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EskewDumezRipple and CambridgeSeven reveal the newly expanded and transformed Audubon Aquarium and Insectarium in New Orleans

Project name:
Audubon Aquarium and Insectarium
Architecture firm:
New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
EskewDumezRipple / CambridgeSeven
Principal architect:
Design team:
Exhibit Designer: CambridgeSeven; Media Design: Cortina Productions; Graphic Design: Natalie Zanecchia Design; LSS Design: Andy Aiken; Exhibit Fabricator: 1220 Exhibits; Mural Artist: Patrick Maxcy
Interior design:
Built area:
12,800 ft² addition (including theater infill) | 82,000 ft² renovation
Site area:
Design year:
Completion year:
Civil engineer:
Morphy Makofsky, Inc.
Structural engineer:
Morphy Makofsky, Inc.
Environmental & MEP:
Moses Engineers
Spackman Mossop Michaels
Eos Lightmedia
Tools used:
Dupont-LeCorgne (Construction Consultant), Broadmoor LLC (Contractor)
Audubon Commission in Conjunction with Audubon Nature Institute

An Expanded and Transformed Audubon Aquarium and Insectarium

The Audubon Aquarium and Insectarium has reopened following a transformative $41 million newly renovated and expanded building project. An undertaking that included the relocation of their existing Insectarium from its previous home in the Customs House on Canal Street and the expansion and renovation of the Aquarium itself—two vital community offerings housed for the first time under one roof—the project represents Audubon’s first major renovation for the Aquarium since opening in 1990.

Along with this new program, the scope included a crystalline-configured entry identifying the relocated main entry lobby and ticketing area, a new lobby grand stair and glass bridge, re-envisioning of the existing Mississippi River Gallery into a bayou experience, a refreshed Amazon Exhibit Gallery, introduction of a new Top-of-Gulf tank experience, two new gift shops, and the reversal of the exhibit flow experience throughout the aquarium exhibit spaces.

Beyond the renewed exhibit spaces, a creative infill and reimagining of the old large-screen theater allowed for additional programming space to support Audubon in its mission. While a second-floor infill was used to house an open expanse portion of the insectarium, the first floor hosts a new multi-purpose event space bordering nearby Woldenberg Park.

Designed by the architecture firm EskewDumezRipple (EDR), in collaboration with architects and exhibit designers CambridgeSeven (based out Cambridge, MA), and constructed by general contractor Broadmoor, the project is a stunning revitalization of a civic and cultural amenity in the heart of New Orleans downtown, adjacent to the Mississippi River and the French Quarter.

Haley Robinson, Project Architect from EskewDumezRipple, spoke proudly of the effort. “This project was a true collaboration between client, architect, exhibit, and construction teams. The project provides a new window into the exceptional work of Audubon, its environmental stewardship mission, and is also a key component of the ongoing revitalization of the New Orleans riverfront.”

“This project reflects Audubon’s mandate to the design team to reach for the stars and reflect, always, the over-arching message and mission of conservation,” said Peter Sollogub, CambridgeSeven Design Principal for the project. “Its vision and completion represent commitment and collaboration at its finest, using creativity, storytelling and exploration to transmit nature’s wonder and wow to its community.”

In a recent publication on nola.com, Ron Forman, President and CEO of the Audubon Nature Institute spoke glowingly about the project. “We’re always rated in the top five aquariums in the country because we work very hard at having a world-class facility right here on the banks of the Mississippi River. This has been the No. 1 family attraction in Louisiana for more than 30 years, and it just received a major upgrade.”

About EskewDumezRipple (Architect for the Aquarium and Insectarium)

Established in 1989, EskewDumezRipple (EDR) is a national architecture, interiors, and urban planning firm recognized for producing innovative projects grounded by a strong understanding of context, culture, and environment. With offices in New Orleans and Washington, DC, and projects in over 20 states and on two continents, the firm’s work spans typology, from institutional, civic and cultural, and higher education work to mixed-use, commercial, and hospitality projects.

About Cambridge 7 (Exhibit Designers for the Aquarium and Insectarium)

Architecture and Exhibit Design firm CambridgeSeven was formed by seven visionaries focused on doing what’s right not only for clients, but for public spaces. From the precedent-setting design of the New England Aquarium on Boston’s waterfront in 1969, to the revitalization of New Orleans’ World Trade Center into a world-class luxury hotel and visitor experience in 2022, CambridgeSeven’s fresh, thoughtful, design solutions transform communities through shared discovery and purposeful architecture. Celebrating its rich legacy over six decades of designing museums, aquariums, hotels, academic and civic spaces across the globe, CambridgeSeven is committed to designing culturally relevant, equitable and sustainable environments for all.

By Liliana Alvarez

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