The challenge of acoustical design in any busy public facility involves specifying materials and treatments that can withstand the constant contact of human hands and bodies. An aquarium includes the added criteria of hostile environments with moisture and humidity, salt saturated air, bacteria and other biological factors. Typically these challenges are met with the use of smooth, non absorptive - and sound reflective - surfaces. Adding this to the large expanses of glass used for the tanks leaves you with highly reverberant environments. Our work with Eshrick, Homsey, Dodge and Davis and the MBA Staff at the Monterey Bay Aquarium involved specifying robust, wear resistant treatments that absorb sound without compromising the visual cleanliness of the design.
The walk through anchovy schooling exhibit includes compound parabolic surfaces. This geometry tends to gather sound and noise, focusing it into acoustical "hot-spots." If a visitor's ears pass through a hot-spot, they will immediately be distracted by this acoustical anomaly. This can be disorienting at best, and at worst become a dominant feature of the exhibit space - kids will especially want to share this "weird sound" with everyone.
By tailoring the focal points of the parabolas, and treating the walls and ceilings with a sound absorptive aerated concrete, visitors can pass through this exhibit fully experiencing the silver anchovy glorietta, without wondering where all of the strange sounds and voices are coming from