The largest aquarium in the U.S. (and the world) might be the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta—it hosts more than 100,000 animals and 550,000 square feet of exhibits. But the West coast—southern California more specifically—has the Aquarium of the Pacific. It features 5-acres of exhibits and over 500 marine species, and even a dive immersion program into a tropical reef exhibit. And it’s about to get bigger.
On the heels of SeaWorld announcing the end its controversial Shamu killer whale shows and breeding program by 2019, the almost 18-year old Aquarium of the Pacific released renderings and information on a new expansion, Pacific Visions.
The aquarium is working with San Francisco-based architecture firm EHDD whose designers are also working on the Seattle Aquarium expansion. Renderings reveal a new 2-story theater with two projection areas: one curved along the wall (130 feet long by 32 feet tall), and a second on the floor (30-feet in diameter). Plans for the new wing will also add an art gallery and 6,000 square feet of space for rotating exhibits.
The curves of the planned two-story wing resembles a blue whale. Its 800 panels of shimmering glass skin will also serve as a rain screen.
The expansion is the last phase of the aquarium’s 2005 master plan. The Aquarium of the Pacific was founded in 1998, “conceived as a cornerstone of a waterfront retail and amusement complex that would bring visitors to Long Beach at a time when it was struggling to cope with the closure of a Navy shipyard and the loss of about 50,000 jobs,” writes the Los Angeles Times.
So far, the aquarium has raised over $35 million of the $53 million project budget through public and private funding. The target opening date is late 2018.