The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach announced January 31 that exterior construction and landscaping are complete on the $53-million Pacific Visions Wing, which is scheduled to officially open May 24, 2019.

Designed by San Francisco-based architecture and design firm EHDD, the new 29,000-sq-ft, two- story wing represents the first major expansion by the Aquarium and will serve as a focal point for the institution, integrating arts and sciences, while offering visitors innovative ways to better understand the connection between humans, the oceans and the earth. Clark Construction was the contractor on the sustainable structure, which will also house a state-of-the-art theater, exhibition space, art gallery, and animals.

The finishing touches to complete the exterior include dramatic nighttime lighting emphasizing the building’s curved façade and striking blue color.

Visitors enter Pacific Visions through a 2,800-sq-ft art gallery. The inaugural installation designed by Germany-based Convivial Studio immerses visitors in sea life through a multi-channel video installation, spatial soundscapes, and sculptural relief walls. Next, visitors enter a 2,600-sq-ft orientation gallery showcasing an interactive virtual waterfall and a film that introduces human impact on the planet and opportunities to turn the tide.

These concepts are explored further in the 300-seat Honda Pacific Visions Theater, which houses a 130-ft-wide by 32-ft-tall screen that curves in a 180-degree arc, a tilting floor projection disc, and special effects capabilities. The Aquarium and Cortina Productions are developing the theater content in partnership with leading scientists, filmmakers, storytellers, and digital artists.

In Pacific Vision’s 5,000-sq-ft culmination gallery designed by Bowman Change Inc. with Cortina Productions, visitors can envision steps to create a better planet through interactive games, displays, and animal exhibits. An app designed by Artifact Technologies will enable visitors to share their experience.

Complementing the Aquarium’s existing building, also designed by EHDD, the project’s façade responds to different daylight and weather conditions with varying colors to mirror the effect of sun rays bouncing on the ocean’s surface. The façade, which doubles as a ventilated rain screen, is made up of 839 colored, light-diffusing glass panels weighing between 200 and 800 pounds and covering an area of 18,000 sq-ft.

The innermost layer of the façade incorporates a subtle reflective finish, the middle layer is tinted blue, and the outer layer is made of low-iron, acid-etched glass, which eliminates direct reflection of the trees and sky to reduce the incidence of bird strikes.

Each panel is uniquely sized with the help of Catia and Revit software to accommodate the curves and angles of the building’s form. They were fabricated by Pulp Studio in Gardena, CA, while the glass cladding system and secondary support steel was designed, fabricated, and installed by Woodbridge Glass and Sentech Architectural Systems. Clark Construction is serving as general contractor on the project.

Quyen Luong, EHDD design architect for Pacific Visions, told me last year that the interplay between form and material on the façade results in an “ever-shifting experience” where a visitor can observe a single color change as they move around the site at different times of day.

Duncan Ballash, president of EHDD, told me it required a lot of mock-ups, glazing assemblies, and experimentation to get the right effect on the glass so it would not have any reflections and to give it “some depth and luminosity and the feeling of the ocean.”

Installation of the panels began in July 2018 and at an October 2018 event, crews for Woodbridge Glass lifted the last panel of glass by hand from boom lifts and secured it in place by hanging the carrier frame on 4 brackets attached to the secondary support steel and engaging a seismic clip.

Pacific Visions is pursuing a rating of 2 Green Globes from the Green Building Initiative, which is equivalent to LEED Silver. Officials say the project is designed to achieve 24 percent reduction in energy compared to similar buildings and will produce its own energy through a clean energy fuel cell system, rather than drawing electricity from the local grid. Sustainability features include efficient heating and cooling systems, low-flow fixtures in the restrooms, bird-friendly glass, recycling of construction waste, LED lighting, and environmentally friendly paints, carpets, adhesives, and sealants for clean indoor air quality.