Envisioning the Future Aquarium

Group: MIT Design Lab
Sponsor: New England Aquarium
Duration: 2018
Role: Researcher, Workshop Leader

In celebration of their 50th anniversary, the New England Aquarium is looking ahead to the next 50 years. To help envision this possible future, the Design Lab and the Media Lab hosted a workshop designing and prototyping possible future aquarium experiences. This one-week study with students from MIT and affiliated universities resulted in a host of ideas, from automatically-curated user guide maps, to underwater travel vessels, to empathy-generating devices that mimic the sensory perception of fish.

Following the workshop, the Design Lab reviewed the ideas that had been generated in order to understand the common underlying themes.

These themes were then studied both individually and in combination in order to generate a series of seed concepts. These fledgling ideas served as initial reactions to the questions raised by the themes. In many ways, the seed concepts are less about proposing solutions, and more about finding out what questions to ask.

The next step involved studying the overlaps and merging similar concepts into overall experience opportunities. By drawing from more than one seed concept, these experience opportunities take on added complexity and depth.

In addition, the themes were paired, allowing us to devise three stances on the experience of the future aquarium. These are that:

  • the future aquarium will personalize each aquarium experience and encourage more social engagement between visitors;
  • that the aquarium will immerse visitors in new sensory experiences both inside the aquarium space and in the surrounding context;
  • and that the aquarium will maximize the educational and empathetic takeaway of each visitor.

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