A little while ago we took a look at the absolutely gorgeous Batumi Aquarium design proposal for the country of Georgia. That inspired me to take a look at other aquariums that fuse water and architecture. I didn’t have to search very far — architectural groups HHF and Burkhardt + Partner teamed up to come up with a proposal for the new Basel Aquarium.
Dubbed “Ozeanium,” this aquarium uses a similar approach to Georgia’s Batumi Aquarium. Both buildings combine natural and manmade elements into a cohesive whole. Instead of replicating shapes from nature in the design, however, Ozeanium focuses on artificial shapes that include right angles and straight edges while highlighting the chaos and persistence of nature.
What do I mean by that? Well, you can tell just by looking at the Ozeanium that it is clearly manmade. The same can’t be said for the Batumi Aquarium — when viewed from afar, you might actually think that it’s a rather bizarre rock formation. The Ozeanium defies its artificial image with circular holes in the side of the building, almost as if the walls have been cut out by a giant ice cream scoop. This gives the building an aged, weathered appearance, as if nature has gradually worn away at the building to cut out new homes for wild critters. An added bonus is that the circular windows give passers-by a sneak peak of the visual treasures that lie within.
In fact, the designers hope to emphasize that quality by transforming those scooped-out holes into gardens and habitats for wild animals. It kind of makes it feel post-apocalyptic, as if civilization has collapsed and vines have slowly overtaken this ancient building to reclaim it for Mother Nature.
This sends a powerful message to viewers: nature prevails. It’s the perfect theme for an aquarium that celebrates the wondrous diversity of aquatic life.
The interior of the aquarium is no less impressive. Much like the exterior, the interior combines artificial and natural aesthetic elements. The sharp edges scream of human design, but the striation-like walls are reminiscent of layers of rock that you might find on the side of a mountain. The interior also utilizes circular shapes in the wall. Those features combined with the heavy use of marbled, grey stone almost make it feel as though the aquarium were carved out of a massive rock. The aquariums suspended in the ceiling add to the aesthetic. Doesn’t it seem like you’re walking through some sort of underwater cave?
The Batumi and Ozeanium aquariums demonstrate how versatile aquatic architecture can be. Both of these buildings marry manmade purpose with natural beauty. How the architects accomplished their respective goals, however, varied tremendously. Which style appeals to you more? Would you rather model your home off of natural shapes such as trees and pebbles, or would you rather incorporate natural elements directly into your home?