Chicago, Illinois, USA
“We know that when people experience animals up close, it motivates an emotional, empathetic response that has the power to shift attitudes and foster stewardship of local waters, global oceans, and wildlife,” said Dr. Bridget C. Coughlin, president, and CEO of Shedd Aquarium.
Joseph Valerio and his design team at Valerio Dewalt Train, together with exhibition designers Thinc Design, will lead the design of the transformative to revamp of the John G. Shedd Aquarium—one of Chicago’s leading Art Deco monuments designed by Graham Anderson Probst & White completed in 1930 and one of the star attractions at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago.
The National Historic Landmark-listed Shedd Aquarium was among the first-ever inland aquariums and today ranks as the third-largest aquarium in the world and home to home to 25,000 aquatic animals spanning 1,100 species and has the largest paid attendance of any of the 11 member institutions belonging to Chicago’s Museums in the Park organization, including neighboring Museum Campus heavyweights the Adler Planetarium and the Field Museum of Natural History.
The renovation coincides with the 100-Year Anniversary of one of the city’s best-loved institutions and part of the larger, ambitious $500 million Centennial Commitment.
Those funds are earmarked to expand the aquarium’s educational and conservation programming both within the facility itself and outside of it through community investments and other initiatives that “not only bring the aquarium further into Chicago neighborhoods but also bring neighborhood-level environmental discussions and solutions into new, expansive, dedicated community spaces within Shedd’s walls.”
The Shedd Aquarium’s new, community-dedicated spaces are among the highlights of the planned revamp.
Central to expanding its educational mission is the Learning Commons, a new “experiential hub and curiosity incubator” that will be located on the aquarium’s main level.
As detailed in the announcement, this expansive space will act as “a launchpad, increasing the amount of existing classroom space to increase the total number of students engaged at Shedd from 170,000 to 230,000 annually, and provide multiple areas and more opportunities for Chicago communities to gather, engage, and connect with animals, scientists, and each other.”
The renovation plans include a modernized aquarium experience through the transformation and restoration of the historic galleries and dynamic new exhibits that provide greater and more accessible entry points to see and connect with aquatic life as a springboard to inquiry and nature exploration.
Additionally, five existing scientific laboratories will merge into a single, central Science Hub dedicated to microbial ecology, conservation science, water quality and chemistry, genome studies, and pathology.
Renovation work will also extend outside of the aquarium and its galleries to the four acres of Lake Michigan-fronting green space that flanks the landmark building.
“New and reinvigorated spaces will offer everything from a celebration of natural splendor to a comfortable place where guests can view the profound meeting of land and water,” states the aquarium.
“Increasing these direct connections to nature as well as biodiversity at all levels will bolster resilience on the lakefront while adding experiential value and environmental improvements.”
“In an age of increased urbanization, and as a national resource for aquatic conservation and education, we have a deep responsibility and obligation to help close the nature deficit gap,” concludes Coughlin.
“The onsite modernization of the aquarium experience is a significant tool that will help to enable this and several of our ambitions within the plan.”
Project: John G. Shedd Aquarium Renovation
Architects: Valerio Dewalt Train
Original Architects: Graham Anderson Probst & White (1950)
Exhibition Designers: Thinc Design
Project Manager: JLL
General Contractors: Pepper/BMI Construction LLC. Joint Venture
Client: The Shedd Aquarium