The Aquatic Gallery is part of the sprawling 200 acres that makes up Science City.
The Aquatic Gallery is part of the sprawling 200 acres that makes up Science City.Aquatic Gallery - Science City

Inside Ahmedabad's Aquatic Gallery: India's First Inland Aquarium

No less than the rabbit hole from Alice in Wonderland and every bit as magical: the architectural marvel that is the Aquatic Gallery in Gujarat Science City, Ahmedabad, resembles a giant seashell; its curved form guiding you on an underwater adventure. This captivating structure, designed by INI Design Studio, takes inspiration from the nautilus, a marine mollusk with a beautifully spiralling shell and is the first inland aquarium in the country.

Commissioned by the Gujarat Council of Science City (GCSC), an autonomous registered society that was established under the Department of Science and Technology, Government of Gujarat in 1999, the Aquatic Gallery is part of the sprawling 200 acres that makes up Science City. Developed in the city of Ahmedabad, Science City seeks to go beyond conventional educational paradigms bystudying the diverse ecosystems and life forms that coexist with us on this planet. India’s largest and first planned inland aquarium, the Aquatic Gallery is a 5th generation world-class public aquarium which caters to the vision of ‘edutainment’ and has been designed with a vision to bridge the gap between formal science education and the public at large.

The building's design isn't just about aesthetics; it serves a purpose. The circular, segmented layout creates a natural flow for visitors, mimicking the gentle current of an underwater journey. As you explore the gallery, the exhibits cleverly unfold alongside the curved path, creating a captivating experience. Imagine sections resembling coral reefs or kelp forests, each one seamlessly transitioning into the next.

As you enter, you're greeted with an expansive 27.5-meter diameter central atrium, the heart of the Aquatic Gallery. Sunlight streams in through strategically placed clerestory windows, casting a soft glow on the surroundings. Overhead, a steel deck slab adds a touch of modern elegance. This central space serves as a launchpad for further exploration, with the various exhibit galleries branching out from here. But the magic truly unfolds beneath your feet. As you descend to the lower level, you discover a network of exhibit 72 exhibit tanks with huge 12x4m windows and interactive display screens, housing 180 species and 12,000+ fish native to various regions categorized into zones like the Indian, Asian, African, American, etc. You can also walk through the Oceanarium, with its 30-meter-long transparent tunnel housing sharks and various other aquatic species, while surrounded by the beautiful blue underwater world.

The construction of the Aquatic Gallery wasn't without its challenges. The team at INI Design Studio had to prioritize structural stability to withstand seismic activity and other natural disasters, which led to the use of exposed reinforced cement concrete exterior surfaces. Interestingly, these surfaces also boast a dynamic visual quality, with openings that cleverly resemble the gills of a fish, unifying the theme through the building's facade.

Sustainability was another key consideration during construction. The building envelope is insulated, and the glazing system is high-performance with low emissivity in order to reduce energy consumption. The architects also cleverly used the building's height to their advantage. The structure is designed to be taller on the southern side which self-shades portions of the building throughout the day. This passive cooling strategy further minimizes the need for artificial air conditioning.

From Finding Nemo from our childhoods to Avatar: The Way of Water, the popularity of the underwater realms reflects our fascination with the ocean and the creatures it inhabits. It’s a world beneath our own; the vast unknown. The Aquatic Gallery is a space dedicated to experiencing and learning about the realm of water on land while showcasing the better side of humanity; one that wants to connect and live in harmony with the beings it shares the planet with. Moreover, The Aquatic Gallery is also a prime example of how thoughtful design and cutting-edge technology can create a captivating and sustainable space for showcasing the wonders of the aquatic world. It's a must-visit for anyone fascinated by the underwater realm and offers an immersive and educational experience for visitors of all ages.

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