Published in Attractions Management 2023 issue 3
Audubon Aquarium and Insectarium used closures during the COVID-19 pandemic to rethink its building and update its message. As it reopens following a major renovation, we take a look at the new offer
Designed by architects EskewDumezRipple (EDR), in collaboration with architects and exhibit designers CambridgeSeven, the project saw the insectarium moved from its previous home on Canal Street to join the aquarium in the heart of New Orleans’ downtown. Visitors to the new insectarium now end their visit in a spectacular new butterfly garden featuring hundreds of free flying butterflies, lush flowers and a panoramic view of the Mississippi River.
“We’re teaching young people to love the environment,” Ron Forman, president and CEO of the Audubon Nature Institute told New Orleans news channel NOLA.com.
“Bugs and fish and reptiles and mammals are all an important part of the Earth that we need to protect for the next generation.”
Visitors to the aquarium now enter via a glass atrium with plant-covered walls fed by a hidden hydroponics system, leading onto a new lobby that tells the story of Audubon’s conservation work around the world. The aquarium’s exhibits have all been redesigned and updated, with new additions including Amazon Encounter, a walk-through exhibit that features a two-toed sloth, wading birds, an armadillo and a giant tortoise. The Mississippi River Gallery has been transformed into a bayou-themed gallery, and a new experience has been introduced offering visitors wider access to the aquarium’s 450,000 gallon Gulf of Mexico tank.
Two new gift shops have been added and the exhibit flow through the aquarium spaces has been reversed. Beyond the renewed exhibit spaces, a creative infill and reimagining of the former large-screen, immersive theatre allows for additional programming space to support Audubon in its mission. The second-floor has been transformed to house an open expanse portion of the insectarium, and the first floor hosts a new multi-purpose event.
“This project reflects Audubon’s mandate to reach for the stars and reflect the over-arching message and mission of conservation,” said Peter Sollogub, CambridgeSeven design principal on the project.
“Its vision and completion represent commitment and collaboration at its finest, using creativity, storytelling and exploration to transmit nature’s wonder and wow its community.”
“This project provides a new window into the exceptional work of Audubon, its environmental stewardship mission, and is also a key component of the ongoing revitalization of the New Orleans riverfront,” said Haley Robinson, project architect from EskewDumezRipple.
Exhibit designer: CambridgeSeven
Landscape: Spackman Mossop Michaels
Structural/civil engineering: Morphy Makofsky, Inc.
MEP Engineering: Moses Engineers
Media design: Cortina Productions
Lighting design: Eos Lightmedia
Graphic design: Natalie Zanecchia Design
LSS Design: Andy Aiken
Exhibit fabricator: 1220 Exhibits
Mural artist: Patrick Maxcy
Construction consultant: Dupont-LeCorgne
Contractor: Broadmoor LLC