Seattle Aquarium’s new Ocean Pavilion, currently under construction, features several exhibits that examine the human connection with the Earth’s oceans. The 49,000 sf Ocean Pavilion has 19 living exhibits organized around The Reef, a new 362,000 gallon, two-story living habitat that is visible from five unique perspectives.
The Reef depicts a biodiverse Coral Triangle reef community, featuring an expansive, nearly 30-foot-wide domed view on the ground floor and additional viewing windows on an upper gallery. Cantilevered over the Pavilion’s entrance, it also features the “oculus”—a 16-foot wide portal that allows passersby to stand beneath and view the exhibit without paying admission.
The aquarium’s new pavilion is “the spectacular northern focal point of the reimagined Seattle waterfront,” according to Thinc, the firm that designed the exhibitions. LMN Architects is the design architect on the project, and is collaborating with Thinc on the exhibitions. “Thinc views every possible part of the Aquarium as useful context for building relationships with the public. Even the parts normally hidden from view consciously reveal the tank habitat vessels and back of house, all designed both for functionality and beauty.”
“To imagine an aquarium built around ethical human relationships with the ocean means throwing out the playbook on how you design aquariums,” said Tom Hennes, founder and principal of Thinc. “We can touch people deeply and enrich their relationship with the natural world, and we can also be a vital instrument of social change that catalyzes public engagement toward a thriving future.”
The Pavilion exhibition is organized into eight areas: 1) the entry/exit; 2) One Ocean Hall; 3) At Home in the Ocean; 4) The Archipelago (lower level view); 5) Window on The Reef (a dramatic, 30-foot wide domed window); 6) The Archipelago (upper level); 7) The Reef (upper level with three distinct views); and 8) Behind the Scenes (includes Jelly Nursery and Programming Area).
Dramatic living exhibits, engaging storytelling, and immersive multimedia installations will envelop visitors in the webs that connect ocean life to the complex arenas of human activity. The design was focused on realizing the Aquarium’s vision to make ocean conservation a global imperative, a community value, and a deeply personal priority for all. The Ocean Pavilion provides new opportunities for the Aquarium’s community to learn about the connections between Seattle’s local waters and the world’s oceans.
A collaboration with Coast Salish Tribal and Urban Native community members, as well as Indo-Pacific conservation partners, informed Thinc’s treatment of narratives and the design of the Ocean Pavilion. The design process included focused workshops and listening sessions with Coast Salish elders and tribal youth, and Urban Native community members, who contributed to the outcome.
The Ocean Pavilion is scheduled to open in 2024.
On the Building Team:
Owner and/or developer: Seattle Aquarium Society
Exhibition Designer: Thinc Design
Design architect & Architect of Record: LMN Architects
MEP engineer: PAE
General contractor/construction manager: Turner Construction Company
Horticulture Consultant: Zoo Horticulture Consulting and Design
Lighting Consultant: Palazzo Lighting
Technology Consultant: Teecom
Focus Tank LSS: Tenji
Development Manager: Shiels Obletz Johnsen (SOJ)