Edmonton’s science centre is about to go from the Far North to the edge of the universe.
The $40-million Aurora Project is an ambitious, 20,000-square-foot expansion and upgrade of the current Telus World of Science facility in northwest Edmonton. The Zeidler Dome, a new 360-degree planetarium, will be the first upgraded feature of the facility.
It will be followed by a Portal to the Arctic learning centre, an expanded children's learning area and redesigned science galleries in the building's north wing and existing Douglas Cardinal building.
The Douglas Cardinal building housed the original Space Sciences Centre which first opened in July 1984, and then expanded in 2001 to accommodate more tourist and classroom groups.
Through all that change, the planetarium dome remained as it was when the facility opened, said Telus World of Science Chief Operating Office Steve Baker.
"We say here that our dome theatre in 2017 has the best technology 1984 can offer," he joked.
Edmonton-based Chandos Construction is demolishing the dome and building a new planetarium from the ground up featuring a lower and wider field of view and the first 10K projection system in North America.
In addition to the dome, new facilities will be added and existing facilities upgraded using a phased approach.
"We're operating in phases, so the facility can still operate. Right now it's pretty painless and hasn't disrupted traffic flow," Baker said.
Further down the line there will be disruption of movement as new phases of construction begin, he said.
The most striking new addition is the Portal to the Arctic centre, which will feature a rooftop with a unique "fractured" design oriented toward Canada's North.
"We looked at all kind of designs and knew that if we had an Arctic gallery, the design should point to the North. It all stems from that," Baker said.
Dialog Design are the architects on the project.
The drive to build an arctic learning centre was simply that such a facility does not exist, he added.
"We identified that as an opportunity and engaged with northern community elders before proceeding. It's a very important part of our region of Canada and as a whole, and there's a lot up there we don't yet understand," Baker said.
The University of Alberta has a program devoted to studying the Arctic, he added, but not a platform with which to present their findings. The new centre can act as a showcase for their work.
In addition to the new areas and upgraded dome, current exhibitions in the Douglas Cardinal building will also be upgraded.
A new children's discovery area, termed "Curiouscity," will feature treehouse designs modelled after iconic Edmonton buildings.
An expanded astronomical gallery will feature space-based exhibitions and a nature gallery will examine Edmonton's prolific wildlife and flora.
The dome portion of construction will be complete by 2018, with the Arctic and children's centres finished by 2019.
The entire project, Baker said, will be complete by 2020.
The Aurora Project has to date received $12 million in capital funds from the City of Edmonton as well as $3.35 million from the federal government.