The Rooftop Veranda of the Aquarium Of The Pacific is usually set aside for summer concerts and special events, but today the press was invited to the Rooftop Veranda for a delicious breakfast and very special announcement. Everyone was puzzled about what the announcement could be, and what the wonderfully spread breakfast could indicate. Before I sat with a couple Long Beach reporters, I had the chance to play with the lovely Lily, the baby penguin who was there to greet us and to add a marvelous joyous aquatic element to the festivities. Lily and I played for a while. I took the opportunity to get a portrait of Lily and some celebratory selfies, because that’s how Lily rolls!
Photo Gallery After The Break
Once all the press had gathered on the veranda, everyone who was attending was invited into the theater below to hear Aquarium Of The Pacific’s tightly guarded secret announced. In the low light of the theater, a violinist was playing while people found their seats. Once Dr. Jerry Schubel took the podium, he introduced the Aquarium Of The Pacific’s new expansion, “Pacific Visions.” Dr. Schubel informed us that this is the first major expansion ever undertaken by the Aquarium.
The concept behind Pacific Visions, which they hope to make a new focal point of the Aquarium, is to provide facilities that integrate the arts and sciences, while offering visitors innovative ways to understand our connections to Earth, the World’s Oceans, and contemporary scientific research. The new addition will house a state-of-the-art immersive theater, expanded special exhibition and art galleries, and additional space for live animal exhibits. The revitalized front plaza and exhibition hall will have space for installations, performances, and cultural events. Pacific Visions will cost $53 million of which $40 million has already been raised. Dr. Schubel concluded by introducing the Mayor of Long Beach, Dr. Robert Garcia, who provided more details on Pacific Visions regarding cost and benefits to the city of Long Beach.
Dr. Robert Garcia was followed by Marc L’Italien who is a Design Principal at the San Francisco design firm EHDD and one of the firm’s most innovative thinkers and designers. Marc L’Italien shared details of the concept of the design of Pacific Visions. Pacific Visions will provide a counterpoint within a single sinuous, biomorphic form that is meant to encourage different interpretations. The idea that inspired the Aquarium’s original design (using water as an important metaphor) continues in Pacific Visions with a building skin with visual depth, variability, and luminosity, evoking the spirit of sunlight rippling through water. This form is created by a ventilated rainscreen. The triple-layer laminated glass assembly incorporates a subtle reflective finish at the innermost layer, a blue-tinted middle layer, and acid-etched low-iron glass at the outer layer, achieving an effect of depth and variable luminosity. To minimize the appearance of the joints, the glass is glazed to conceal an aluminum carrier frame. Each of the 800-plus panels is unique in size and shape to accommodate the curves and angles of the exterior form to simulate the feeling of water.
The Aquarium of the Pacific is developing the $53 million project as the second and final phase of a Campus Master Plan adopted in 2005. The Aquarium will have a redesigned entrance that will include an expanded ticketing area and special members’ entrance, as well as a Member Services Center. The front plaza will serve as a community gathering space, which will feature outdoor programs and art installations.
The expansion of the Changing Exhibit Gallery will double the existing changing exhibit gallery space, adding a total of 6,000 square feet. The new space will feature live animals and immersive interactive multi-media displays and expansive dynamic projected wall murals to complement and foster deeper engagement with the narrative and themes of each temporary exhibit. These exhibits will be rotated periodically to reflect current scientific issues and discoveries and will be developed in conjunction with the theater experiences.
Additionally, inside this expansion there will be a two-story, 300-seat Pacific Visions Theater that will include a 130-foot-wide by 32-foot-tall screen, curved in a 180 degree arc and a retractable 30-foot-diameter floor projection disc to immerse visitors in a virtual ocean environment. The theater will bring to life epic ocean stories, allowing audiences to discover new species, witness the processes and phenomena of Earth’s ecosystems, and grapple with the many challenges facing the natural world.
1.6 million people visit the Aquarium annually. It’s the 4th most visited aquartum in the country. Once Pacific Visions has been completed, the audience capacity will be 2 million visitors a year. “Pacific Visions represents an unprecedented opportunity to help our growing audience examine the vital and changing relationship between humans and the World Ocean and choose paths to make that relationship sustainable,” said Dr. Jerry R. Schubel. Pacific Visions is slated to be open to the public in 2018 to offer greater opportunities for the public to be engaged and inspired by the wonders of the ocean and ocean life. You can be a part of this experience!
The Aquarium is open 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. every day of the year, except December 25 and the weekend of the Grand Prix of Long Beach, April 15-17, 2016. It is open until 8:00 p.m. on select summer and holiday Late Nights. General adult admission is $29.95 (ages 12 and above), $26.95 for seniors (62 and above), $17.95 per child (3-11), and free for children under age 3 and Aquarium members. Annual Aquarium memberships are available.