Exterior view of Sea Shell Aquarium ; Exterior view of Sea Shell Aquarium ;

Sea Shell aquarium, Phu Quoc Island

Setting a precedent for innovative structural design in Vietnam

Located on Phu Quoc Island, the Sea Shell aquarium will be the largest international standard aquarium in Vietnam. In the shape of a turtle, it is one of the most visually striking aquariums ever designed, housing a range of ecosystems supporting diverse marine life forms.

Appointed by Vingroup JSC, Arup has focused on realising the unique form and complex geometry of the aquarium in a tight construction programme through adopting an innovative structural design approach and extensive use of digital tools. Our scope of work covers structural, geotechnical, MEP and fire engineering.

Project Summary

7m deep shark tank

12mdeep Giant tank

47small water tanks

An innovative structural approach

The conventional approach to complex structures is beam and column construction, supported by secondary non-structural frames to create a free-form outer surface. However, it is not conducive to realising a large column-free space for the aquarium with flexibility in the positioning and configuration of the tanks.

We tailor-made an innovative structural system that works for the aquarium’s unusual geometry, setting an example in the Vietnam construction industry. By adopting a long-span arrangement for the roof structure, we were able to maximise flexibility in the planning of the interior space, while allowing simultaneous construction of the outer shell and internal systems of the building. 

This structural solution relies on the use of steelwork construction, which is still regarded as outside the norm in the local market.

3D ANALYSIS MODEL of Sea Shell aquarium 3D ANALYSIS MODEL of Sea Shell aquarium 3D ANALYSIS MODEL of Sea Shell aquarium
The structures team simplified the fabrication of the main frame and facades for the shell

We are delighted to lay the groundwork for delivering complex projects of international standard in Vietnam. The shift of emphasis from volume and construction speed to sophistication and quality will benefit the market, users and society at large. ” The  Truong The Truong Associate

Optimising the design through digitalisation

Working with a tight schedule and recognising that the aquarium’s structural configuration involves many iterations and analyses, we utilised various digital tools to streamline the design process and enhance the quality of the final product.

We created a parametric model in Rhinoceros and Grasshopper as a central model. This ensured the perfect correspondence through the geometry definition – analysis & design – information production workflow, and allowed us to vary through a vastly greater number of options as compared to a manual process. In this way, multiple design scenarios could be analysed in detail, thus enabling important decisions to be made based on a quantitative assessment.

This digital approach resulted in a optimal design, faster fabrication and smoother construction.

Drawing inspiration from the past

The load testing programme undertaken at the completion of the roof showcased our out-of-the-box thinking which has characterised many of our projects in the past. The solution we offered was inspired by our work on Mannheim Gridshell in Germany, a ground-breaking project from the 1970s.

Instead of using kentledge or jacking systems, we suggested a procedure making use of water ballast which was both simpler and safer to implement. At the same time, it helped minimise the risk of damage to the as-built structure and enhanced cost effectiveness.