The Brainerd Lakes area of Minnesota draws over 100000 visitors and residents each summer, with 450 lakes and over 90 resorts and hotels along with family-size cabins populating the area. There’s no shortage of people who enjoy activities on and around our lakes, but there’s a need for more education and encouragement to act when it comes to the health and preservation of the lakes and the species within them. Pollution, the threat of invasive species like zebra mussels, and the need to enjoy the lakes in an environmentally sustainable way are all relevant topics relating to Life Below Water that must be illuminated. There will also always be a desire for memorable activities for tourists on rainy days, and as such, an eco-conscious aquarium would be a welcome addition.
NEEDS & GOALS
In looking to design an aquarium that has the ability to impart an ecological message while also drawing a crowd, I investigated what makes such an attraction effective and memorable. The following needs are model of case studies including Den Blå Planet in Denmark, notable for it’s architectural spectacle, and the more local Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth, MN, notable for its local popularity and environmental message. All of the following have been included in some way in the final design.
- Rain cover, as we plan to draw the greatest numbers on days when weather discourages people from spending their vacation day outdoors
- A circulation consisting of halls with typical aquarium tanks and presentation interrupted by more organized sections where you pause to listen to a lecture or do some interactive activity (the following will all be components of this layout):
- Interactive learning, which according to interviews and studies is more engaging and memorable in most cases. Touch pools, feedings, discussions, games, volunteer activities out on the lake, etc…
- Guided learning, via our theaters, presentations, demos, and guided volunteer help activities that teach and practice how to enjoy the lakes while supporting environmental health
- More traditional aquarium spectacles, as impressive as possible
- Dining that keeps the nautical theme
- Docks for excursion activities and volunteering as well as the potential to arrive at the facility by boat
- Water access–the lake we would plan to build on is one of the largest and is actively used along its entire perimeter
- Place to sign up for such activities, surrounded by banners and advertisements for exhibits and excursions and ideally at the end of circulation so that one will by then be convinced
- A gift shop and ice cream stand for such an area at the end of the experience as well
- Ice fishing exhibit (for reasons to be clarified below)
A view of the Brainerd Lakes Area:
This is a fairly central location with respect to the most concentrated areas for vacation cabins in the wider Brainerd area, and is positioned along a highly trafficked roadway that runs the length of the region, so that the facility is conveniently accessible to the most people possible. We would construct a new off ramp from the highway into our parking lot on the artificial landmass.
Due to the scarcity of dry land in this stretch between the lakes, and the presence of already established vacation space, almost all of the facility would have to be constructed over water—partially creating more artificial land space and partially by supporting floating parts of the structure—but this suits our purposes. While the construction of a facility on this scale almost entirely over an existing body of water is ambitious and will take several years, I believe this to be the most optimal site choice for this project.
Additionally, there is an annual ice fishing competition that regularly draws >10000 competitors on Hole-in-the-Day lake across the road, so placing the facility at this point along the highway and including something like an ice fishing-related exhibit could potentially capitalize on the popularity of that event.
The following are a series of floor plan sketches from several points throughout the design process. I iterated the design several times, incorporating feedback from my peers according to the 6-Step Design process
The following are a floor plan and exterior drawing of my design for an aquarium on Gull Lake. Within the floor plan and its legend there are elements that address every need I have outlined so far.
320ft across from left to right eating areas; everything is to scale. Upon being dropped off or parking, the users’ circulation through the building would likely be generally circular going clockwise such that they begin and end the experience at the shore (since there is no possible exit otherwise, and a long boring walk backwards would be less than ideal), where we would also construct a place for parking. The left and right “wings” of the building would contain different exhibits and almost be considered different experiences, such that even if the entry point is the far dock, a visitor can choose to experience one or two “semicircles” of exhibits and pass by dining and end up in a suitable ending location with a gift shop and the opportunity to continue the experience with an outdoor excursion.
Please respond to the following questions in the comments below, and think about how your community may be able to educate people about similar environmental issues.
- What topics relating to freshwater species and/or environmental health do you think would be important for an attraction like this to bring attention to?
- In what ways do you think the design of this facility could better promote Life Under Water, Sustainable Consumption and Production, and Climate Action?
- In what ways does this design succeed in promoting Life Under Water, Sustainable Consumption and Production, and Climate Action?
- What places in your community have been effective in spreading awareness and an environmental message, and why do you think they were so effective?
- How memorable do you think a visit to this aquarium would be? What makes an experience memorable for you?