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Piero Lissoni’s New York City Aquarium

Arch Out Loud

Italian architect and designer Piero Lissoni recently won a prize at the Arch Out Loud contest with his Aquatrium design. The striking structure would be a submerged aquarium, island, and public park situated on a vacant piece of land and basin in Queens, New York.

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No better position could be chosen to represent the most important NYC Aquarium than the East River itself. The project creates a dynamic system that interacts with its surroundings, offering multiple ways to experience the water world represented by eight triple-height transparent biomes: four Oceans (Atlantic, Pacific, Indian and Southern) and four Seas (Caribbean, Mediterranean, Tasman and Red Sea), while the North and South Poles are expressed by a visible iceberg in the center of the Atrium.

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The site is excavated to become a spacious and innovative water basin, with the Aquarium and Marine Center forming a submerged two-level island accessed via a perimetral ramp that starts from the lobby entrance and leads visitors along the biome pathway. A sloped beachfront encloses the parking area to form a panoramic public space, while a boardwalk surrounds the basin to become a floating ring connecting the two waterfronts and encompassing the Aquarium and its sliding roof.

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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; a living shell that opens to the sky during the day to reveal the sea worlds and which closes as darkness falls to take on a “second life” as a planetarium, protecting the arena and the biome domes within, like a shell protects the pearl.

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all images courtesy of Arch Out Loud