Shedd Aquarium to get 40ft underwater tunnel as part of $500m overhaul

SOUTH LOOP – Visitors to the Shedd Aquarium will be able to feel like they’re walking underwater as creatures swim around them as part of major renovations to the beloved facility.

The Shedd will see parts of its exterior and interior redesigned for its eight-year, $500 million Centennial Pledge initiative, a mission to modernize the aquarium and make it more accessible by its 100th anniversary. in 2030.

“It’s an incredibly ambitious plan with a lot of different facets. It gives us the opportunity to interpret and invite our guests into this space and into this work in a more visible way,” said Sarah Hezel, Vice -Chair of Shedd Design and Exhibitions.

A new entrance ticket and pavilion, an expansion of the Shedd’s Terrace terrace and the reconstruction of the roof in the North Gallery are in preparation for the installation, 1200 S. DuSable Lake Shore Drive.

The planning commission approved the plans last month.

Credit: Provided.
An aerial rendering of the entrance to the Shedd Aquarium, which is getting a facelift as part of the institution’s “Centennial Commitment” initiative.

The initiative also includes new exhibits, galleries and a learning space, which will complement efforts to expand the Shedd’s educational programs.

Part of those changes: The Shedd will get a 40-foot underground tunnel that will give visitors an “under the sea” experience, Hezel said. There is no date set yet for the start of this work.

Bringing the institution into the 21st century means addressing physical accessibility, something that was not “part of the architectural language” when the Shedd was built nearly a century ago, Hezel said. The Shedd is the third largest aquarium in the world, housing 25,000 aquatic animals.

Construction will be overseen by Valerio Dewalt Train and is expected to take four years, with work being carried out piece by piece so as not to disrupt the visitor experience. Work will begin early next year, subject to City Council approval.

Credit: Provided.
A rendering of the Shedd Aquarium’s Learning Commons, part of a $500 million plan to make the institution more accessible to visitors.

The Shedd’s 4 acres of green space are also getting a makeover, allowing visitors to interact with nature as soon as they set foot on the aquarium campus. His team of horticulturalists have already created migratory gardens, building an ecosystem that allows insects, birds and other creatures to stop and rest during their journey around the world.

“We have a migratory bird garden and five species of milkweed [for insects]. And, in our gardens which are home to migratory butterfly species, we have a beehive and an area where we grow organic produce that feeds and enriches our animals,” Hezel said. “Our beloved penguins that not everyone gets tired of – they use the lavender sticks to build their nests.

“The [Centennial Commitment] project will allow us to present this work to our guests in a more experimental way.

The Shedd will also partner with neighborhood groups “to bring neighborhood-level environmental discussions and solutions” to areas that receive less investment.

“There are so many different possibilities to unpack, from how we manage our soils and the health of the lake,” Hezel said. “There are all these different ecological connections between the health of this incredible wilderness right on our back doorstep. Arousing people’s curiosity with that and building this relationship with nature, that’s what we’re here for.

“We can’t ask someone to save something they don’t know about.”

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