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National Aquarium Launches Planning Phase for Washington DC Presence


National Aquarium has made the next step in establishing its future presence in Washington, DC, by engaging with a strategic collaboration of new partners Studio Gang Architects (SGA) and IMPACTS Research & Development.

The assembled team will lead a process entitled BLUEprint, which will include research, engagement, design and analysis to determine the National Aquarium’s best use of resources in the nation’s capital, identifying key partners, defining the optimal facilities and program and delineating the range of costs.

After 81 years of welcoming visitors, National Aquarium must close its DC venue on September 30 due to necessary renovations to the historic Herbert C. Hoover Department of Commerce building. After announcing the closing in May 2013, a National Aquarium Board task force embarked on a feasibility study to explore future opportunities in the nation’s capital. The outcome of this study led to the hiring of the SGA/IMPACTS team to partner with the National Aquarium in this process. 

“As the National Aquarium, we are committed to a presence and a voice for ocean conservation in Washington, DC. The SGA/IMPACTS team brings together substantial expertise to help us pave the way for an exciting future, ” said John Racanelli, National Aquarium CEO. “The feasibility study is also the catalyst for a larger strategic initiative that includes the National Aquarium’s overall mission to become a leading advocate for ocean health around the world.”

Led by visionary architect and MacArthur Fellow Jeanne Gang, SGA is an internationally recognized, Chicago-based collective of architects, designers and thinkers who confront pressing contemporary issues. Each of the studio’s projects resonates with its specific site and culture while addressing larger global themes such as urbanization, climate, and sustainability. SGA was recently honored with the 2013 National Design Award in Architecture Design by the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. 

Led by Scott Corwon, IMPACTS provides predictive intelligence to clients in the public policy, government, entertainment and nonprofit sectors, helping them to understand the attitudes, preferences and actions of their audiences. The National Aquarium, Monterey Bay Aquarium, United Nations, US Department of State, Wildlife Conservation Society and other clients use that intelligence to inform their development, economic, marketing and policy strategies.

Originally formed in 1873 in Woods Hole, MA, as part of the Federal Fish Commission, the National Aquarium moved to Washington, DC, in 1885, opening its doors to visitors with a collection of 180 species of fish, reptiles and other aquatic animals. The Aquarium has been housed in the Commerce building since 1932. Preparations are underway for the closure of the facility, starting with the relocation of more than 2, 500 animals to National Aquarium, Baltimore, and other accredited institutions. 

For the latest updates on National Aquarium, Washington, DC, including animal moves, the closing process and the Aquarium’s future plans in the capital, please visit

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