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National Aquarium Building Inspired By Stingray

Architecture firm creates "fish out of water"

Stingrays and sharks were the inspiration for the building which houses the new ocean tank at the National Aquarium of New Zealand, which opens tomorrow.

The building, designed by award-winning Architecture Warren and Mahoney, incorporates sleek dynamic lines and a wedge-shaped curved roof to reflect the form of rays or sharks.

"We wanted the exterior of the building to mirror the beauty of the marine forms within," said Architecture Warren and Mahoney partner Andrew Barclay.

The ocean tank links with the existing cylindrical structure, which the firm has refurbished. The extension will eventually contain up to 1,500 fish including crayfish, gurnard and sweep as well as sharks and rays.

To design the layout of the aquarium, Architecture Warren and Mahoney learned about the behaviour and environmental requirements of more than 30 species of fish and marine life. The designers worked closely with aquarium specialists Marinescape - aquarium specialists who have designed aquariums in China, Australia, the UK and United States - to construct the tanks, displays and the 50 metre acrylic viewing tunnel.

"Architecture firms generally have to address the needs of only one species - humans. Learning about what factors need to be considered when designing environments for different marine species was quite an education for us," Barclay said.

Architecture Warren and Mahoney planned the interior layout to tell a story about New Zealand's place in the world and to reflect the Napier location of the aquarium. Visitors begin in the upstairs section where they journey through South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia and then on to New Zealand. Stairs then descend through native bush to a walkway through the Napier reef and finally down to the ocean depths.

"Because the aquarium is, in effect, taking the viewer on a journey, we needed to link the ocean tank building to the existing structure, so that visitors could continue to suspend their disbelief," Mr Barclay said.

Exterior materials were chosen to reflect the aquarium's proximity to the ocean and protect the building from corrosion. In keeping with the marine theme, the structure is surrounded by a moat lit by blue strip lighting at night.


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