Wild Extremes

The National Aquarium in Baltimore has named its new 65,400 sf addition “Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes.” Aqua Ventures,  the Barton Malow / Whiting-Turner joint venture that provided comprehensive construction management services on this project, believes that in some ways wild and extreme describe the building process as well.  

For example, the high water table: Construction took place on Pier 3 of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, an inlet of the Chesapeake Bay. A sheet-pile containment ring and well-point dewatering system for excavating below the tide level were necessary to construct a mechanical room below the water line.

Designed by Chermayeff, Sollogub, and Poole, the structure itself includes a sharply sloped glass roof, and two glass walls. Barton Malow’s Specialty Contracting Division supported the efforts of S.B. Ballard, the concrete subcontractor, on the two exterior concrete walls. Sloping from a height of 120 feet to 60 feet, these walls provided building enclosure and were constructed through cold, windy weather.

The addition features a dramatic 35-foot-high indoor waterfall, visible from the outside through the glass façade. The waterfall required construction of an “acre” of museum-quality manmade rockwork. 

Of the specialty contractors that perform such construction, only two were prequalified by the owner. It was imperative that an experienced habitat contractor be hired, as this work was executed from a clay model, in lieu of paper documents, accompanied by photographs taken by the owner’s exhibits staff during a month-long Australian field trip.

The selected contractor, Cemrock Landscapes, delivered award-winning craftsmanship. The extensive electrical, HVAC, plumbing, and animal life support systems are completely coordinated with and concealed by the rockwork. 

The exhibit includes monitor lizards, pythons, crocodiles, lungfish, kookaburras, lori-keets, and fruit bats – some roaming freely throughout the space.

The National Aquarium in Baltimore states that its mission is “to stimulate interest in, develop knowledge about, and inspire stewardship of aquatic environments.”   The team is honored to have supported that mission!