The Panama Biodiversity Museum
Designed by Frank Gehry

By Elsie Forbes

The Biodiversity Museum: Panama Bridge of Life is the official name of the new museum currently being built in Panama.  It is an ambitious project designed by world renowned architect, Frank Gehry, who designed the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao as well the amazing Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.  The Biomuseum, as it is known in Panama, was an idea born in 1999 during the transfer of the Panama Canal out of the American hands to the Panamanians.  It was originally to be an Aquarium as it is located on the Amador Causeway, on the Pacific Ocean entrance to the Panama Canal.  It is the first building designed by Architect Frank Gehry in Latin America.  Mr. Gehry is well familiarized with Panama as his wife is Panamanian which is why Panama is privileged to be home to his first creation in Latin America. 

The museum is intended to showcase the geological importance of the Isthmus of Panama. The geological and natural treasures of Panama are referred to as 'The Bridge of Life'. The immense biodiversity contained in such a small piece of land  connects in a magical way the Northern and Southern hemispheres.  The story will be traced through the museum´s 8 display galleries split in two levels.  The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute has provided a wealth of scientific information which shall contribute to the displays.  The Smithsonian has been in Panama since the beginning of the Canal construction but was formalized as the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in 1966 and currently has a marine investigation center on one of the islands on the Amador Causeway.  Today the Smithsonian is one of the leading authorities on tropical flora and fauna in Latin America. 

The display galleries have already been planned and are called: “Living Network”, “Oceans Divided”, “Human Prints”, The Great Exchange”, “The Bridge Emerges”, “Panamarama” and “Biodiversity Gallery”.  The visitors will have a full experience as they enter the grounds of the museum being greeted by the most amazing architecture, Gehry's genius front and center. The museum will infuse your senses in the amazing natural history of the Isthmus of Panama.  With the well planned and documented exhibits and the modern design it should be one of the most fascinating natural history museums in the world. 
In its beginnings the museum faced a lot of difficulties but now it is 70% completed, almost ten years after it was conceived in the mind of Frank Gehry.  Since its inception the museum has been managed by a private non-profit foundation called Fundación Amador.  The museum has offices in the old Officers Club of Fort Amador right next to the construction where you can see the models of the museum. 

The total estimated cost for building the museum is 60 million dollars which are expected to be recovered within 16 months according to a study done by consulting firm KPMG.  Recently at a meeting with the General Assembly of Fundacion Amador, the government pledged its support to the project when the Director of the Panama Tourism Authority, Salomon Shamah, indicated that it would help finance the 30 million dollars still needed to complete the construction and set up the galleries, through the sale of government owned property in the area around the museum.  The opening of the museum is scheduled for September of 2011 although the structure should be finished in 2010.  Right now they are expecting the delivery of the roof which is designed as separate, multi-colored, aluminum pieces which are designed to resemble pieces of fabric swaying in the wind.






Panamanian law makes a difference between a “work contract” and a “work relationship”. Which means a contract or pact is not necessary. There are certain “actions” or “situations” that could be interpreted as “working” such as:

A. Being full time within the premises of the other’s office.
B. Having work hours and break periods.
C. Having pre established vacations
D. Depending economically on the other person.
E. Having to take orders and directions that if not followed will have negative consequences to your relationship.
F. Other situations and actions could be defined as “working”


Copyright© 2011, Pan Am Publishing S.A., Republic of Panama