Friday, October 06, 2006

The Country’s Oldest Aquarium To Get a 21st Century Whale of a Makeover

Starting from its original home in lower Manhattan from 1896 to 1941 then to 1957 where it was moved to its 14 acre hiding place in Coney Island - the Wildlife Conservation owned and operated New York Aquarium is getting a 21st Century makeover. City officials yesterday unveiled three finalists in the competition to design a new exterior for the New York Aquarium

From its isolated fortress tucked snugly between Surf Avenue and the boardwalk the low-key aquarium could rise and show off a new whale-like structure well above the confinement it's been operating in all these years.

Of the new designs, by the firms WRT; Smith-Miller & Hawkinson Architects; and West 8 in collaboration with Weisz & Yoes Architecture, which city officials unveiled yesterday for the exterior of the aquarium - one replaces the concrete wall with an undulated wave fence, exposing the aquarium along with entrances at several points. And another design, by contrast, hides areas of the parking lot with manmade sand dunes cut through with looping pathways.

“It’s very important that people going to the aquarium have the experience of going to the beachfront again,” said Jerry van Eyck of West 8.

Included in one of the three designs of the competition which dictates in its guidelines to be another “beacon for Coney Island”, is a giant jelly fish resting on it’s tendrils.

Another rendering has one side of exterior structure interpreting its neighbor, the Cyclone roller coaster and the other a gigantic whale-like giant veil. The structure will surely be the kind of thing the new Coney Island will call and stand for.

“The aquarium is a critical anchor for Coney Island, especially if it's that much more physically integrated into Coney Island,” said, Mr. Sirefman, interim president of the development corporation. “People who come to a Cyclones game or to the amusements should be going to the aquarium.”
With the promised renaissance of Coney Island on the horizon , which will most likely come with some sort of hotel, high-end retail, and the ever-pressed mention of the indoor water park, the revitalization of Brooklyn’s new Riviera will be the year round destination the New Coney is meant to be.

City officials, community leaders, and the conservation society, expect to choose a final design this fall.

See more drawings from Weisz & Yoes Architecture

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