Rocks usually aren’t a very calming sight. They’re hard, dull, and cold. At worst they’re jagged and chaotic. Put a rock at the bottom of a flowing stream, however, and it gradually transforms into a smooth pebble that embodies the peace and harmony of flowing water.
Water-worn pebbles served as the inspiration behind the stunningly beautiful Batumi Aquarium. Henning Larsen Architects proposed the winning design for the Georgian seaport city of Batumi, and after looking at the pictures I’m not even remotely surprised that they won.
The aquarium looks as though architects took smooth pebbles from the bottom of a river, magically blew them up to the size of a house, and then stacked them neatly on top of each other to create a beautifully natural-looking building. In fact, there isn’t a single feature of the building (except for its massive size, of course) that smacks of artificiality. The building doesn’t even show any walls or doors on the outside — visitors can walk under a natural archway that’s created by three different stones in order to enter the building.
The interior of the aquarium is no less peaceful than the exterior. Smooth, curving shapes undulate through the aquarium like gentle waves. Gentle lights cast the aquarium in a subtle blue-green glow, as if viewers were walking through an underwater world.
One of the most compelling things about the design is that each of the pebbles acts as a room, so to speak. One pebble might contain aquariums with Mediterranean wildlife, while another might act as a massive theater. The larger flat pebble that rests across the top of the building acts as a staff room for research and development, and for administrative purposes. The top-most pebble has skylights to let in plenty of natural light. The skylights aren’t visible from the ground, so the windows won’t ruin the overall aesthetic.
This building is a perfect example of how beautiful a building can be when its architects incorporate the flowing shapes of water into the overall design. The pebble rooms work in harmony with the aquarium tanks to create a consistent aesthetic that promotes relaxation and personal reflection.
My one and only complaint is that the aquarium is going to be built on the other side of the world! There are plenty of impressive aquariums in America, but none come close to matching the breath-taking beauty of this Georgian aquarium.