Da Vinci Science Center scraps aquarium for nature dome

The Da Vinci Science Center has scrapped plans for an aquarium as part of a $130 million Science City development, replacing it with a nature dome.

The decision was made after discussions with stakeholders who wanted to see a facility that focuses on the local areas ecosystem and industries, Lin Erickson, Executive Director of the Da Vinci Science Center, said at an event unveiling the new plan.

A $20 million grant awarded to the facility last year from the state of Pennsylvania also influenced the decision. State officials were keen to avoid duplicating an aquarium proposed in the Poconos by Ripley Entertainment.

The new plan, which was developed by EHDD architects of San Francisco, includes the nature dome, a 400-seat immersive theatre, a 100-foot-tall walk-through recreation of the Vitruvian Man and a science centre.

The four-story, 170,000-square-foot facility will centre around three exhibit zones, Science and Me, Science and Technology and Science and Nature. It will also include the Leonardo Da Vinci Experience, which will have hands-on exhibits where visitors can learn about Da Vinci as well as an indoor skydiving simulator.

The nature dome will form part of the Science and Nature zone and will feature three areas visitors can travel through, the Lehigh River, Forest at Night and the Insect Garden. The river section will include river otters and a virtual reality simulation of whitewater rafting.

The forest area will recreate a night-time environment with nocturnal animals such as bats, foxes and beavers. In the Insect Garden, visitors will find various species of butterfly as well as other flying insects.

Next steps for the project include undertaking marketing and business studies. The final master plan is expected to be completed in June. If the project goes forward, construction would start either in 2019 or 2020 and would take two years.

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