Over the weekend, Northern Europe’s largest aquarium opened to the public eight kilometers (five miles) outside of Copenhagen in Oresund, Denmark. The Blue Planet aquarium features over 20,000 fish and other aquatic animals all housed within 53 aquariums containing a total of approximately seven million liters (1.85 million gallons) of water.
Designed by Danish architectural studio 3XN, which won the opportunity to build the project back in 2007 through an international competition, The Blue Planet complex sits slightly elevated above the headlands facing towards the sea, just north of Kastrup Harbor in Oresund. The seawater required for the cold salt water aquariums is pumped in from the sea through a 1.7 km (1.05 mile) long tube. To ensure a healthy environment for the fish, all water in the aquariums is filtered and sanitized every hour and then reused.
The largest aquarium inside the complex is the Ocean Tank, which measures 16 meters (52 ft) in length, 8 meters (26 ft) in height and weighs roughly 60 tonnes (66 tons). Acrylic glazing, which is considered to be 10 to 20 times more impact resistant than glass, was chosen to hold the aquarium’s four million liters (1.05 million gallons) of water.
The design of the complex was inspired by the organic movement of water and the shape of sea creatures. Similar to the scales of a fish, the exterior has been decorated with a series of small diamond-shaped aluminum shingles, which also add a water effect to the building by reflecting the color and movement of the sky above.
With the aim of giving visitors the sense of being immersed in an underwater world, the architects designed the entry foyer with a glass roof that forms the bottom of a pool. Different sections of the aquarium branch off from a central room called the Round Room, from where visitors can choose to explore the river, lake or ocean aquariums.
“Our wish was to bring our visitors all the way down to the world of the fish. Therefore, the design of The Blue Planet is based on the story about water and life under the sea,” said Kim Herforth Nielsen, Creative Director of 3XN. “We visualized the construction as a whirlpool which draws visitors into the depths to the fascinating experiences waiting among fish and sea animals from all over the world.”
3D modeling played a major part in designing the aquarium’s concrete and steel structures and many of the interior installations. A complex load-bearing system consisting of 54 unique steel frames with radial positioning and geometry forms the base of the curved facades. The installations for the themed aquariums also incorporate specific technology systems to control humidity and heating of special climatic areas, the cooling for aquariums and the climate for the public areas.
“For 600 million DKK (US$107.6 million) we have been able to construct a unique building, where architecture and technical demands have challenged our fantasy and abilities to the extreme,” said Bent Frank, Chairman of The Blue Planet Building fund.
The Blue Planet is home to a variety of sea life including sharks, sea lions, dwarf crocodiles, moray eels and barracudas. The largest residents are the hammerhead sharks, which measure between three and four meters (10 - 13 ft) long. The aquarium also hosts a restaurant with views of the sea – and yes, fresh fish is on the menu.