The latest whale in hopping out of Aussie waters will be chock full of people, not blubber.
But don’t worry about Jonah — the Australian Underwater Discovery Centre, a marine observatory, will be built to mimic a whale breaching in the waters of Geographe Bay. Partially submerged, a trail will snake through the belly of the building, leading to art galleries, exhibition spaces and undersea dining. It will also feature a large glass wall underwater that acts as a window into natural ocean habitats.
“This is as authentic as it gets, because people are in the tank and the fish are looking in,” says Barry House, chairman of Western Australia’s Busselton Jetty, where the observatory is to be constructed. “By adding underwater dining, underwater sculptures, marine art and other features, this project will enhance Busselton Jetty’s 155-year-old experience.”
A public vote selected the whale building over designs modeled after a ship and a cave.
“This is an exciting stage of the project, to get the feedback on the most attractive design that will be a catalyst for drawing people to Western Australia from all over the world,” House says. “Especially those who love the ocean.”
The current visitor center is too small to meet demand. Only 44 people can be allowed in each hour, which House says means people are turned away at peak hours. The new $23-million center, designed by London-based architecture firm Baca Architects, aims to become the world’s largest natural marine observatory.
In addition to offering the public a whale of time, scientists will be invited to use the space for observation. Jetty Chief Executive Lisa Shreeve says it will have a research laboratory, which will also be used to visitors about climate change and the ocean.
Construction on the new center is set to begin in mid-2021 with the intention of opening by December 2022.