The Chicago Plan Commission has approved renovations to the Shedd Aquarium in The Loop. The Shedd, located at 1200 S DuSable Lake Shore Drive, is part of the larger Chicago Museum Campus which will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2030. In honor of this occasion, the Shedd Aquarium is planning work as part of its Centennial Commitment, a $500 million plan to improve physical facilities as well as programmatic content.
The most noticeable changes will be the addition of a new entry and ticketing pavilion surrounding the Man with Fish sculpture outside of the entryway. The current entry is unable to meet demand. The new design is able to accommodate more visitors by utilizing separated ticketing and entry pavilions.
The two pavilions will be added in front of the current entrance with a circular trellis connecting the two to create a sense of arrival for visitors. The structures have been designed to create a light touch within the landscape, enhanced to allow for greater visibility of the entrances while using larger trees to break down the scale of the new structures. In response to feedback, the ceilings of the pavilions will be GFRC instead of the original wood material.
On the north side of the museum, the terrace will be extended 10 feet, and existing marble to be reused and recut in the rebuild. This extension will offer needed support spaces for four upcoming habitats in the north gallery. Two of the habitats will be rather large, while the remaining are expected to be more standard.
An overhead service stack will be built for staff to aid in the service of habitats. The roof over this section will be lower than the existing parapet and a cooling tower will be removed. A newly rebuilt mechanical penthouse and elevator overrun will stand slightly higher than the parapet.
Site Design Group is operating as the project’s landscape architect and there are plans to rework the surrounding area. Crab apple trees on the northwest side of the campus will be removed and replaced with native tree species to offer shade cover and frame views of the city skyline. An existing picnic grove at the northeast corner will be enhanced with shade trees and a prairie footpath along the east side will be maintained. Around the new ticketing and entry pavilion, the landscape will be enhanced with native pollinator gardens and rain gardens. Larger trees will break down the scale of the space.
The project has sustainability goals in mind including offering bird-safe glass, exceeding energy code with daylight harvesting, and VRF heating and cooling. They plan on reducing indoor water use with low-flow fixtures, offering more bike parking, and relying on proximity to public transit options. With the Lakefront Protection Ordinance approval from the Chicago Plan Commission, the project will be moving forward. While all work is expected to be completed by 2030, it is currently unclear when it is expected to commence.