News - Our Perspective

Cairns Aquarium opens to acclaim

The first aquarium in Australia for 17 years opened in Cairns late last month. Designed by Principal Architects Peddle Thorp Melbourne with the early input/collaboration of Ellick & Partners, the Aquarium opened its doors on September 19. 

The aquarium is set over three storeys and has a 10,000 square metre footprint. It is home to more than 15,000 animals indigenous to the Great Barrier Reef and Queensland’s far north.

Design director Peter Brook said the building’s exterior resembled a series of tectonic plates. “It symbolises the geological creation of the Great Barrier Reef and Northern Queensland’s rainforest-covered mountains,” Mr Brook said.

“Aquariums create their own design challenges, trying to allow people to effortlessly watch fish and other creatures in their natural environment. “We have to balance the ecological with the structural; the visual quality with the massive engineering problems, while creating a place that people can move about and enjoy.”

Glass panels along the length of the building allow light to penetrate and provide glimpses of the ecosystem within. Visitors are also greeted by an 18x11.5 metre blue glass atrium entrance angled onto the street, a call out to the Coral Sea ocean view.

Peddle Thorp is pre-eminent in the design of aquariums both having worked on similar projects in Shanghai, Melbourne, Manila and Doha.

The Cairns aquarium was six years in the making and was designed to give tourists a taste of tropical north Queensland whilst also educating people on the many habitats and species native to the tropics.

The aquarium doubles as a reef research facility with education, conservation and research at the core of its mission. For example, a pair of freshwater sawfish is currently under quarantine at Cairns Marine after being accidentally captured in nets in the Gulf of Carpentaria. The male and female will be taken to the aquarium, where they will be on display in the freshwater exhibit – the largest display of its kind in Australia.

Cairns Aquarium chose the freshwater sawfish as its logo mascot, due to its critically endangered conservation status, and its strong association with indigenous Australians in the Far North.

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