A team that included a faculty member and two alumni from Virginia Tech’s Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center placed third in the international Arch Out Loud NYC Aquarium & Public Waterfront Competition. 

The competition challenge was to design an aquarium and public waterfront park for an underutilized area of New York City’s waterfront.

According to the Arch Out Loud website, the organization “aims to create unique opportunities for designers to investigate the challenges in our surrounding environments and develop solutions for a changing world. … Open idea competitions are a way to explore new solutions and find better alternatives to conventional methods in order to invigorate the field of design.” 

The NYC Aquarium & Public Waterfront competition elicited 178 proposals by 565 participants from 40 countries. Of those entries, the international jury selected three prize winners based on communal conditions, program innovations, and overall appearance.

The team of Laurel McSherry, Rob Holmes, David Bayer, and Frederick Steiner was awarded third place for its “Merroir” concept.

According to the project summary for the design, “Merroir envisions the 21st century aquarium as a node within larger hydrological and ecological networks, an aquarium that is not a collection of animals behind glass but rather a series of experiences and encounters with an estuary as a dynamic living system. The aquarium site is at the center of a set of 30 diving bells distributed across the metropolitan region. Three distinct bell networks offer varied experiences for visitors to engage different, dynamic ecologies: mobile bells based on aquatic habitats; cadastral bells based on the built environment; and datum bells based on bathymetry and sea level rise.”

McSherry is associate professor and director of the graduate landscape architecture program at Virginia Tech’s Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center.

Holmes is a 2008 graduate of the master of landscape architecture program at the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center and now is an assistant professor of landscape architecture at the University of Florida and co-founder of the Dredge Research Collaborative.

Bayer is a landscape architect at Rhodeside & Harwell in Alexandria, Virginia, and a 2015 graduate of the master of landscape architecture program at the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center. 

Steiner is the dean designate of the School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania and former dean of the School of Architecture at The University of Texas at Austin.

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