A blend of bioluminescent life forms and splashy audiovisual recreations of their eerie haunts in the darkest depths of the ocean has earned the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach an international design award.
The $560,000 Wonders of the Deep exhibit, which opened in May, aims to draw public attention to the importance of protecting marine resources and introduce visitors to some of the cryptic creatures that thrive in submerged expanses, frigid darkness, crushing pressure and volcanic fissures.
The Good Design Award was conferred jointly by the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design and the European Center for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies.
The exhibition’s wall projections, lighting, interactive computer displays, video feeds and temperature-controlled tanks were designed by Tom Bowman of Bowman Global Exchange in Signal Hill, in collaboration with Ed Hackley Design of Richmond, Va., aquarium staff and ocean explorers.
"The deep ocean is Earth’s largest ecosystem and last frontier, one that few humans will ever see," said Jerry Schubel, the aquarium’s president and chief executive. "Our goal was to make it accessible to everyone."
Characters on display include flashlight fish, a small black species armed with clumps of bioluminescent bacteria that reside just under their eyes; chambered nautiluses, which travel vertically thousands of feet each day to feed in shallows and then hide in places devoid of sunlight; eel-like hagfish that, when spooked, emit thick globs of slime intended to force hungry predators to spit them out.
A fiberglass replica of a rotting pygmy sperm whale carcass in a large tank puts a spotlight on scavengers of the biological oases created by dead marine mammals that sink to the bottom.
The living exhibits are accompanied by live video feeds from ongoing explorations of deep waters around the world conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's ship Okeanos Explorer and oceanographer Bob Ballard's ship Nautilus.
The Good Design Award program was created in Chicago in 1950 to highlight design quality, function and aesthetic beyond ordinary consumer products and graphics.