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WOW What a Project: Wonders of Wildlife Wins Best New Attraction

The one of a kind Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium has just been voted America’s Best New Attraction by USA Today. Individuals across the country made their voices heard by voting in the national contest, propelling Wonders of Wildlife to the top. Butler, Rosenbury & Partners is proud to be part of this amazing project.

Wonder's of Wildlife Named America's #1 Attraction

After nearly ten years of renovations, the expanded museum opened last fall. It is home to 35,000 live fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds. Over the past four years, BR&P served as Architect of Record in collaboration with the Project’s Designer, cosestudi, on the 60,000 sq. ft. Great Oceans Hall developed by the Johnny Morris Foundation. The building, which serves as the main entrance to the aquarium, connects the original Wonders of Wildlife building to Bass Pro Shop’s flagship store.

Wonder's of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium Wins Best New Attraction

Mike Harned, BR&P Architect & Partner, worked with Michael Oleksak of cosestudi. “We learned a lot from cosestudi about aquariums; they have extensive depth and knowledge.  BR&P’s team of consultants assisted on the technical aspects to accomplish the owner’s vision and cosestudi’s design.” Nate Hay, BR&P Intern Architect, also had the unique opportunity to work on the project.

“One of the benefits of being with Butler, Rosenbury & Partners is that I got to jump on this project immediately after I graduated from Drury in 2013. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I got to be an integral part of the team.”

The design team coordinated the work on three massive saltwater tanks inside the Great Oceans Hall. The first tank visitors experience is the Ring Tank. It is unique as it features a 360-degree view inside of the aquarium where guests can experience up-close views of the marine life. “The whole idea is to educate the visitor and provide a ‘wow’ factor,” explains Mike.

Following the Ring Tank, visitors encounter the Bait Ball Tank, which features thousands of silver herring swirling in a vortex while black tip sharks circle around them. Guests can walk underneath the tank to look up into the funnel cloud of continuous motion. The third tank, the Great Barrier Reef Tank, is a towering aquarium which houses large numbers of colorful reef fish.

The Bait Ball Tank at Wonders of Wildlife

The tanks’ designs proved to be quite a challenge. Since all contain saltwater, the project team explored options to achieve longevity in protecting interior surfaces within the corrosive environment, while also isolating these zones from public areas. The solution included epoxy coated reinforcing and waterproof additive for the concrete tank foundations, floors and walls; premium waterproofing applied to wet sides of each tank and a dedicated HVAC system.  All surfaces exposed to the salt environment were protected with High-Performance coating system, including the door hardware.

Another challenge was integrating the new superstructure between three existing buildings: Bass Pro Shops Boat Showroom, John A. & Genny Morris Conservation Center and the original Wonders of Wildlife building.  In addition, the team repurposed a couple of existing structures. One included adapting an existing stair tower foundation into a saltwater mixing tank which is piped to the aquariums.

The Great Barrier Reef Tank in the Great Ocean's Hall at Wonders of Wildlife

The project demanded collaboration from all stakeholders. “Weekly meetings, constantly updating Revit models, communication and research were essential,” says Mike. For Nate, that teamwork was especially important in the modeling of the tanks. They required an extensive amount of coordination between the structural, civil and MEP engineers, Director of Live Exhibits and the contractor. Throughout the entire process, Nate gained an understanding of how much work and equipment it takes to keep all the fish alive.

“It’s amazing to work on something this grand, and so local, and to have a huge hand in it. It’s just a remarkable thing to be a part of,” says Nate. For Mike, he enjoyed working and coordinating with the whole project team. “I am so blessed to be part of this! My hat goes off to Mr. Johnny Morris, and for giving our firm the opportunity to be a part of his vision.”

Project Team:

Also in the January Newsletter: Modern Elegance Goes Green: Embassy Suites & Convention Center, Denton, TX Project Roll Call 2018

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