Aquariums explore the territory between the artificial and the natural, between the aquatic and the terrestrial. Aquariums invoke feelings of nature and fluidity, certainly, but it’s impossible to take in the sight of an aquarium without also realizing at the back of your mind that it is an installation, a piece of brilliant architecture and design that’s as much a part of the building as your sofa or a wall.
The water-loving group Arquitectum hosted an international contest that encouraged designers to come up with water-earth installations. Their hope was to inspire an art piece that toyed with the distinction between land and sea, sky and earth, natural and artificial.
The winning design was the Chan Chan Citadel, which echoes the Chan Chan Citadel built by the ancient Chimu kingdom around 700-1400 AD. This modern-day citadel is nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the desert. Resting high on stilts, the citadel brings visitors to the middle ground between the gritty sand and the ephemeral heavens. With its open-air, wall-less design and its cascading waterfall, the citadel is both a triumph of human ingenuity and an invitation to explore the natural world.
The interior of the citadel, which is sandwiched between the two platforms, is almost stark. The handful of square chairs and sparse tables only serve to accommodate guests, rather than distracting them from the beauty of the surrounding landscape. The waterfall also creates a skirt-like veil around the building to obscure the stilts and the staircase and add to the immersive feeling.
Home aquariums can also bring these dualistic elements into their design. For example, placing less emphasis on the actual architecture of the aquarium will bring the natural beauty of the sea life into focus. Similarly, your aquarium’s placement within a room can affect how it interacts with the architectural components of a living space. Does it compliment the architecture to become part of the building, or does it visually stand apart, like an organic oasis in a desert of steel of concrete?
These decisions can help elevate your aquarium from a mere spectacle to a truly brilliant art piece that creates cohesion within a living space.