The Shine Dome – Canberra, Australia - Atlas Obscura

The Shine Dome

This copper-coated, multi-arched dome is surrounded by a moat and lights up at night. 


Constructed on the campus of the Australian National University in 1959, this futuristic dome housing the nation’s foremost scientific society, the Australian Academy of Science, is known as the Shine Dome. But given its location in the city that houses the country’s embassies, its nickname, the “Martian Embassy,” has proved an enduring one.

The structure’s diameter is nearly 155 feet, making it Australia’s largest free-standing dome, and even larger than the domes atop St Paul’s in London and the Pantheon in Rome. At night, the dome is known to light up in different colors, further complementing its otherworldly appearance.

Another peculiar feature of the dome is the moat surrounding it. University students have been known to take a dip when celebrating their graduation. There is even a small ramp installed to prevent ducklings from drowning in the shallow water.

If the outside of this building appears confusing today, spare a thought for the very first visitors to the inside of the dome. Several of them suffered from nystagmic motion sickness, due to an optical illusion caused by unevenly spaced wooden panels in the walls. Fortunately, a former fellow of the academy came up with the solution of hanging strings alongside the panels, breaking the illusion.

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