Vancouver Aquarium unveils expanded facility, future plans (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

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Vancouver Aquarium

With sweeping expanses of new public space, the Vancouver Aquarium is opening new doors today in celebration of the most significant expansion in its 58-year history.

At the centre of this expanded space is the Teck Connections Gallery, the central hub of the new Aquarium with state-of-the art features including 360-degree, 185-foot digital screens alive with stunning aquatic imagery.

The revitalized, sustainable, state-of-the-art marine science centre incorporates elements of water and aquatic wonder throughout, with curvilinear design that reflects the organic, flowing nature of the natural world. Sunlight shimmers off dual-coloured pink-and-green metallic Alucobond paneling – mimicking fish scales – on the new exterior walls.

Vancouver Aquarium
Image: Vancouver Aquarium

A watery veil of eight-by-eight foot (2.4-by-2.4 metre) LED video displays covered with flowing water greets visitors as they enter through the Aquarium’s new visitor entrance. A 100-foot (30-metre) water wall on the left side of the building with cascading natural rainwater flowing over fish-shaped glass blocks reminds us of the importance of water, one of the earth’s most precious resources.

The Aquarium’s new design endeavours to take every opportunity to immediately connect visitors with water and our oceans – the first engagement point in ultimately inspiring action to conserve nature.

“Engaging our visitors with aquatic life – lighting that initial spark of interest – is critical to our mission as a conservation organization,” says Dr. John Nightingale, Vancouver Aquarium President and CEO. “Through our enhanced exploratory and water-themed touch points, our aim is to reach and inspire more visitors to engage with issues affecting our aquatic and ocean environments and to take personal action that will help save our ecosystems and the wildlife that depend on them.”

The new main Aquarium entrance is identified by the iconic bronze killer whale sculpture Chief of the Undersea World, created by renowned Haida artist Bill Reid. A simplified ticketing process allows guests to quickly enter and start their journey as they walk through the Ocean Courtyard, a spacious new outdoor public meeting space full of life with an outdoor dining area and family-fun activities through the summer months.

Vancouver Aquarium
Image: Vancouver Aquarium

From the Courtyard, visitors enter the main building and into the inspired Teck Connections Gallery. The centrepiece of the gallery is a stunning 14-foot (4.3-metre) glowing blue globe, instantly recognizable but strangely unfamiliar, as the earth has been “turned on its head” with the North Pole at the bottom, enabling visitors to see Canada more easily, and highlighting Canada’s changing Arctic region.

Visitors then descend the double staircase to the Teck Engagement Gallery on the lower level, bringing them to an amphitheatre-style seating area ideal for public programs, talks and educational interactions, while nearby, a changing exhibits gallery lends future space for large temporary living exhibits and displays.

Vancouver Aquarium
Image: Vancouver Aquarium

This is the first of three planned phases of revitalization for the Aquarium. Totalling approximately $45 million, this first phase also includes new aquatic habitats featuring a diverse array of animals from around the world, such as a new Fly River exhibit featuring animals from New Guinea, a new exhibit with schools of cichlids from Lake Malawi in Africa, a Red Sea coral reef exhibit, a new Jamaican fruit bat exhibit, and two new quintessential British Columbian displays – one featuring aquatic life from B.C.’s Gulf Islands, and an Ocean Wise display featuring a stunning school of coho salmon.

Vancouver Aquarium
Image: Vancouver Aquarium

Welcomed features also include a new café and coffee bar, with indoor seating and cantilevered doors that open onto the outdoor Ocean Courtyard; a completely revamped gift shop, where proceeds directly support the Aquarium’s conservation, research and education programs; a revitalized Clownfish Cove, featuring a new experience for young children and their adult guests; and additional washroom facilities, lockers, and landscaped public park space that includes a concession stand and washrooms available for all park visitors.

These new exploratory visitor spaces make up just a portion of the total 55,000 square footage added in this initial expansion phase, which includes behind-the-scene areas, mechanical rooms, public park space and office space.

Vancouver Aquarium
Image: Vancouver Aquarium

Featured Image: Vancouver Aquarium

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