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Meet Acquario Ceará: The giant crustacean-shaped aquarium that's causing concerns

The aquarium is planned to be the third largest in the world after Georgia Aquarium and Dubai Mall aquarium.

July 23, 2014 |

If you thought it would have never been possible for a multimillion-dollar project in Brazil to help create hundreds of jobs for Americans, think again, because it’s happening now.

The Acquario Ceará is a Brazilian public aquarium designed, engineered, financed, and currently under construction by multiple U.S. firms. The crustacean-shaped structure of steel and glass will stand along the Atlantic coast of the northeastern Brazilian city Fortaleza, designed with the hopes of being a new icon for South America.

The aquarium's intricate, exoskeleton-esque metalwork facade, designed by Imagic Brasil, the Latin American division of Cincinnati-based architect Jack Rouse Associates, will be fabricated by Kansas City, Mo.-based Zahner, whose portfolio includes two Gehry structures: the Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago and the Guggenheim Canopy in New York City.

According to The Atlantic’s CityLab, International Concept Management (ICM), a small business and custom aquarium maker in Grand Junction, Colorado, is overseeing construction of the project.

The aquarium, planned to be the third largest in the world after Georgia Aquarium and Dubai Mall aquarium, is set to open in 2015. According to the Kansas City Star, the aluminum support frame and aluminum skin plates that will cover it are currently being made in Zahner’s Midwestern fabrication shops, while the state of Ceará's governmental website indicates tubes and pipes are being made in Houston under ICM's supervision. Components will be shipped south to come together for the project.

But like many projects of its scale, the aquarium is not free of controversy. Brazilian critics say the aquarium is being built without transparency, CityLab reports. Moreover, the fact that such an expensive recreational facility is being built in one of Brazil’s poorest state’s is deemed as distasteful by some. 

In the U.S., critics are aimed at the project’s financial backing, which includes a $105 million direct loan from the taxpayer-funded federal export credit agency Export-Import Bank of the United States.

More on the project at CityLab.

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