Montpellier > aquarium Odysseum

Montpellier > aquarium Odysseum

The decision to build an aquarium on the Odysseum site in Montpellier went hand in hand with the city hall’s desire to create an urban development zone devoted to cultural and sporting activities, along with a shopping centre, in the heart of Port Marianne. The plot chosen for the project eloquently articulated the originality which was to singularise the aquarium, as a major feature of this new urban zone. Discovering and learning about the marine environment and the living organisms it plays home to is part of an ever-evolving science and for this reason, the principle role of the architectural design for the aquarium was to express not only the marvels of the marine world, but also to voice its mysteries. Most importantly, the visitor’s senses were to be awakened and aroused. The King Kong design revolved around the idea of a ‘Sea Opera’ whose emblematic architecture gives pride of place to experiential design, aiming to enthuse the visitor. Rather than creating a static décor, a stereotyped or larger-than-life image of the ocean’s abundant depths, thereby turning the project into a museum, King Kong’s design sought to lead the visitor on a journey not only to the opera’s central stage, but also through its wings and backstage areas, so that each individual might explore, from one visit to the next, an environment which is constantly shifting and changing. This was also the means of introducing a dynamic three-tiered principle of ‘entry, stage and observatory’ for each of the opera’s acts. A further layer was added to the sensorial scenography of the aquarium through sound, used to showcase the building’s architecture and heighten the visitor’s experience. The aquarium was to be an iconic work of architecture for the town, with the aquatic seascape playing an important role in its projected image. The exterior perception of the building’s skin was designed to embody this idea, evoking the natural environment while refusing strict mimetic representation. The King Kong design comprised four physical entities. First, a service building clad in metal and wood. Then, the four acts of the opera, set within oblong volumes in bright acid colours. Next comes a crumpled metal sheet covering the aquariums, in hues of brown through to ochre red, and finally a glazed roof running from the entrance hall to the tropical forest area. The design revolves around the great ocean basin, the pivotal point for the other volumes, in flowing, sinuous lines. These volumes define the experiential layout of the whole, inviting the visitor to explore not only those elements in the limelight (the aquariums), but also those backstage (the technical processes). The universe shaped by these interlacing oblong forms shelters beneath multi-facetted metal roofing, embracing the entirety of the visitor areas.
program
construction of an aquarium
project management
atelier d’architecture King Kong, Ingerop, Ducks Scéno, Kaplan Projets, Germinal Borras, Audionaute, CHF
client: Metropolitan Community of Montpellier
location: Montpellier (34)
surface area: 4 700 m²
Cost (VAT included): 14 300 000 €
date: competition 2004
images/photos: D3îles
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