Pacific Visions Expansion

Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, California, USA

The Pacific Visions project is a significant expansion to the Aquarium of the Pacific, also designed by EHDD, in Long Beach, California. Anchored to its front public plaza, the two story, sustainable biomorphic glass structure houses an immersive theater experience and changing exhibit galleries and will be the Aquarium’s largest addition since the campus opened in 1998. The Pacific Visions expansion is designed as a new medium for engaging audiences in an ever-evolving dialogue between sea, sky and city.

The mission for this new building is to focus on the health of the Pacific Ocean and to convey the story of animals that depend upon its well-being: animals which are too big to keep in human care and others which are too small to see with the human eye. This attention to conservation and the contrasting scale of the animals to be featured is the genesis for the new building concept. While the original aquarium presents its aquatic program within a series of curvilinear, rippled shapes, Pacific Visions provides a counterpoint within a single sinuous, biomorphic form that is meant to encourage different interpretations.

The centerpiece of the visitor experience is an immersive 2-D theater with seat effects. A dynamic experience for +300 guests, stories are projected simultaneously on a 30 ft. tall, 180 degree digital screen and upon a tilted floor stage. The theater is designed to be flexible in order to host dance performances, lectures and to respond to smaller more intimate audiences. New flexible gallery spaces are also accommodated on the first and second floor of the new addition. The entire building program will expand Aquarium of the Pacific’s capacity to raise collective awareness about conservation issues that relate to ocean health. Pacific Visions will include a new covered ticketing area and public restrooms will be accessible from the prominent pedestrian path ringing the theater volume.

Inspired by the manner in which the design team used water as an important metaphor in the original design, Pacific Visions uses a building skin with visual depth, variability, and luminosity, evoking the spirit of sunlight rippling through water. Consequently, the form is created by a ventilated rainscreen comprised of colored, light diffusing glass panels in a color suggestive of the Pacific Ocean. Each glass panel is unique and is arranged in various faceted angles along the east, west and north elevations, so they will all respond differently to the various climatic conditions and time of day. This façade will capture the shifting dynamics of its surroundings, allowing multiple impressions from the very personal to the more communal. Designed as a bird-safe cladding system, the outer surface of the glass is acid-etched to eliminate direct reflection of the trees and sky, which can confuse birds and result in bird strikes. 

At EHDD, we cherish the interaction between old and new. Blending and interweaving change within the fabric of history allows the old to now be experienced differently, while enabling the new an opportunity to define its own expression. The building entrance location has not changed, though the lobby façade is now more prominent, hosting the new members’ entrance. Visitors gather within the lobby of the original building before they disperse to their areas of respective interest. Visitors to Pacific Visions enter the exhibit under a fragment of the new biomorphic form which engages the original building, bringing emphasis to the new program.

The Pacific Visions expansion will offer a vivid multi-sensory, multi-dimensional experience unique among informal learning centers. View the Aquarium's announcement video here to see whats in store for visitors when Pacific Visions opens in 2018.


Size : 29,000

Completion Date : 2018

 “The new building flows with the original building, but it's also a counterpoint to it...there is depth and mystery to the form and to the glass skin.”

- Marc L'Italien, EHDD Principal




San Francisco

500 Treat Ave #201
San Francisco, CA 94110

(415) 285-9193