Pacific Visions - Aquarium of the Pacific Unveils the Design of Its New Architectural Centerpiece

Pacific Visions: Aquarium of the Pacific Unveils the Design of Its New Architectural Centerpiece

The Aquarium of the Pacific has unveiled the design of its new Pacific Visions wing, a 29,000-square-foot, two-story sustainable structure designed by the San Francisco-based architecture and design firm EHDD. The first major expansion project ever undertaken by the Aquarium, Pacific Visions will be a new focal point of the institution, providing facilities that integrate the arts and sciences while offering visitors innovative ways to understand our connections to Earth, the World Ocean, and contemporary scientific research.

Slated to open in late 2018, Pacific Visions is designed as 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 building will house a state-of-the-art immersive theater, expanded special exhibition and art galleries, and additional space for live animal exhibits. It will provide a revitalized front plaza and exhibition hall with space for installations, performances, and cultural events.

Complementing the Aquarium's existing building, also designed by EHDD, Pacific Visions has a façade that strikingly responds throughout the day to changing light and climatic conditions with varying colors to mirror the effect of sunlight rippling on the ocean's surface. The façade, which doubles as a ventilated rain screen, is made up of more than 800 colored, light-diffusing glass panels covering an area of 18,000 square feet. Each panel is uniquely sized to accommodate the curves and angles of the building's form.

The principal components of the design include:

Honda Pacific Visions Theater

The two-story, 300-seat Honda Pacific Visions Theater will include a 130-foot-wide by 32-foot-tall screen, curved in a 180 degree arc and a retractable 30-foot-diameter floor projection disc to immerse visitors in a virtual ocean environment. The theater will bring to life epic ocean stories, allowing audiences to discover new species, witness the processes and phenomena of Earth's ecosystems, and grapple with the many challenges facing the natural world. Each seat will be wired for interactivity, providing visitors opportunities to explore a range of possible trajectories for our planet and underscoring how human action can lead to a more sustainable future. All stories will be developed by the Aquarium in partnership with leading scientists, filmmakers, storytellers, and digital artists. The infrastructure created for this theater will allow for media-rich performances, panel discussions, community meetings, and educational seminars that can incorporate live broadcast feeds and streaming media.

Main Entrance and Front Plaza

The Aquarium's redesigned Dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg Entrance will include an expanded ticketing area and special members' entrance, as well as a Member Services Center. The front plaza will serve as a community gathering space, which will feature outdoor programs and art installations.

Changing Exhibit Gallery

The expanded Changing Exhibit Gallery will double the existing changing exhibit gallery space, adding a total of 6,000 square feet. The new space will feature live animals and immersive interactive multi-media displays and expansive dynamic projected wall murals to complement and foster deeper engagement with the narrative and themes of each temporary exhibit. These exhibits will be rotated periodically to reflect current scientific issues and discoveries and will be developed in conjunction with the theater experiences.

Art Gallery and Orientation Gallery

Visitors will enter the new wing though the Pacific Visions Art Gallery featuring a range of changing installations to establish an emotional connection to the ocean and marine life. Visitors will then proceed into the Orientation Gallery, which will showcase a 26-foot-wide by 8-foot-tall media wall to introduce visitors to the challenges and promises of the future to be explored in the theater.

The main Aquarium building will remain operational throughout the construction phase. A small preview exhibition with a large-scale model of the biomorphic design and informational videos about Pacific Visions' programmatic content is now on view to the public in the Aquarium's Tropical Pacific Preview.

"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."