Back when plans for revitalizing Coney Island were just taking shape in 2006, the New York Aquarium held a dramatic architecture competition for a new facility. A stunning design by Philadelphia firm WRT and Barcelona architects Cloud 9 was chosen, looking like a breeching whale scooping up krill in its canopied mouth.
That plan was fed to the sharks. As funds ran short two years later, it looked like the aquarium would build a new shark tank and little
more. The renderings that emerged a year later were for a garish amusement, the sort of design a second grader might come up with after a visit to the boardwalk.
Now, final plans for the aquarium have been approved, and while they are not nearly as expansive or impressive as those first proposed, the result is a facility satisfying as a day at the beach. It is a fitting addition to the reinvigorated boardwalk, nothing too complicated nor demure. A sweeping walkway sheathed simply in a shimmering aluminum curtain has been added, sort of Gehry-lite. This ramp leads up to the new 50,000-square-foot addition, which houses that 500,000-gallon shark tank, offering ocean and boardwalk views.
These views were especially important to local council member Dominic Recchia, according to The Journal:
Mr. Recchia remembers visiting the aquarium as a child and being struck by the aquarium’s lack of ocean views. “It was always frustrating to me,” Mr. Recchia said. The new plans for the building “had to bring the aquarium to the ocean.”
The paper notes that the aquarium has $49 million in commitments from the city but still needs to raise more money to cover the project’s $150 million budget. The expansion, which will also offer access to the aquarium via the boardwalk for the first time, will open in 2015. Though it has been surpassed in size over the year’s, the New York Aquarium remains the nation’s oldest, having opened in 1896.