Museums | Exhibits | Shedd Aquarium |

Polar Play Zone

John G. Shedd Aquarium | Chicago | 2009

What It Was

“Polar Play Zone” is an exhibit about Arctic animal environments, located in the basement under the Oceanarium at the John G. Shedd Aquarium. Exhibit areas feature underwater views of sea animals in the Oceanarium pools. Interactive play-scapes focus on engaging children and the inner child in all of us. Lighting environments range from bright arctic sunlight, to shallow ocean daylight, to moody, deep ocean, and twinkly light under icebergs.

What We Did

Working closely with animal trainers, our designers created a lighting environment that not only gave visitors the feeling of being underwater but was also sensitive to the animals and their needs. Lightswitch Architectural programmed color changing LEDs around the penguin exhibit to respond to the penguin habitat lighting which adjusts on a daily schedule to encourage reproduction. This created an environment that was healthy and hospitable to the animals while providing an insight into the underwater world.

Why It Worked

The lighting creates dramatic shifts in mood from one Polar environment to another, while sustaining the guests’ suspension of disbelief; focusing their attention on the animals they are visiting in their unique habitats. Museum staff members were especially pleased with the even illumination of the murals throughout the exhibit. The absence of distracting glare allows guests to see everything; without seeing the lighting. 2010 IES Illumination Awards Section Award Recipient