The competition was organized by Arch Out Loud, who sought design proposals for an aquarium and waterfront design to transform Long Island City’s 11th Street Basin.
Lissoni’s “Aquatrium” design came out on top, standing out to jury members with his innovative idea to “submerge” visitors underwater as part of a unique aquarium experience.
On the structural side, a submerged two-level island would extend into the river, forming the Aquarium and Marine Center.
The lobby entrance would enter into a ramp that would be modeled on the striations of seashells, leading visitors down below the water through a pathway.
“Having the water level define the starting point of the project, the site is excavated to become a spacious and innovative water basin,” said Lissoni’s team.
Along the route, visitors would pass eight above-ground biome domes, with each hosting sealife from four oceans: Southern, Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian, and four seas: the Red, Tasman, Caribbean, and Mediterranean. A large iceberg in the centre of the island would represent the North and South Poles.
“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,” the team said.
In the evening, a grass-topped sliding roof would cover the circular island to transform it into a planetarium.
A boardwalk would surround the aquarium, wrapping around the site to connect the two sides, and a sloped beachfront would provide a public space where visitors could enjoy a panoramic view of the Manhattan skyline.
“Our project creates a dynamic system that interacts with its surroundings, offering multiple ways to experience the water world,” said Lissoni’s team.
The second place competition finisher went to architect Dominik Sigg for his Vers La Mer design entry. It was designed to look like a flooded city, with a series of illuminated cubes that would be connected by walkways.
“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,” said Sigg.
In third place, a team of US professors and researchers created a design called Merrior. Rather than using traditional display tanks, the team proposed 30 “diving bells” – pod-like chambers that would be placed throughout the New York site.
From the East River hub itself, visitors would be led to a below-grade trench and past a series of pools, eventually ending up a tower that would offer views from above.
While the proposals are fantastic examples of design and innovation, none of these will likely be realized. However, there are unusual aquariums being built around the world. In Taiwan, Foster + Partners’ marine science museum is now being constructed.
And a little closer to home in Georgia, Henning Larsen Architects’ has designed their Batumi aquarium, resembling a cluster of pebbles.
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