Design competition for a New York Aquarium makes a splash

© Lissoni Architettura

Arch out loud has run an interesting competition to design an aquarium for New York City's waterfront that got 178 proposals from designers in 40 countries. They claim that "open idea competitions are a way to explore new solutions and find better alternatives to conventional methods in order to invigorate the field of design. They can bring forth potential in designers that is often overlooked in the field." It always astonishes me to see the quality of the work and detail in the presentations for competitions where the only thing you get is exposure.

As so often in these competitions (including the ones where I have been asked to be a judge) I often find the runner ups to be more interesting than the winner. I think that is the case here, where a team from Milan, (Lissoni Architettura | Piero Lissoni (Team Leader), Miguel Casal Ribeiro, Mattia Susani, & Joao Silva) got the first prize.


aquatarium from above© Lissoni Architettura
No better position could be chosen to represent the most important NYC aquarium than the East River itself. Our project creates a dynamic system that interacts with its surroundings, offering multiple ways to experience the water world represented by eight triple-height transparent biomes: four Oceans (Atlantic, Pacific, Indian and Southern) and four Seas (Caribbean, Mediterranean, Tasman and Red Sea), while the North and South Poles are expressed by a readily visible iceberg in the center of the Atrium.
inside© Lissoni Architettura
The main idea is to generate an environment whereby visitors feel that they themselves are entering the water to discover the beauty of the marine life on display; a living shell that opens to the sky during the day to reveal the sea worlds and which closes as darkness falls to take on a “second life” as a planetarium, protecting the arena and the biome domes within, like a shell protects the pearl.
So it has this giant sliding sea shell of a roof that rolls out to cover the aquarium that sits in the middle of the East River. What can I say other that the drawings are absolutely beautiful. See it all here.

Vers La Mer

vers la mer© Dominik Sigg

Second place went to Dominik Sigg of Brooklyn. I worked on the design of an aquarium many years ago and have been to a lot of them, and I can tell you I went WOW when I saw that giant tank holding a coral reef exhibit. It is all built out of hardwood and clad with aerogel so that natural light can filter through. I really like this one.

vers la mer© Dominik Sigg

In light of rising sea levels and flooding events threatening metropoles around the world, this proposal investigates a maritime urbanism where the built fabric of the city shifts from traditional solid ground to a floating existence in harmony with the ocean. ‘Vers la mer’ – ‘towards the sea’ utilizes the potential of the Queens riverfront and Anable basin for such a transition from solid ground to the sea. Orthogonal volumes based on the existing city fabric are coming loose and float, anchored in the enlarged Anable basin and are surrounded by a buoyant water garden in which the public can enjoy and experience the movement of life on the water. To address the pollution originating from the site’s industrial heritage, strategies for ecological remediation are developed, implemented and showcased publicly to raise awareness of the human impact on both local and global maritime ecosystems.

plan vers la mer© Dominik sigg

I like the way the plan works too. There is also a strong ecological bent to this one;

The site is transformed into a waterscape with an estuarine shoreline and a network of floating platforms creating a public water garden. Integrated planters allow for salt marsh vegetation to be cultivated in a variety of relationships to the river – from the permanently submerged to the tidal – providing rich habitats for the local wildlife. The visitors of this garden can immerse themselves in the movement of the coastal waters and contemplate the beauty of its local flora and fauna.

More at Arch Out Loud

Most of the others have huge PDFs and are hard to show, but you can see them all here at Arch Out Loud.

Design competition for a New York Aquarium makes a splash
But I am in the tank for the one that came in second

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