For this aquarium project located in a historic train station, guests travel from the grand hall, to river exhibits, to the ocean surface and into the depths. The lighting design brings this journey to life, transitioning from warm colors mimicking dappled sunlight over river exhibits, to cool colors at the ocean tanks, where bluer tones evoke the feel of being deep in the ocean.
The design goal was to make the tanks feel natural and expansive; a challenge with an existing structure limiting mounting locations and tank sizes, and a limited budget. The guest experience needed to be immersive without reflections in the tank glass or visibility to the fixtures above which is challenging when the tanks have view windows on all sides.
Early mockups showed that beyond a few feet deep, 2700K appears yellow, 5000K made the water look green, and 14,000K mimicked shafts of sunlight. A combination of the cooler CCTs with high CRI was used to differentiate ocean from river exhibits, creating natural-looking layered compositions with a vibrant rendering of the animals’ colors.
Guest circulation between exhibits is purposefully dim to feature glowing tanks. Aiming angles of tracklights were carefully studied to ensure graphics and signage are softly illuminated without reflections. Low levels of ambient light allow for safe navigation and can be brightened for housekeeping or emergency.
Lighting controls provide naturalistic day-night cycles with gradual transitions to avoid sudden disruptive light level changes that negatively impact animal health. A timeclock sequences the programmed scenes for simple operation.
All LED fixtures are under code allowed wattage. To meet the very restricted budget, multiple rounds of value-engineering ensured the lighting stayed within budget. The lighting, working together with the controls, creates an unforgettable experiential journey for guests, immersing them in an environment evoking wonder and delight.