Seattle Aquarium Ocean Pavilion


Seattle, Washington


Seattle Aquarium

Collaborators +

Exhibit Designer: Thinc

General Contractor: Turner Construction Company

Structural & Civil Engineering: Magnusson Klemencic Associates

MEP Engineering: PAE Consulting Engineers

Landscape Architecture: James Corner Field Operations

Lighting Design: Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design

Project Size

50,000 square feet

Project Status

In Progress


Targeting LEED New Construction Gold


Architecture, Interior Design, Planning, Urban Design

The new Ocean Pavilion will be a unique facility, integrating a complex building program into Seattle’s dynamic urban context. Guided by the Aquarium’s mission to inspire conservation of the marine environment and re-orienting the aquarium experience toward a perspective that embraces the science of ecology, and the social and cultural aspects of our relationship to the global ocean.

The Ocean Pavilion itself is an armature for immersive living exhibits, ecological experiences, back-of-house elements, theatrical spaces, hands-on exploration, and well-placed views of the surrounding landscape and urban waterfront. Within this context, the design moves away from the traditional “theater of ecosystems” model of aquarium design, instead acknowledging the interplay between human life and ocean life and offering a working model of a thriving human culture that fosters a thriving marine ecology.

To visibly honor and acknowledge the Aquarium’s location on Coast Salish land, the project team worked closely with local tribes and the Urban Native community to inform and shape the programming, design and cultural framework for the building, landscape, exhibits and public art. Engagement included hearing traditional stories from tribal elders, workshops with tribal youth, and regular design sessions with tribal representatives. The Ocean Pavilion will amplify the Seattle Aquarium’s mission through sustainable solutions that focus on key principles like the health of our local eco-systems, climate change, ocean acidification, and resiliency, all of which are prioritized through an equity and social justice lens.


A series of public pathways provide vertical connections between multiple levels of public plazas, woven together by interpretive Native gardens and gathering spaces, uniting the activity of the waterfront with the heart of the city. The Pavilion’s west side gestures to the waterfront, with sweeping geometries and a series of views providing connection to the Puget Sound and Pacific Ocean beyond.

Selected Awards

2023 ARCHITECT Magazine, Progressive Architecture Award

2023 Concrete Innovation Awards, Innovative Project Award