– Published 3rd October 2017

The idea for an aquarium in the New Children’s Hospital in Helsinki came up in the fall of 2013. Since then it has been thorougly worked on by group of architects, engineers, HVAC and aquarium designers of the Hospital building. Schedule has been luxurious, but the rest of the project is more packed since everything should be ready by summer 2018 when the building opens its doors for young patients. Finally, the space designated for the aquarium in the buildings lobby has reached the point where construction on the aquariums concrete stand can begin. This blog follows the aquarium’s development from the design to construction, through biological maturation and drive-in period of the tank, to the arrival of the fish and finally the grand opening …but let’s start at the beginning.

Humble beginnings

In the spring of 2014 I met Antti-Matti Siikala from Sarc Architects, the company responsible for the design of the hospital. A bit earlier I had contacted the Children’s Hospital support foundation and expressed my wish to donate an aquarium to the premises. While a beautiful thought, the donation was unfortunately impossible. The image in my head was a relatively small freshwater aquarium, perhaps a tad bigger than one of a hobbyist – a lovingly crafted, themed and styled dash of color in the dim corner of a waiting room. Our meeting took the design and the scale in another direction. So, this is not the story of a donated aquarium.

International influence: The Melbourne Royal Children’s Hospital

The first meeting at the Sarc offices made it clear that I was certainly not alone with the idea, and that I’d tagged along at the perfect time. The designers of the hospital had had their interests piqued by the massive two-story cylindrical aquarium of the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. I feel the spirit of the Royal Children’s Hospital radiates through the design of the New Children’s Hospital – particularly in the color scheme of the buildings facade and, of course, the aquarium. Naturally, our scale was defined by circumstance, so the aquarium and maintenance space had to fit in “just” eight square meters. No two-story high tank with artificial corals, but still a proper, decent size live coral display.

Holiday Club Saimaa aquarium. Holiday Club Saimaan akvaario.

Living element

Due to allergies and dust, public spaces and animals don’t often mix – with the notable exception of aquariums. They can often be found in restaurants, break rooms, lobbies and hospital waiting rooms.

240-liter plant aquarium

Kids love this flourishing green fresh water tank, located in a private medical center.

No compromises

Fast forward to the fall of 2014, when I took lead on the project – along with the job of designing the technical details. So the idea quickly turned into work. It was agreed from the get go that while the aquarium was designed to bring joy to the children of the hospital, the implementation would first and foremost consider the inhabitants – the fish and the corals:

  • There must be sufficient space – restrict the size of the fish
  • All materials must be safe for aquatic animals
  • Life support system must be reliable
  • All coral must be cultivated

The end result is sure to be the most impressive public space aquarium in Finland – as soon as the inhabiting corals are fully grown. There are no short-cuts with live coral displays, time and patience is needed.

Holiday Club Saimaa aquarium. Holiday Club Saimaan akvaario.

An impressive aquarium does not have to be a crowded with big fish

Another children’s favourite – this one is located in the spa hotel Holiday Club Saimaa, city of Rauha. It is balanced, well-kept collection of fish, soft corals, crustaceans and other interesting organisms.

Influence of the SEA LIFE reef tank

I’ve been working with the large coral tank in the Helsinki SEA LIFE from the very beginning. The aquariums are somewhat similar, albeit slightly different in shape and theme.  I wanted to include a few pictures to convey the gist nonetheless. All corals at SEA LIFE are cultivated in house from miniscule fragments donated by passionate hobbyists or public aquaria around Europe.

So please, stay tuned! The next post will explore the size and shape of the tank as well as the construction of its stand and the maintenance area.

SEA LIFE Helsinki coral tank. SEA LIFE Helsingin koralliallas.

SEA LIFE coral display

This 4000-liter tank in Helsinki SEA LIFE center is a good example of florishing stony coral display. The oldest inhabitants in the tank are well over 20 years old, including huge blue carpet anemone and a clownfish living in it. And they grow: over the last few years nearly a thousand coral frags were given to hobbyists’ home tanks.