New and Improved Vancouver Aquarium Opens its Doors

An artist's conception of the new Vancouver Aquarium

An artist’s conception of the new Vancouver Aquarium

The largest aquarium in Canada just got a whole lot bigger.

On Friday, June 13, the newly expanded Vancouver Aquarium opens its doors to the public for the first time.  The opening marks the completion of the first, ambitious phase of an update slated to continue over the next several years.  The addition nearly doubles the aquarium’s gallery space and includes a number of high-tech upgrades.

The first thing visitors will notice is the dramatic new entryway (along with Bill Reid’s iconic orca statue, now back after two years in storage).  The facade’s new iridescent cladding changes colour from blue to green, much like the scales of a fish.  In addition, the entrance features 2.4-square-meter LED video displays glowing behind a film of tumbling water.

Inside, the most impressive update is a new, two-level rotunda called the Teck Connections Gallery.  The gallery functions as a central area from which all of the other exhibitions in the aquarium can be reached.  Near the ceiling, a 56-metre-long 360-degree video screen plays aquatic scenes.  Meanwhile, a 4-metre-diameter globe hangs in the centre of the rotunda; it’s upside-down, so that the Antarctic is up top and the Arctic – an area of special importance to Canadians – is in full view.

An artist's conception of the 4-metre globe in the aquarium's new rotunda (not pictured upside-down here)

An artist’s conception of the 4-metre globe in the aquarium’s new rotunda (not pictured upside-down here)

But what about the fish? The entrance to the rotunda now features two new exhibits.  On one side, coho salmon fight their way against a simulated current.  On the other, rare sichlids – vibrant orange and yellow fish from Africa’s Lake Malawi – glitter in the light. There’s also a new 140-seat theatre for lectures and educational programs, as well as a 395-square-metre exhibition hall on the lower level for rotating exhibits from places like the Smithsonian.

Finally, the revamped aquarium also boasts an expanded, bi-level cafe with indoor and outdoor seating.  Garage-style doors open to a sun-drenched patio, where guests can sample from a brand new menu highlighting Ocean Wise dishes.

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