Alas, we will have to do without background narration from Sigourney Weaver, but with Finding Dory in the theatres let’s visit the inspiration for the movie’s setting, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, designed by EHDD.
I’ve visited the aquarium a number of times*, and have always appreciated the building. The exhibits, of course, are the big draw, and they are stunning and great technical achievements, but the rugged and simple building itself is an understated beauty.
Two things strike you as you enter into the building. The first is the boilers, remnants of the cannery that forms the heart of the complex. Starting with this moment of adaptive reuse, the old and weathered brick is inviting and sets the stage for the technical systems and shed-like structures that carries through the rest of the buildings. Thematically, it also sets a counterpoint to the history of the region and the mission of the aquarium, as well as historical marker of our relationship to the sea.
The second is the view. Directly opposite the entrance are great windows that open out to the bay beyond, with the aquarium’s great tide pool in the foreground. This is an institute dedicated to the sea and our love and understanding and protection of it, and that’s on view and on display right as you enter. The soaring space of the lobby, with the big boilers and skylights above, pulls attention and the view outward and onward.
It is most definitively not an introverted building, though it could easily have been one given all the special tanks and displays and activities. But at every turn the building reconnects you to the outside and to the bay beyond.
It’s a great building that supports a great set of exhibits. And it’s in the spotlight not only in Finding Dory but also winning this year’s AIA’s 25 Year Award.
If you’ve never been, it’s worth a visit for all the reasons.
* If you’re asking why I don’t have any of my own pictures to share of the building, well, each time I visit, somehow, the only pictures I take are of the otters… the wonderful, playful, cute, sleek, fun, otters…