If you think home aquarium designs are creative, look what happens when architects and marine biologists think big… really big! These 7 amazing public aquariums recreate the wonders of the sea on land at facilities that appear as though they were designed in the future… and that’s not just some fish story!
Sunshine International Aquarium, Ikebukuro, Tokyo, Japan
The Sunshine International Aquarium in Ikebukuro ward, Tokyo is a rooftop aquarium… a gutsy move considering Japan is one of the world’s most earthquake-prone nations. One can imagine some sort of Towering Inferno in reverse scenario with water, sharks, penguins and more cascading down 60-odd flights of stairs but we’ll wait for the movie and/or theme park attraction if that’s all right with you.
Located atop the World Import Mart Building in Ikebukuro’s massive Sunshine City complex and accessible from JR Ikebukuro Station, Sunshine International Aquarium features an overhead transparent “donut” tank that allows visitors to view fish and penguins “flying” above them. What the fish and penguins think about the situation, who can say?
The Ozeaneum in Stralsund, northern Germany, opened in July 2008 to great acclaim and welcomed almost one million visitors in its first year of operation nearly twice the number expected. The Ozeaneum’s focus is on marine life of the North and Baltic Seas while providing knowledge and education for children from across Germany and beyond.
One of the Ozeaneum’s many highlights and perhaps the most awe-inspiring is the 20 by 30 meter Giants of the Seas exhibition hall where lifelike replicas of whales and other huge sea creatures are displayed in their original sizes. Suspended from the ceiling one may wonder at a 26 meter long Blue Whale, a 16 meter long Humpback Whale accompanied by a five meter long pup, 10 meter long Orca and 15 meter long Sperm Whale fighting with a Giant Squid.
Miami Marlins Stadium Aquariums
Though they’re not the sort of aquariums you can tour from within, the twin 450 gallon backstop aquariums at 37,000-seat Marlins Park in Miami, Florida are very public indeed. Approximately ten times the size of an average home aquarium, Living Color Aquariums constructed the custom tanks from fiberglass with crystal-clear, inch and a half think acrylic viewing windows.
Though the aquarium windows are backed with bullet-resistant Lexan panels to protect the aquariums, animal rights activists have questioned whether frequent random shocks transmitted by foul balls, errant pitches and the like will cause undue stress to the fish populating the aquariums. “We’ve taken every precaution,” explains Matt Roy, president of Living Color Aquariums. “All that we can do is show that over the test of time, these animals are doing just fine.” One wishes the same could be said for the Miami Marlins.
L’Oceanogràfic, Valencia, Spain
L’Oceanogràfic marine park, located just east of Valencia, Spain, boasts a water capacity of 42,000,000 litres (11,000,000 US gallons). It houses 45,000 animals from 500 different species of fish, mammals, birds, reptiles and invertebrates.
L’Oceanogràfic was designed by architect Félix Candela in association with structural engineers Alberto Domingo and Carlos Lázaro. The spectacular marine complex main building is the jewel in the crown of the 111,000 square meters (1,190,000 sq ft) Ciudad de los Artes y las Ciencias (City of Arts and Sciences).
Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
One of the world’s largest public aquariums, Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan comprises 27 tanks in 16 main exhibits with a total volume of 10,941 tons of water. The largest tank is 9 meters (30 ft) deep and holds 5,400 cubic meters (190,699 cu ft) of water – large enough to comfortably hold several manta rays and a whale shark. The featured habitats highlight marine life native to the “Ring of Fire” running along the edges of the Pacific Ocean.
In order to accommodate such large creatures, special acrylic glass was used to form the viewing windows the largest single pane weighs roughly 10 tons and measures six meters by five meters by thirty centimeters thick. Ordinary glass of such a thickness would lose transparency and distort the appearance of the aquarium denizens. The aquarium, located in Minato ward near Osaka Bay, owes its stunning external design to Peter Chermayeff of (at the time) Cambridge Seven Associates.
The Waikiki Aquarium in Honolulu, Hawaii, was founded in 1904 and is the third oldest public aquarium in the United States. It may be old but it sure doesn’t look it – since 1919 the aquarium has been overseen and managed by the University of Hawaii with periodic modification and modernization projects helping to keep the facility biologically relevant.
The Waikiki Aquarium was constructed on the Waikiki shoreline near a living coral reef, and today houses over 3,055 organisms from almost 500 different marine plant and animal 464 species. Helped by its proximity to the natural coral reef just beyond the seawall, the Waikiki Aquarium has, since the late 1970s, been able to sustain a living coral reef within its core displays. It was also the first aquarium to maintain and breed the rare and unusual Chambered Nautilus, and is home to the beautiful deep-sea Peppermint Angelfish.
Shanghai Ocean Aquarium
Bruce lives… at the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium that is. Named for (of course) Bruce Li, the enormous Oranda goldfish measuring over 17 inches from end to end is just one of the featured attractions at the $55 million aquarium which opened in February of 2002. The aquarium’s 155-metre long underwater viewing tunnel is one of the worlds longest as well as being one of the only such tunnels encompassing an escalator.
The Shanghai Ocean Aquarium is one of the world’s largest indoor, closed system aquariums. Its tanks have a total capacity of approximately 6.3 million liters of water and the building occupies an area of 20,000 square meters. Visitors move through 9 different thematic zones showcasing more than 10,000 fish and marine creatures from 450 different species. It may act global but the aquarium thinks local: SOA is features a separate exhibition zone dedicated to rare and endangered species native to China’s famous Yangtze River.
Need more amazing public aquariums? Not to worry, the supply is increasing in response to your demand. Take the huge Malta National Aquarium Project, designed today and opening in the near future. If you think the image above looks good, you ain’t seen anything yet because the aquarium’s 25+ display tanks will be underground – that starfish-shaped structure in the image above is just the entrance. Book your tickets to this Mediterranean island shortly after construction is finished at the end of this year!