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Making waves: The façade of Pacific Visions suggests the movement of water, day and night

Bronze Award: The new wing holds an exhibition space, a state-of-the-art 300-seat theater with a 32-foot-tall, 180-degree arc, 130-foot-long projection wall.

June 20, 2019 |

The design concept for the Pacific Visions wing is a sinuous biomorphic form achieved through a combination of steel and 839 glass panels that mimics water movement. Strategically placed downlights on 20-foot poles illuminate the building. Photos: Tom Bonner Photography.

Pacific Visions is the first major addition to the Aquarium of the Pacific since it opened in 1998. During the two-year construction period, the aquarium—which averages 2,000 visitors a day, and doubles as a research hub—stayed open with no closures, and the Building Team took great care to protect the facility’s 11,000-plus animals, which include the oldest sea otter in captivity.

The new wing holds an exhibition space, a state-of-the-art 300-seat theater with a 32-foot-tall, 180-degree arc, 130-foot-long projection wall; a 2,600-sf art gallery with a 12-foot-high LED display wall; and a 5,000-sf “culmination gallery” that offers visitors calls to action for the betterment of the planet via interactive games, displays, and animal exhibits.

The highlight of this project is its glass façade, consisting of 839 triple-laminated panels that were produced by Pulp Glass, Gardena, Calif. It took 54 weeks to design and fabricate the façade, and 12 weeks to install it.

The façade is “biomorphic,” in that it brings the natural world into its architecture. The façade is designed to mimic the movement of water, both day and night. The outer surface of the glass is acid-etched to eliminate direct reflection of the trees and sky. Depending on the time of day, the glass takes on different hues, intended to inspire different feelings and emotions.


Considerable attention was paid to protecting the aquarium’s animals that could be affected by the slightest changes in temperature. The Building Team scrupulously coordinated power-down and power-outage events with aquarium staff.


During construction, the Building Team met weekly. By working with its trade partners, it achieved a 91% waste diversion rate. Clark in particular collaborated with specialty contractors on the installation of the theater and exhibit elements to ensure Pacific Visions opened on schedule. Parts of the new wing have extra conduit installed within the walls to enable future expansion.

Pacific Visions produces its own energy through a clean fuel cell system and is designed to reduce its energy use by 24% compared to similar buildings.


Building Team — Submitting firms Clark Construction (GC) and EHDD (architect), Owner The Aquarium of the Pacific, SE North Steel, M/P engineer California Comfort Systems USA, EE Snowden Electric, Glass contractor Woodbridge Glass, CM TG Construction

General information — Size 29,000 sf, Cost $53 million, Construction time May 2017 to December 2018, Delivery method General contractor


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