Amphibians Chicago's Shedd Aquarium

Chicago’s John G. Shedd Aquarium recently celebrated the opening of its new special exhibit, Amphibians, which includes more than 30 different habitats containing 40 species of salamanders, frogs, toads, and caecilians. Chicago Scenic created the tank bases and several scenic elements, and installed graphics for the three-room exhibit.

The exhibit’s amphibians are sensitive to their environments, so each aquarium is tightly controlled. To avoid off-gassing and to support the weight of the heavy acrylic tanks, water, and rocks, bases were constructed with extra care and specialty materials. The 18 free-standing tank bases were custom built using moisture-resistant MDF plywood. Tank cases were engineered with special doors and openings to facilitate daily feedings and care of the animals within each tank.

A 30-foot long accordion wall at the exhibit entrance was custom built to display a dual image – when standing to the right, successive tiles create the image of an amphibian; from the left, the image displays the exhibit title. Larger-than-life lily pads and eight-foot sun rays were CNC-cut from colorful acrylic and suspended from the ceiling throughout the exhibit. In some locations exhibit lighting filters through the acrylic, shooting rays of light, or “sunlight,” onto the aquariums below.

iPads throughout the exhibit offer educational content to guests. Chicago Scenic installed the iPads so that they could be removed and maintained without the use of any tools, making the job easier for the Shedd’s IT staff.

Amphibians, which takes the place of Jellies (See Studio News, Spring 2011), will run through 2017. Chicago Scenic Project Manager Jean Burch worked with the Shedd’s Vice President of Planning and Design Tynnetta Qaiyim and Designer John Kelly along with Architect Nevin Hedlund of Nevin Hedlund Architects, Inc. to bring the exhibit to life.

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