Smith-Miller + Hawkinson's American Architecture Award winning aquarium proposal takes inspiration from the sea
The design concept derives from a nuanced understanding of the impact of nature, technology and mass culture on the small stretch of sand that is Coney Island. The project has two parts. The WaveFence is a multivalent surface surrounding the aquarium. The SandScape, is an artificial dune concealing a parking garage below.
The SandScape is a hybrid: part sand and part recycled material. Its form is calibrated to celebrate the Sea, the Cyclone, and the City. Where the SandScape splits to reveal itself, the Ocean Immersion Lighting, a kinetic lighting and signage program, broadcasts a sea of information and images from the aquarium.
Running the entire length of the SandScape, a new boardwalk, or DuneWalk, defines the path of travel. The DuneWalk connects the subway, the Aquarium, the beach, the ocean and a future ferry terminal along one axis.
Modelled after beach fencing used to stabilize sand dunes, the WaveFence creates a graphically uniform porous edge between the Aquarium and its surroundings. The undulating form of the WaveFence accommodates a variety of incidental programs. Along the boardwalk, the Periscope Peepshow affords passersby a free glimpse into the Aquarium. In the GreenWave configuration, vegetation colonizes the WaveFence to create a vertical garden. Along the handball courts, the GreenArcade provides space for the community to gather or play.
At night, the WaveFence extends the illusion that one is underwater; like a deep sea predator it begins to glow with an eerie blue light. After charging all day in the sun, photoluminescent paint is a zero-energy signage solution, an iconic lighting effect reminding late-comers to return. High above everything, TheWhale presides languorously over her Kingdom.