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Paint changes colors on aquarium

Photo: Ema Peter

Photo: Ema Peter

Mark Thompson, Architect AIBC, MRAIC, ANZIA, LEED AP BD+C, partner at Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, says a new 55,000-square-foot Vancouver Aquarium building in Stanley Park has walls with a curved, organic form intended to evoke animal life and water. Stanley Park borders downtown Vancouver and is surrounded on three sides by the Pacific Ocean. The design team wanted the cladding for the $45 million expansion and renovation to mimic fish scales and started with a review of colored materials that could achieve this effect, he says.

Approximately 12,000 square feet of Statesville, N.C.-based 3A Composites USA Inc.'s 4-mm-thick Alucobond aluminum composite material (ACM) with a Spectra Sakura color finish was installed on the aquarium in a pressure-equalized wall system. The ACM cladding changes colors from green to pink hues.

The curvilinear design fits with Stanley Park's large trees and pools of water and the aquarium's outdoor exhibits that wind in and out of fixed natural areas, Thompson says. "The material also had to be durable," he says. "In a salt-water environment, the building's cladding had to be corrosive-resistant. Additionally, we needed a low-maintenance material because this is a major public building."

Thompson says the green-to-pink combination fit in Stanley Park because it was subtle. "As you move around the building, you see a change in coloration," he says. "And, as the sun moves across the building, it changes color as well. The curve looked good with the Sakura; it really produced the desired effect."

Keith Panel Systems Co. Ltd., of Vancouver, fabricated and installed 580 Alucobond Spectra Sakura panels in five sizes. The Alucobond Spectra Sakura panels were installed on the walls with a staggered panel joint layout intended to heighten the fishscale effect. "The fish-scale look produced with the Spectra Sakura is definitely a feature of these walls," Thompson says. "We were looking for an architectural element that was uniquely evocative of the aquarium's mission."

Carlo Gatti, business development manager at Keith Panel Systems, says Spectra Sakura was chosen because it provided the marine life aesthetic that the architect wanted. The underwater effect was enhanced with horizontal LED light strips placed in a random pattern within the reveals of the wall panel system, he says. Richmond, British Columbia-based PCL Constructors Westcoast Inc. was the general contractor for the project, which was completed in June 2014. Panels were field measured to ensure a proper fit at all of the detail interfaces. The panels were installed with Keith Panel Systems' system A, a dry-joint compartmentalized and pressure-equalized rainscreen system.

Gatti says the design approach produced a cost savings for the client. "We worked with the architect and the aid of CAD software to ensure that the building curve design was gentle enough so that the panels could be manufactured flat and walked onto the curve," he says.

The Spectra Sakura ACM was installed primarily on the aquarium building's eastern and western elevations, which flank the main entrance. Additionally, 3,600 square feet of 4-mm-thick Alucobond in custom River Zinc Metallic was installed as canopy fascia and within circular skylight wells.

Thompson says the aquarium grew piece by piece since opening in 1956 in a 9,000-square-foot facility to occupy more than 100,000 square feet. "This latest project gave us the opportunity to take an incongruous set of expansions and renovations and create a more unified image," he says. "We wanted to give the aquarium an identity and presence within Stanley Park that would increase its value to the city."

Design elements in the project were targeted to meet LEED Canada Silver rating requirements. The new building features an entrance, ticketing and admissions area, café and coffee bar, gift shop, children's area and courtyard. It has an upper-level connecting hub and gallery with a 360-degree overhead digital projection of the aquatic world and a 14-foot globe. The building's lower level features a public program presentation area with amphitheater-style seating and a changing exhibits gallery.

Thompson says his company is happy with the project. "The Vancouver Aquarium now has a place in the city where it previously had been almost buried in the park," he says.

Alucobond by 3A Composites USA Inc., www.alucobondusa.com