Blue Planet Aquarium

The Blue Planet Aquarium, in the Danish town of Kastrup, makes good use of materials in order to create the mood, atmosphere and experience of a watery, undersea world. Examples are aluminium, to create ethereal reflections, and acrylics forming underwater tunnels that appear ghost-thin but are actually extremely thick.

Designed by Danish studio 3XN, the form overall shape of the building was inspired by the movement of water, specifically a whirlpool. In order to clad the exterior of the building’s organic forms, more than 27,000 m² of coated aluminum were processed into 40,000 uniformly shaped shingles. Mimicking the scales of a fish, these diamond shapes were attached to the building using stainless steel clips, resulting in a continuously flowing façade. Produced by Novelis, the aluminium specified is a sea-water resistant alloy that is highly durable and appropriate for use in extreme climates. To create a natural look, the panels were coated with a clear lacquer that allows the aluminium to mirror the colours of the surrounding sky and sea, giving the museum’s façade a very varied expression, much like the ocean itself.

The circular entrance of the building features a glass ceiling that allows visitors to look up into a pool above. Natural sunlight filters through the pool of water, introducing visitors to the feeling of being immersed in the sea. From this foyer area, visitors can enter different dedicated sections of the aquarium, where one can admire over 20,000 different fish and marine animals.

The display of these aquatic animals, housed within 53 aquariums, requires a total of approximately seven million liters of a particularly important material: water. The seawater required for the cold salt-water aquariums is pumped in directly from through neighbouring ocean via a 1.7 km long tube. The pumped in seawater also is circulated throughout the building in order to keep the entire facility cool. To ensure a healthy environment for the fish, all water in the aquariums is filtered and sanitised every hour and then reused.

The largest aquarium inside the complex is the Ocean Tank, which measures 16 m long, 8 m high and weighs roughly 60 tons. Acrylic glazing, which is considered to be 10 to 20 times more impact-resistant than glass, was chosen to hold the aquarium’s four million liters of water. Despite its thickness of approximately 45 cm, the acrylic allows for spectacularly clear views of a variety of sealife, including hammerhead sharks measuring up to 7 meters in length.

The same custom cast acrylic was also used to create the ‘Ocean’ exhibit, a sea tunnel measuring 2.1 m high and 3 m wide that gives visitors the experience of being entirely surrounding by the ocean and its sealife. Like the Ocean Tank, the clarity of the acrylic gives the illusion that only a very thin layer separates the visitor from the aquatic environment beyond. In reality, the acrylic used in the sea tunnel is over 12 cm thick.

Adding to the otherworldly atmosphere, exhibition designers Kvorning Design & Communication employed a mixture of light, sound, advanced AV-technology, projects, film, interactivity, graphics, illustrations and signs to enhance the visitor’s experience of life under water.