Photo by Asia Morris. Renderings courtesy of EHDD.
The Aquarium of the Pacific unveiled Wednesday the design of its new $53 million project, a 29,000-square-foot, two-story sustainable structure called the Pacific Visions wing. Designed by San Francisco-based architecture and design firm EHDD, this will mark the local ocean institution’s first ever major expansion.
“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,” stated Dr. Jerry R. Schubel, Aquarium of the Pacific president & CEO. “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.”
Projected to open in 2018, Pacific Visions will include the Honda Pacific Visions Theater, to feature a 130-foot-wide by 32-foot-tall screen, curved in a 180 degree arc and a retractable 30-foot-diameter floor projection disc, all working together to dip audiences into a virtual ocean environment. Pacific Visions will implement an array of technologies and media design developed by EMMY award-winning Cortina Productions to better inspire and immerse visitors in the science, art and nature of the programming.
The Changing Exhibit Gallery, with its addition of 6,000 square feet will be capable of hosting both wet and dry animal exhibits, to be developed in accordance to the theater program. An Art Gallery and Orientation Gallery to feature changing installations and a redesigned Dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg Entrance main entrance and front plaza will also be implemented.
“It’s not often that we have the opportunity to expand upon a building that we have designed before,” stated EHDD Design Principal Marc L’Italien, of the firm who worked on the original aquarium design in 1998. “The new building flows with the original building, but it's also a counterpoint to it.”
Pacific Visions will change the Long Beach skyline, said Mayor Robert Garcia during the press conference. The project is the second and final phase of a Campus Master Plan adopted by the aquarium’s Board of Directors in 2005, according to the website. The main aquarium building will remain open during construction and a preview exhibition with a model of the project’s biomorphic design is now on view to the public in the Tropical Pacific Preview, according to the release.
“Institutions like the Aquarium of the Pacific serve a vital role in helping us understand—and better care for—the world around us,” stated U.S. Congressman Alan Lowenthal, who serves California’s 47th district. “In just a short time, the Aquarium of the Pacific has redefined the modern aquarium."
“What we’re seeing with trends in museums and aquariums quite a bit is the need for flexibility and adaptability and those are all often overused terms, but I want to be really specific this morning,” said L’Italien. “Flexibility is on a daily basis, adaptability is on a long-term basis. We’re trying to design buildings that will last alot longer than they do today and they need to be able to service the institutions for longer. So this is a very flexible space, which will house a variety of different exhibits.”
But what good is a multi-million dollar project focused on bringing information, new ideas and solutions regarding how to treat our planet with more respect if the building itself can’t boast of its own sustainable presence? The Post caught up with Marc L’Italien after the press conference, speaking on behalf of EHDD, to ask just how sustainable a footprint the Pacific Visions design will uphold in Long Beach.
After all, EHDD is known for its award-winning sustainable design, adhering to the firm’s philosophy: “Great design advances civilization while recognizing our responsibility to the future. It respects the changing needs of users, the evolution of communities and the impact on the natural environment.”
“More than any other generation in history, we are faced with making decisions that will shape the future for people and the planet,” stated Dr. J Mario Molina, Aquarium of the Pacific former board chairman and chairman, Pacific Visions Campaign. “That’s why the Pacific Visions project is designed to educate, inform, enlighten, and entertain all at once—because only when we have knowledge combined with a sense of purpose will we be able to appreciate and preserve the wonders of our ocean.”
Notably two of the more impressive sustainable features include the wing’s energy offset and its bird-safe exterior. Alongside non-toxic adhesives and paints, renewable products and energy-saving LED lights and insulation, the biomorphic structure will create its own energy on-site using fuel cells, said L’Italien. But how do you prevent a building covered nearly entirely with individual glass panels from blinding a bird, resulting in a collision? You dim its reflectivity.
“It’s not transparent, you can’t see through it,” L’Italien said earlier during the presentation. “At night, light doesn’t emanate from it, it’s not highly reflective like a glass building and there’s no vegetation planted near it. All those things really decrease and eliminate potential bird collisions.”
To be composed of over 800 non-reflective glass panels covering an 18,000 square-foot area, the exterior is the firm’s interpretation of the ocean, an effort to reflect the depth, mystery, and luminosity of an ever-changing World Ocean. Each panel is individually sized to ride the curves and angles of the structure’s overall form. Pacific Visions and the educational opportunities it seeks to provide the public is expected to increase the aquarium’s capacity to two million visitors per year.
“We’re really excited about Pacific Visions because there is depth and mystery to the form and to the glass skin,” L’Italien stated. “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.”
Pacific Visions is supported by the City of Long Beach with a $15 million matching grant, a $5 million matching grant from John and Michelle Molina and Mario and Therese Molina, and $5 million from American Honda Motor Co., Inc. A total of $40 million has been secured for the $53 million Pacific Visions campaign to date, according to the release.
The Aquarium of the Pacific is located at 100 Aquarium Way.