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    Is This the Isthmus? Tour – Panama Part 3

    Tuesday, July 18, 2017
    Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama

    The Biomuseo designed by Frank Gehry in Panama City, Panama.
    The Biomuseo designed by Frank Gehry in Panama City, Panama.

    The Biomuseo in Panama City, Panama.
    The Biomuseo in Panama City, Panama.

    Today, I took a $3.00 taxi cab ride from Luna’s Castle in Casco Viejo a couple of miles over to The Biomuseo, a museum of biodiversity designed by the famous architect Frank Gehry, who is also responsible for such revered unconventional buildings as the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Covered by a slew of wildly skewed, brightly colored sheets, the multi-part roof of the Biomuseo, when viewed from far away or above, looks like a Piet Mondrian plywood explosion.

    The Biomuseo in Panama City, Panama.
    The Biomuseo in Panama City, Panama.

    The museum, which opened in 2014, boasts world class buttery displays that explain the history of the geographic, natural and human history of Panama. The employees / guides, who look like they are still in high school, are super friendly, knowledgeable and helpful. With few–if any–live animals, the museum places a heavy emphasis on audio, video, illustration, painting, sculpture, graphic design, a few fossils and a crap ton of text to make its case.

    Extinct megafauna goes ape shit in the Biomuseo in Panama City, Panama.
    Extinct megafauna goes ape shit in the Biomuseo in Panama City, Panama.

    The first section, the Gallery of Biodiversity, explains the origin of the Panamanian isthmus and its gigantic impact on the entire planet Earth’s biodiversity, oceans and weather. In one of the first displays, an assortment of electronic picture frames display photos of a vast array of diverse life forms that slowly travel from one frame to another. The affect is really striking and modern–sort of like a bunch of giant iPads all linked up. Next to that are a bunch of tiles that are color-coded to represent how various species are endangered, threatened or extinct.

    The Biomuseo in Panama City, Panama.
    The Biomuseo in Panama City, Panama.

    In the next room, everyone sits on the floor in front of numerous large projection screens situated on three surrounding walls and the ceiling as an exciting film called Panamarama shows the staggering array of life forms in Panama cavorting in their natural habitats while it shifts about across the screens in myriad ways. All the while, dramatic music and electronic sound booms underneath like an earthquake.

    Jaws rears his fearsome head at the Biomuseo in Panama City, Panama.
    Jaws rears his fearsome head at the Biomuseo in Panama City, Panama.

    The following space, Building the Bridge, is filled with displays showing how North America and South America used to be separated, finally becoming connected by the Panamanian isthmus, which was brought to you by the forces of plate tectonics. “The tectonic forces inside the Earth that formed the isthmus are represented by three rock formations, fourteen-meters high, in a space full of tactile and physical encounters with the geological world.”

    The Biomuseo in Panama City, Panama.
    The Biomuseo in Panama City, Panama.

    The next exhibit, Worlds Collide, explains “how the formation of the isthmus of Panama generated a great exchange of species between North America and South America, two land masses that had been separated for 70 million years. The visitor is received by two animal stampedes representing the megafauna that began this unique journey almost three million years ago.”

    The Biomuseo in Panama City, Panama.
    The Biomuseo in Panama City, Panama.

    Stepping outside, the visitor encounters, between several buildings, an open air display called The Human Path. Here, 16 illuminated columns document the interactions between humans and nature in Panama from 15,000 years ago–the estimated date when the first settlers arrived to the isthmus–up to today, including the construction of the canal.

    The Biomuseo in Panama City, Panama.
    The Biomuseo in Panama City, Panama.

    Planned for late 2018 are two more exhibits. The first, Oceans Divided, will explain how “when Panama emerged, two very different oceans were formed, changing life all over the planet. Two 10-meter high, semi-cylindrical aquariums will show how the Pacific and the Caribbean evolved in drastically different ways after being separated by the creation of the isthmus.”

    The Amador Causeway in Panama City, Panama.
    The Amador Causeway in Panama City, Panama.

    Finally, the Living Web will “demonstrate how living things simultaneously need and yet compete with each other in complex and often invisible ways. A huge sculpture–equal parts plant, animal, insect, and microorganism–will immerse the visitor in a dimension where all living things are just as important.”

    Doh! A capsized boat next to the Amador Causeway in Panama City, Panama.
    Doh! A capsized boat next to the Amador Causeway in Panama City, Panama.

    Around halfway through my visit, there was a torrential thunderstorm. Luckily, I was inside and remained dry. But, I noticed that a central open area between all of the buildings was not completely covered by roof tops, which means the staff has to dry the ground over and over again every day. Seems like old Frank Gehry could have done a better job covering up that area to avoid all of the hassle for the staff.

    Unintentional Minimalism in Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama.
    Unintentional Minimalism in Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama.

    After my visit to the museum ended, I rented a bicycle for $3.50 for one hour and pedaled my way a mile or two down the Amador Causeway, which connects the mainland to the tiny Amador Islands, and was constructed out of rocks from the excavation of the Panama Canal. Now, if you asked me, “Why did you decide to ride a bicycle down the Causeway?” My answer would be, “Just because.” Because if I didn’t, someone else surely would. And just because they would doesn’t mean that they could do so with wild abandon, because, you see, even the Causeway is subject to the reality of cause and effect–even if you rode down it with Santa Cause. So, one really must take care.

    Words and photos ©2017 Arcane Candy.

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