The Florida Aquarium

LOCATION: 701 Channelside Drive, Tampa, FL 33602

ARCHITECT: HOK, Florida

BUILT: 1995

SIZE: 152,000 SF

CONSTRUCTION COST:  $6,000,000

SPECIAL FACT:  Visitors can peer from above into the freshwater springs, a 12,000-gallon tank that mimics one of Florida’s springs that gush over eight billion gallons of water a day. 

PHOTO CREDITS: Randy Van Duinen, Architectural Photographer

WEBSITE:  www.flaquarium.org


The Florida Aquarium’s glass dome roof stands out among the more traditional buildings in the Channelside District. The impressive 1,100 panel shell-shaped dome is the architectural signature of the Aquarium. The aquarium’s 152,000 sq ft are home to more than 20,000 aquatic plants and animals from Florida and all over the world.

The Florida Aquarium was designed to capture the essence of the exhibit plan designed by Joseph Wetzel to express the institution’s mission: to tell the story of Florida’s diverse water habitats while inspiring in its visitors a stronger sense of stewardship for the aquatic environment.

Three distinct requirements governed the design of the building. First, the design was to provide appropriate enclosures for the marine animal and plant exhibits as well as free-flying birds. Secondly, it was necessary for the building to address the unique conditions of the waterfront site. And lastly, the aquarium was to reflect not only the exhibits within but also the maritime environment in which it is located.

The two major habitat stories are organized around a large public lobby. This space serves as a reception and access area for the restaurant and retail shop and orientation space for visitors before and after experiencing the exhibits. The second level of the lobby provides ready access to the concession as well as access to outdoor terraces and children’s outdoor exhibits. The Aquarium provides two large multipurpose class rooms for specialized training classes available to the public as well as the staff and volunteers. The auditorium provides a location for viewing part of the Habitat Exhibit Story as well as an assembly location for viewing multimedia presentations, holding lectures and large group training functions.

The cornerstone of The Channel District, The Florida Aquarium’s mission is to entertain, educate and inspire stewardship about our natural environment. It serves as a significant example of Florida’s commitment to preserving native landscapes, ecosystems, historical and archaeological sites, and ethnic and cultural traditions representative of the diverse geography and cultural life unique to our state.