Architects Envision Underwater Aquarium on East River in Queens

A competition challenging designers to envision a combination aquarium and park along the East River in Queens sparked some colorful ideas, including a winning proposal for an underwater world within New York City. 

The Arch Out Loud's New York City Aquarium and Public Waterfront Competition asked designers to come up with ideas for an "intertwined public aquarium and park" at the Anable Basin along the river in Long Island City.

Arch Out Loud, a designer collective, said it became interested in that site for its potential to address social and environmental issues through the implementation of a public program, spokesman Kyle Zook said in an email. 

The winning design by an architecture firm in Milan, Italy, is an underwater aquarium excavated underneath the East River in Hunter's Point, next to the existing series of luxury condo towers on Center Boulevard, and accessible from a biome pathway winding through a submerged two-level island. (See all the renderings of the winning design in the photo gallery above.)

The proposal also includes a sloped beachfront, a panoramic public space, and a floating boardwalk surrounding the basin that would include the aquarium and its sliding roof, as well as eight triple-height transparent biomes. 

"The main idea is to generate an environment whereby visitors feel that they themselves are entering the water to discover the beauty of the marine life on display," the proposal states.

It's "a living shell that opens to the sky during the day to reveal the sea worlds and which closes as darkness falls to take on a 'second life' as a planetarium, protecting the arena and the biome domes within, like a shell protects the pearl."

Over 500 people from 40 countries submitted nearly 180 proposals, which were judged by practicing architects and educators, according to Arch Out Loud. 

Zook said Arch Out Loud is hoping the proposals from the competition will spark a conversation on the "amazing potential" of the site, and all of New York City waterfronts. 

The site is already being eyed by developers for a multi-pronged plan that includes new residential buildings. The proposal, which would have turned the Anable Basin into a public park, was turned down by the local community board in February, DNAInfo reported.

Community Board 2 said the city needs to further study how the already-growing area should be developed before approving new development plans there. 

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