February 22, 2019

Expanding Southern California’s Largest Aquarium

On May 24, 2019, the Aquarium of the Pacific will open its new Pacific Visions wing, its first major expansion since its founding in 1998. The 29,000-square-foot, two-story, sustainable structure designed by the architecture and design firm EHDD, will house a state-of-the-art immersive theater, exhibition space, an art gallery, and exhibition space with interactives and several new live animal exhibits.

It’s All About the Glass

Constructing a structure that evokes the depth, variability, luminosity, and biological diversity of the Pacific Ocean was no simple task.

The glass outer layer is comprised of low-iron, acid-etched glass to create dimension and enhance brilliance.
(Credit: Tom Bonner)

To accommodate the curves and angles of the building’s form, the Clark team installed 839 individually-sized glass panels to make up the aquarium’s façade. To ensure that consistency was maintained through the design process, shop drawing and installation, the Clark team coordinated regular meetings with its glazing trade contractors, glass manufacturers, and consultants. The team also employed a comprehensive mock-up program.

“Our approach worked,” says Senior Project Manager Jane Parry. “The façade looks just like the rendering, but even better!”

The project team relied on cutting-edge, custom-crafted, three-layered glass panels to achieve the organic look and feel of the ocean. The special treatment also allows the structure to take on a different hue, depending on the time of day or weather, to replicate the way sunlight bounces off the surface of water and the undulating waves of the ocean.

A Collaborative Team

The Aquarium of the Pacific was fully operational during construction. To avoid disruptions, the Clark project team implemented extra measures including:

  • Constructing full height temporary walls to protect the public, just a few feet away, as well as walls to protect existing aquarium tanks full of aquatic life;
  • Building a plywood fence and overhead protection to allow visitors to still enter through the main entry, even though construction was happening feet away, and above the entry at the new canopy roof
  • Installing a viewing platform allowing Aquarium executives, donors, and other VIPs to safely view construction progress
  • On-call coordination to temporarily hold construction or limit noise when the Aquarium was hosting key presentations, filming, or one of many unique events such as yoga sessions and sleepovers

The Pacific Visions project team agrees that collaboration and having the right team has made this project successful.  “The diligence, perseverance, and the relationship among all stakeholders involved in this project has been key to its success,” said Superintendent Tim Kelly.

In December 2018, the Clark project team reached substantial completion. 

For more information about the project, visit http://www.aquariumofpacific.org/pacificvisions