Appropriately, construction of the building’s concrete ‘hull’ began in a dry dock, in La Spezia. From here the building travelled to be completed at the Voltri shipyard. Finally it was transported by sea and manoeuvred into position by tugs – no mean feat for a 26,000 tonne structure. Once in position the building was ‘sunk’, to a depth of nearly ten metres, its ballast tanks filled with water and concrete until it was securely on the bottom of the harbour. This means that the majority of the building is below the water line, ensuring its discreet presence.
RPBW worked with engineers and marine specialists to design four new tanks for the pavilion, large enough to accommodate up to nine dolphins. The tanks are filled with purified sea water pumped in from 5km off the coast. The main pool (520 sq m) recreates, as closely as possible, the cetacean’s natural habitat. This is supplemented by a nursery pool (201 sq m), a medical pool (35 sq m), and a holding pool (95 sq m).
Visitors to the pavilion see the animals from two different perspectives: from above, with views from the walkway looking down onto the tanks; and from underwater, via a glass tunnel that runs alongside the main tank.
From an operational point of view, the aquarium tanks can easily be isolated from one another with watertight doors. The staff have excellent access to all four tanks with lifting work platforms and a special low-level platform in the nursery pool.
Additional staff facilities are housed in the two small towers, through which the building is also connected to the existing aquarium complex on either side.
The new Cetaceans Pavilion opened on July 26, 2013.
Client: Costa Edutainment SpA
Renzo Piano Building Workshop, architects
Design Team: S.Scarabicchi, D.Magnano (partner and associate in charge) with Vittorio Tolu, S.D’Atri (CAD Operator)
Consultants: Officina Architetti (executive architect); Studio Boero (structure); Planex (services); A.Severati (water treatment)