set of new architectural and landscape design guidelines for the exhibit infrastructure which had been developed in a heterogeneous process over the preceding ten years. In the first phase of the project we developed a diagnostic of existing facilities and infrastructure and a master plan for new educational and investigative facilities, including a new entrance, offices, aquariums, a turtle pool, a touch pool and a viewing tower. In the second phase the new entrance and a set of three touch pools were built. These pools contain invertebrate marine organisms, coastal fish species, rays and mangroves which can be found in the surrounding marine ecosystems, all organized so as to make this coexistence of species apparent.
Given that education and environmental conservation are the central missions of the center, we felt that it was important that the structure act as a mediating space that would help visitors understand the interconnection between the marine organisms that they find literally at their fingertips and the ocean before them.