The Azores Aquarium is a space entirely dedicated to the discovery, interpretation and conservation of the beautiful Azores Sea and all the wealth of the ocean heritage and marine biodiversity of the Azores Archipelago.
The full project, covering the architectural and exhibition designs, was developed by the MUSE teams in collaboration with the teams from the Alvaro Planchuelo Architecture Studio and the Azorean company Picos de Aventura.
Inspired by the magic of the Azores Sea and its unique features, the architectural complex of the Azores Aquarium intends to establish itself as a landmark. The architectural concept is the most characteristic symbolic element of the marine geography of the Azores – the form of a volcano or seamount – embodied in a large octagonal basalt structure and representative of the part of a volcano emerging from the sea. The result forms a very powerful uniform complex of scenography, with over a million litres of water.
The building with about 3,000 metres of built area will be situated in the waters of the western marina of Portas do Mar in Ponta Delgada on the island of São Miguel. The complex, which uses modern materials and explores transparencies and reflections, will be based on a platform placed over the sea and that is linked by three walkways to the seafront promenade.
Comprising an octagonal building, an aquarium-oceanarium, with a main tank and 10 themed tanks, a set of interpretation and permanent exhibition halls, the Azores Aquarium will reveal the extraordinary geography, geology and topography of the Azores Sea and its enormous diversity of biotopes, ecosystems, landscapes, habitats and species of fauna and flora to the public.
The exhibition route, with five interpretative halls and two aquarium areas, will recreate an amazing virtual journey that contains the main features of the Azorean sea, from its location to the abyssal sea floor. The overall concept of the exhibition aims to provide an educational, informative and entertaining path, managing to provide a strong sensory experience, using immersive, interactive and large format exhibition media, complemented by the surrounding sound and lighting systems.
The exhibition design aims to stimulate the direct participation of visitors, involving them in the interaction and transmission of content and activities.
The communication of the wealth of the ocean heritage and marine biodiversity of the Archipelago unfolds around the main themes:
– The Azores Sea from the Surface;
– The Mid-Atlantic Ridge;
– Rocks on the Shore;
– Discovering the Volcano;
– Journey to the Deep Sea-Floor;
– Science and the Sea;
– The Culture of the Sea – Tradition and Future
The live collection of the Aquarium-Oceanarium will present a spectacular range of creatures representative of all the species of the Azores Sea, favouring species that cope well when kept in captivity, ensuring the highest possible degree of freedom within their natural ecosystems and direct contact between the public and the species.
The complex also features an auditorium for 90-100 people, a scientific-educational laboratory, a marine mammal recovery dock, an area for therapeutic swimming, a dive centre and a whale watching centre.
As support facilities, there will be a coffee shop, an underwater gourmet restaurant, a bar with a panoramic terrace and a shopping area.
With visitor numbers estimated to be about 200,000 a year, the Azores Aquarium, combining scientific knowledge of the sea with technology, will be a unique facility in the Azores and a valuable pole of development for the region, with particular emphasis on tourism and the maritime economy.
In line with the sustainable development guidelines of the Azores Autonomous Region, the Aquarium is positioned as a benchmark theme park at national and international level. Each exhibition will be designed to promote awareness about wildlife, their habitats and conservation of the marine environment and promoting education, research and sustainable practices.