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Monterey Bay Aquarium


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Sara Johnsonuxazyvvavydrfdxb, Hanley Wood Media

Project Name

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Project Status


Year Completed




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Project Description


As one of the first of its kind, the Monterey Bay Aquarium departed from traditional aquarium design by focusing on the unique marine ecology of one habitat: the Monterey Bay and its shoreline. Resting half over the water and half on the land, the building actively participates with the environment that it examines. The aquarium sits sensitively among the existing sardine processing plants and cannery buildings, utilizing the foundations—and rekindling the spirit—of the old Hovden Cannery. EHDD has worked on several projects with the aquarium since 1984, continuing to enhance and improve the visitor experience with every addition.

The aquarium is not just a “display” of marine life. The design strategy was to create an immersive experience that excites visitors’ senses and invokes a feeling of wonder. The aquarium presents more than 100 galleries and exhibits recreating the habitats of Monterey Bay. Some of the most spectacular habitats are constructed in massive acrylic-enclosed tanks, including a jewel jellyfish tank, a towering giant-kelp forest in a 335,000-gallon three-story tank, and a million-gallon shark tank.

The technical requirements to support such environments are as impressive as the habitats themselves. The water is drawn directly from the bay itself, allowing the natural organisms that nourish the bay to be emitted into the exhibits during evening hours (during viewing hours the water is filtered for more clarity). The building temperature is controlled by a heat-exchange system that uses the Bay’s water for cooling. The experience is what amounts to a leisurely stroll through the ocean without getting wet.
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