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Revered aquarium covers fish in fabric

Exteriors, Features | January 1, 2012 | By:

Coney Island is the setting for a refurbished aquarium with new fabric roof.

As the oldest continuously operating aquarium in the United States, the New York Aquarium—operating under the Wildlife Conservation Society’s ambitious plan to protect endangered marine species—has an interest in connecting to the public. With more than $150 million over a 10-year public-private capital initiative invested in upgrading the aging facility and a promise of revitalization to Coney Island’s business community, WCS is rightfully hopeful that the new digs will draw visitors in and spark a rebirth of the district. Key to the plans is the renovated Conservation Hall and Glover’s Reef facility, a 372m2 building that houses more than 100 species of aquatic animals in exhibits designed to inspire and educate visitors about the importance of underwater habitats.

A salient feature of the aquarium is a tensile fabric structure that covers a 632m3 [167,000-gallon] saltwater tank and adjacent spaces designed to accommodate events. Signature Structures LLC was contracted to remove the existing fabric roof that dates back to the early 1990s and replace all membrane panels, cables, connections and structural terminations with new materials. The existing primary cablenet structure (with its triangular bow-truss arches) was retained. However, any original cables that connected to fabric were replaced with PVC-coated catenary cables and the side fabric in-fill panels that completely enclosed the original structure were replaced with sliding glass walls to increase the amount of natural light entering the interior and to allow visitors egress to the surrounding plaza.

As to be expected, new cabling and fabric required new membrane plates and attachment hardware, which Signature Structures designed and fabricated. The new fabric meets all local loading requirements including NFPA 701 and CFM Title 19.

Conservation Hall and Glover’s Reef opened to acclaim in April 2011.

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