Saturday, March 2, 2024

History of the Creation of the Queen Elizabeth II Planetarium in Edmonton

Edmonton has many unique places, one of which is Coronation Park. The park occupies 35 hectares of land and is located in the western part of Edmonton’s central area. It was named in honor of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. The park may be small in size compared to others in the city, but it is a true pearl of green space in the center of Edmonton. There are many significant places on its territory. One of them is the Queen Elizabeth II Planetarium. For more information, please visit the website edmonton-future.

History of the creation of the planetarium

Like the park in which it is located, the planetarium has a connection to the monarchy. It was opened in honor of the visit of the Queen and Prince Philip in July 1959. The mayor of Edmonton, William Hawrelak, stated that he honored and respected her Majesty  Queen Elizabeth II and respectfully asked her permission to name the building the Queen Elizabeth II Planetarium.

On September 22, 1960, the planetarium was opened. The Chief Justice C. J. Forward of the Alberta Supreme Court read a letter of greetings from the Queen’s Secretary. Professor E. Keeping, from one of the local institutes, presented at the opening a 68-pound piece of the Bruderheim meteorite that had fallen to Earth in the spring of the same year. The stone became the center of the planetarium’s astronomical exhibition.

Unique design

The team of city architects led by Walter Telfer and Denis Mulvaney, among others, designed the planetarium in a modern expressionist style. The building became the central point of Coronation Park and the crown jewel in the Queen’s scepter. All the pictures of the location show how the park’s paths form the shape of a scepter.

The structure of the building is also noteworthy. Upon close inspection, it can be seen that it resembles a large ship. Its front part is slightly recessed, while the windows from the floor to the ceiling have yellow color frames, which imitate gold, and on top is an 8-meter dome. 

Initially, the dome was orange, but later the decision was made to make it silver. The front entrance hall features 12 zodiac signs,  laid out in stone mosaic. This commissioned work was done by the city’s best artists, Edith and Heinrich Eichner.

Community reaction to the opening of the facility

The initial interest in the planetarium was minimal, but as information about the new experience began to spread, it quickly gained popularity. Soon, the planetarium became a must-see destination. School students were also brought here for visits.

The bloom of the planetarium and its closure

According to the Edmonton Historical Board, the peak of the planetarium’s popularity was in 1967, when 33,500 people visited. In 1983, the facility was closed to the public when the Edmonton Space and Science Centre opened in the building. The centre operated as a science facility until 2000. In 2001, it was moved to another location as it needed more space.

Masood Makarechian, one of the centre’s staff members, was part of the team that traveled around the province. He said they used the planetarium’s facilities as office space and the dome for star shows presented to school children. The planetarium was used as an educational tool and was a great addition to the science center’s program.

However, when the center’s offices moved to a different location, the planetarium began to deteriorate and fall into disrepair.

Reconstruction

In 2017, the city government of Edmonton recognized the former planetarium as a municipal resource with a unique history. They began repairing and modernizing it according to the instructions of the city council. They fixed and repainted the original dome in gold color. They installed new mechanical equipment and LED illumination as well as improved public toilets for visitors. In the fall of 2021, the renovated planetarium was re-opened to the public.

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