Building the Seven Seas

by Ranjit Roy, (M.ASCE), Chf. Struct. Engr.; The Austin Co., 2001 Rand Road, Des Plaines, IL 50016,
Stanley T. Wilton, Proj. Mgr.; The Austin Co., 2001 Rand Road, Des Plaines, IL 50016,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1988, Vol. 58, Issue 3, Pg. 66-67

Document Type: Feature article


The Brookfield Zoo's Seven Seas Complex, outside of Chicago, is a combination of the Caribbean and the Pacific Northwest. Completed in May 1987, the Seven Seas Complex consists of an enclosed 45,000 sq ft dolphinarium, an outdoor seascape for seals, sea lions and walruses and a life support building that produces sea water. The new complex replaced an old Seven Seas Panorama that was built in 1961 and had outlived the federal regulations governing marine mammal maintenance that were in effect when it was built. The structural deficiencies of the old facility made renovations impractical. To provide a corrosion-free home for the dolphins, a team of marine scientists from the Brookfield Zoo assisted architects and engineers from the Austin Co. of Des Plaines, Ill. with the design. Their main objective was to construct a light and airy space which would suit both the Atlantic Bottle-nosed dolphins living in the complex and the thousands of spectators who visit the exhibit daily. The team considered a number of designs and finally settled on a fabricated superstructure made of 246 tons of steel with welded portal frames of closed box sections. The structure blends into space, requiring no interior columns, and with fewer members exposed to the air, the potential for corrosion was reduced.

Subject Headings: Seas and oceans | Corrosion | Steel frames | Space life support systems | Sea water | Federal government | Maintenance | Renovation | United States | Chicago | Illinois | Pacific Northwest

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