La Coupole, History Centre and 3D Planetarium
Located 5 km from Saint-Omer (in the Pas-de-Calais department) La Coupole is one of the most impressive historic vestiges of WW2 in Europe. Initially built as the first German base for launching its V2 rockets, the site was rehabilitated in 1997 as a Centre for History and Remembrance. In 2012, a Resource and Research Centre, and 3D Planetarium were added to its science facilities.
La Coupole: a historic monument
The work to build La Coupole was started by the Todt organisation in the autumn of 1943. The site selected for it, Helfaut in the north of France, was within the range of the first rocket, the V2, which was aimed at London. This enormous underground bunker containing hundreds of metres of tunnels was covered by a dome concealing the launch preparation chamber. Its semi-spherical reinforced concrete structure was 77 metres in diameter and 5.5 metres thick. It weighed 55,000 tonnes. Thwarted by the constant Allied bombing, then by the Normandy landings, the site never became operational.
La Coupole : History and Remembrance Centre
La Coupole is now the home of a History and Remembrance Centre, designed to improve our understanding of the historic and scientific importance of the Second World War, from the Occupation to the hidden face of the space race. Its facilities have an educational role, in cooperation with the French department of Education. Not only does it play a major role in remembrance, history, and science, La Coupole also has a humanistic vocation, fostering reflection, awareness-raising, and good citizenship.
La Coupole : 3D Planetarium
At this old launching base, La Coupole’s Planetarium continues the theme of the space race, while enhancing our ever-expanding knowledge of the universe. It is accessible to all people (families, schools, teachers, students, and tourists), with audio headsets providing commentary in several languages. Inside a spherical bubble equipped with 10K-3D laser technology, said to be the first of its kind, La Coupole offers visitors total immersion in outer space in order to gain better understanding of the world that surrounds us. It hosts many conferences held in cooperation with other scientific centres or universities.
La Coupole : Resource and Research Centre
La Coupole has its own Resource and Research Centre comprising a public reading room open to all sorts of users, whether the families of former deportees, or researchers, teachers and their pupils. Together with the History Centre and the 3D Planetarium, the Resource and Research Centre is the third founding pillar of the site. Alongside the conservation, promotion and transmission of its archives, the Resource Centre actively takes part in projects initiated and managed by La Coupole (publications, exhibitions, etc.).