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The distinct dome that tops the Sacramento State planetarium takes shape as construction on that facility and the adjacent Ernest E. Tschannen Science Complex advances toward a fall 2019 opening. Video still by Rob Neep
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Planetarium Takes Shape - and It Rocks


Dixie Reid

“We wanted to make it obvious that this is a planetarium, so it’s important to use iconography that’s familiar.” - design principal Fabian Kremkus

Quick Facts about the planetarium:

  • 120 reclining seats and four ADA-compliant spaces.
  • Digistar6 dual projector offers a full-hemisphere view.
  • Digital-surround films explore the sun, moon, and stars.
  • Sac State astronomy students learn in this unique classroom.
  • Planetarium expected to attract 15,000 visitors annually.

When the Ernest E. Tschannen Science Complex opens in 2019, people might think of the planetarium — a 2,500-square-foot dome tucked into the crook of the 96,631-square-foot building — as a little jewel.

To the architect, however, it’s a rock.

“Taking a cue from the American River, if you look at the planetarium as being a rock, when you throw the rock in the river you get these waves, these ripples, and the science building has a ripple effect going across the façade,” says Fabian Kremkus, design principal with CO Architects in Los Angeles. 

He spent many hours at Sacramento State, often gazing at the river, before starting to design the Science Complex with its state-of-the-art labs, rooftop observatory, and green terrace. He created the detached planetarium as a compound curve, despite a domed shape being more complicated and expensive to build than a boxy building. 

“People associate a dome with a planetarium, and you don’t want to be hiding it away on campus,” he says. “We wanted to make it obvious that this is a planetarium, so it’s important to use iconography that’s familiar.”

The Science Complex bears the name of the local philanthropist whose $9 million gift is the largest single contribution in Sac State’s 71-year history. California State University committed $71 million to build the complex, and Sac State is raising $20 million through private donations and other naming opportunities to complete the project. 

The building is projected to open in fall 2019, and continues to meet all major construction milestones, says project manager Tania Nunez. By Thanksgiving, the planetarium will look, at least from the exterior, as if it’s ready to welcome crowds of star-seekers to delight in its digitally immersive celestial shows.


Dixie Reid


Dixie Reid has been a writer for Sac State since 2012 after decades as a newspaper reporter. A Texas native with the accent to prove it, Dixie is crazy about “dear friends, big dogs, good books, great food, day trips, baking cookies, California sunshine (and fog), and kind people.”