San Francisco-based architecture firm, EHDD, has just unveiled their design for Pacific Visions, a 29,000 square foot, two-story expansion for one of the nation’s largest aquariums, the Aquarium of the Pacific. Pacific Visions' facilities will integrate the arts and research sciences which will allow visitors to understand the world’s oceans. The expansion is scheduled to open in the fall of 2018.
Pacific Visions is a “biomorphic structure that suggests the form of a whale and evokes the size, depth, variability, luminosity, and biological diversity of the Pacific Ocean.” The program contains a high-tech immersive theatre, a special exhibition, art galleries, and space for live animals. It also includes a large exhibition space for installations and cultural events. This $53 million dollar addition finishes a two-phase campus master plan which the aquarium adopted in 2005. Once complete, the campus will not only serve as a public aquarium, but as a place for scientists and policy-makers to come together to explore environmental issues related to the ocean. The expansion is expected to bring in two million more visitors each year.
Dr. Jerry R. Schubel, President and CEO of Aquarium of the Pacific commented on the new expansion saying, “Pacific Visions represents an unprecedented opportunity to help our growing audience examine the vital and changing relationship between humans and the World Ocean and choose paths to make that relationship sustainable. We want our visitors to leave Pacific Visions feeling more deeply engaged with the living ocean, knowledgeable about the challenges that face it and us, and empowered to make better decisions and share their new understanding with others.”
The aquarium currently hosts more than fifty exhibits with a combination of hands-on experiences and state-of-the-art technology which invite visitors to learn about the animals and their natural habitats. Through partnerships with art and cultural organizations and exhibitions that address ocean and climate science, the aquarium has become one of the leading pioneers in integrating arts with the sciences. Pacific Visions will expand on these initiatives through a new range of technologies and immersive spaces. There will also be an app available for visitors to stay connected throughout their experience.
Architecturally, the façade--which doubles as a rain screen--responds to varying amounts of daylight and climatic conditions. The main entrance serves both as a ticketing area and as a community gathering place with outdoor exhibitions and art installations. The 300-seat theater will hold a 130 foot by 32 foot tall screen, curved in an arc shape, which will place visitors into a virtual ocean environment. The newly expanded art gallery, called the Changing Exhibit Gallery, will feature live animals, dynamic wall murals, and immersive displays.
“It’s not often that we have the opportunity to expand upon a building that we have designed before,” said EHDD Design Principal Marc L’Italien, “the new building flows with the original building but it's also a counterpoint to it. We’re really excited about Pacific Visions because there is depth and mystery to the form and to the glass skin. Depending on the time of day and where you're viewing the building from, it will appear differently to everyone, forever changing, just like the oceans that inspired it.”