Drivers taking the Amador Causeway en route to the Panama Canal may be forgiven for veering off the road just a bit when Frank Gehry’s new Biomuseo comes into view. A raucous extravaganza of color, devoted to showcasing and preserving Panama’s rich biodiversity, Biomuseo is Gehry’s first building in Latin America, strategically located to take advantage of panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, the canal, and Panama City.
And, like Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Biomuseo provides a visual counterpoint to its industrial context, overlooking the cargo ships that traverse the Panama Canal. Comprising eight galleries, an aquarium, cafe, and gift shop, Biomuseo bears Gehry’s signature typology of asymmetry and a seemingly haphazard arrangement of shapes, but is a marked departure from the gleaming, silvery metal cladding that distinguishes his recent projects. Instead, Biomuseo’s concrete volumes reside under a montage of vividly colored metal roofs, an obvious homage to Latin culture.