Van H. Gilbert Architect PC

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Albuquerque Aquarium (Phase I) Gulf of Mexico
Albuquerque Biological Park, New Mexico

Since opening its doors, the Albuquerque Aquarium, along with the entire Biopark (Zoo and Botanical Gardens), consistently registers the greatest number of visitors of all public attractions in New Mexico. The Aquarium serves many functions, none more important than the community’s opportunity to explore and learn about the underwater world that lies far beyond the State’s borders. The Aquarium exhibits interpret the journey of a drop of water from the headwaters of the Rio Grande River in Northern New Mexico, to the Gulf of Mexico where the Rio Grande empties into the vast salt water sea. The Aquarium Compound is designed to recall the pitched, tin roofed, village compounds of northern New Mexico where the town is organized around a central plaza.

Complex exhibit design was required to meet the survival needs of the fish, to display them in their natural habitat, to recreate the undersea world using man made rocks, corals, and swaying vegetation, and to hide all vestiges of mechanics and pumps so that the visitor is transported into another world.

The 40 foot long, 8” thick, curved glazed window of the shark exhibit is a visitor favorite. The concave shape allows the visitor to feel engulfed within the exhibit. The expansive floor to ceiling window draws the visitor in, as though you are walking on the floor of the ocean among the sharks, sea turtles, barracuda, groupers, and rays. A 35,000 gallon coral reef tank is home to an assortment of colorful tropical fish, an eel tunnel where the visitor is surrounded by eels swimming overhead, and a shallow shores exhibit.

The VHGA Master Plan provided a format for logical future expansion so that at its completion, the Aquarium functions as a cohesive unit. VHGA served as Project/Construction Manager for the $30 million Biological Park.

Photo Courtesy: Albuquerque Biological Park

  • 1997 President’s Award, National Association of Industrial & Office Properties
  • Honor Award, 1997 Best Buildings Awards NM Business Journal/AGC
  • Outstanding Public Project - The Best of New Mexico, 1996 Southwest Contractor Magazine