Constructed by Concor Buildings and unveiled to the public in June 2019, this ‘edu-tainment’ feature is on the lower level of the centre’s food, entertainment and cinema court.
Specialist Italian experts provided the pure cast acrylic blocks for underwater use, and Martin Muller, contracts manager at Concor Buildings explains that one of the first challenges during the project was the logistics of getting these large acrylic panels into place.
“The panels were shipped in two pieces, each measuring five metres in diameter and four metres high,” Muller says. “With each item weighing about four tonnes, they were transported in jigs and trolleyed into the confined space of the shopping centre.”
To create enough space to access the lower level, one of the shopping centres escalators was removed completely to facilitate access for the trolleys. A spider crane, positioned on the food court level above, was used to lift and position each panel. The weight exerted by the crane’s activities was considered during this operation, with back propping of the slab on which it rested being done.
Various other technicalities related to the CrestaAquarium’s operation were also attended to by Concor Buildings. This included two pump rooms and acclimatisation baths for the fish which were used before they were introduced to their new home.
“After establishing the cast concrete base for the CrestAquarium structure, we also installed service ducts for water reticulation,” Muller says. “Another important aspect was the pressurised extraction system used to prevent dust ingress.”
Concor Buildings also built insulated panels around the acrylic structure, which ensured the required heat levels allowing the panels to bond and cure over a number of weeks.
“The next phase was quite technical, with the top of the CrestAquarium being covered with a fibre-reinforced plastic cap, including stainless steel components to avoid corrosion,” says Muller. “An added consideration in almost all our work on this project was that we were working in a live environment. The centre was busy with shoppers and visitors, so it was important as always that we worked with safety as a priority.”
The final aspects of the project included the placing of custom-made, marine themed mosaics in the floor around the CrestAquarium, and hydro-testing of water pressures and equipment. Concor Buildings started on the project in August 2018 and completed it in May 2019.
The thick retaining windows of the CrestAquarium are not glass at all. Supplied by Italy-based specialists, the windows actually comprise pure cast acrylic blocks, specifically produced to withstand immense pressure in underwater environments. The material is noted for its transparency, brightness, lightness and ability to resist ageing.