The cone-shaped aquarium designed and built by International Concept Management, Inc. at a Moroccan luxury mall is the world’s first and largest acrylic structure of its type. The acrylic aquarium gives shoppers a chance to take an elevator ride through the center of the aquarium to get eye-to-eye with sharks and rays while learning more about aquatic life.
Casablanca, Morocco. January 3, 2012 – The world’s first and largest cone-shaped aquarium with an inner acrylic cylinder housing a glass elevator recently debuted at the new Morocco Mall in Casablanca. Aquadream, the 31 foot tall (9.3 meter) acrylic aquarium designed and built by International Concept Management, Inc. (ICM), is the centerpiece of the luxury giga-mall along Morocco”s coast.
ICM designed the aquarium to offer an engaging experience, emphasizing education and the importance of preserving the world”s oceans. To accomplish this, ICM designed and built an aquarium that would literally immerse guests into a coral reef environment.
The result is an aquarium holding 264,000 gallons (one million liters) of saltwater. The outside of the aquarium resembles an upside-down cone with a glass elevator traveling in a clear R-Cast acrylic tube to transport shoppers to the mall”s top floor. The five minute ride takes guests through a tropical reef, getting them nose-to-nose with sharks, rays, and thousands of other fish while educating them about ocean life.
“ICM gained a wealth of knowledge when constructing the AquaDom cylindrical aquarium in Berlin,” explained Roger R. Reynolds III, CEO of ICM and acrylic panel manufacturer Reynolds Polymer Technology, Inc. (RPT). “Aquadream presented challenges in the complexity of the design and execution, but with our collective expertise, we successfully designed and built the aquarium to fulfill the vision of the project while maintaining our strict safety standards.”
One of the challenges facing ICM was expected earthquake activity. With Casablanca situated in a relatively high seismic zone, safety was paramount in the design. ICM”s solution kept the aquarium as a freestanding structure sitting on its own concrete slab separate from the mall. This cushions it against tremors and isolates it from any movement the rest of the mall may be experiencing during an earthquake. As testament to ICM”s solid engineering and design, two small tremors rippled through during the construction of the aquarium without damaging any component of the structure.
Transporting the aquarium from the port to the job site also required extra planning – and police involvement. A convoy of four oversized trucks hauled the outer cylinder sections to the job site at 3 a.m. with a police escort to ensure that the acrylic panels arrive safely and that motorists were alerted of the oversized objects on the road.
“While the design, manufacturing, and installation were all quite technical, we had considerable experience to rely on to do everything exactly as it should be done,” said Andrius Vengalis, ICM”s on-site Project Manager for the aquarium, referring to other complex freestanding aquariums with an elevator in the design and earthquake-resistant aquariums ICM designed and built. “Seeing the finished aquarium and the excitement from the crowds when the mall opened made all that work well worth it.”
ICM not only designed, built, and commissioned the aquarium, but managed the installation in its entirety. That included designing, sourcing, and installing the reef in the tank for an accurate, functional, and safe replication of an environment for the fish; selecting and sourcing aquatic animals that successfully cohabitate; and designing and installing the lighting, filtration systems, and control panels for the aquarium. All systems have fail-safes that keep the aquarium running at minimal, but safe, levels until the full system can be restored, such as in the event of a power failure.
RPT assisted ICM in the engineering and manufacture of all the R-Cast acrylic panels used in the construction of Aquadream and helped with the on-site assembly. Because the finished outer cylinder was too large to ship in one piece, RPT fabricated it in seven sections. Once on-site, RPT and ICM teams bonded the pieces together to create the conical exterior. The inner cylinder arrived fully-assembled – from sister company RPT Asia, Ltd. in Thailand – which was then lowered into the center of the aquarium.
The exterior of the aquarium is nearly 40 feet in diameter (12.1 meters) at the bottom of the cone and nearly 44 feet in diameter (13.4 meters) at the top, with acrylic panels more than 26 feet (7.8 meters) tall and 4.7 inches thick (12cm). The inner cylinder is 11 feet in diameter (3.4 meters) and four inches thick (10cm). In total, the aquarium holds more than 1,000 metric tons of saltwater.
The state-of-the-art life support system makes saltwater using fresh city water and artificial sea salt while filtering 100 percent of the water every hour. The backwash recovery system allows for the reuse of aquarium water through a unique process which creates efficiency and translates into significant operational savings.
The aquarium will house nearly 3,000 aquatic animals representing 41 different species and is open to the public during normal mall hours. Guests may take an educational elevator ride through the aquarium to the top floor of the mall for a small fee or opt for a diving session in the tank.