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The Design
Tennessee Aquarium IMAX® 3D Theater

"The new IMAX 3D technology truly does bring you into the picture."
Dolores Barclay, Associated Press

Building design- Tuck Hinton Architects, Nashville, Tennessee
Exhibit design- Whirlwind and Company, New York, New York
Engineering- March Adams Associates, Chattanooga, Tennessee

With the help of the Urban Design Studio, which coordinates the design of urban development projects in Chattanooga, the Tennessee Aquarium board of trustees sponsored a statewide competition to find the best design for its IMAX 3D Center. A jury of board members, local citizens and architects, an Imax Corporation representative, and deans from three national schools of architecture reviewed 14 proposals and chose Tuck Hinton Architects of Nashville, whose design plan ideally complemented the Aquarium and the downtown waterfront.

General Contractor- Raines Brothers Inc., Chattanooga:
Electrical Subcontractor- Lawson Electric Co., Chattanooga
Mechanical Subcontractor- Jake Marshall Co. Inc., Chattanooga

The Center: The 63,000-square-foot IMAX Center reinforces the connection to Ross's Landing Park and Plaza at Chattanooga's downtown riverfront. It is designed to conserve energy through responsible use of materials and systems. The Center features a 400-seat IMAX 3D Theater, Great Hall, board room, gift shop, office space and Environmental Learning Lab. A recurrent theme of global environmental awareness pervades the architecture, artwork and programming. Natural lighting gives a sense of openness, the exterior orange brick complements the color and texture of the nearby Tennessee Aquarium, and the metal shingles of the theater resemble fish scales. The most visible feature of the Center is the corner tower, which symbolizes a child's open hand reaching for the sky.

The Theater: The 7,560-square-foot IMAX 3D Theater offers European-style seating, with comfortable high-backed chairs. Special accommodations include areas for wheelchairs, an audio description service for the visually-impaired, and a special captioning system for the hearing-impaired, which is only available at a handful of theaters in the U.S.

The Great Hall: The 3,600-square-foot Great Hall is a central atrium that features suspended steel arches called "whale bones" that give an almost cathedral-like appearance. Backlit "environmental overviews" and sound effects speakers above side benches immerse visitors in the sights and sounds of nature.

The Exhibits: Designed by Whirlwind and Co. of New York, the backlit panels are featured throughout the IMAX Center. In the Great Hall, 12 large light boxes suspended between columns portray images from around the world, from tropical rainforests and deciduous forests to barren deserts and hardy grasslands. Four light boxes on each side of the waiting area just outside the theater expose visitors to the "Wonders of IMAX." The gift shop features a sculptured movie reel suspended from the ceiling and illuminated with images from IMAX films. In the corridor outside the Environmental Learning Lab, five light boxes describe the interdependence of the natural world and man's role in conserving the Earth's resources.

The Gift Shop: The 1,300-square-foot IMAX Center gift shop, called GEO, features high-quality products that celebrate a sense of wonder about the world's natural habitats. Items for sale include globes, key chains and t-shirts with an Earth theme; science toys such as volcano-making kits and motion machines; African and Native American artifacts; and IMAX movie merchandise. GEO focuses on global geography, not just freshwater, and carries a completely different line of items from the Tennessee Aquarium gift shop.

The Learning Lab: The Environmental Learning Lab uses advanced computer and multimedia technologies to teach, conduct research in, and communicate about the environment. Classrooms in the 3,300-square-foot education center broadcast programs via computer to students in rural areas and use fiber optics and satellite downlink technologies to link with other aquariums, educators and researchers around the world.


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The Tennessee Aquarium inspires wonder and appreciation for the natural world. Admission is $14 per adult and $7.50 per child, ages 3-12. Each ticket purchased helps support Aquarium conservation programs. The IMAX® 3D Theater is next door to the Aquarium. Ticket prices are $7.75 per adult and $5.25 per child. Aquarium/IMAX combo tickets are $18 for adults and $10.50 for children. Advance tickets may be purchased online at or by phone at 1-800-262-0695. The Aquarium, located on the banks of the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, is a non-profit organization. Open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Aquarium and IMAX are accessible to people with disabilities. Members enjoy unlimited visits and other benefits. Call 267-FISH to join.

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