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Harbor Wetland

National Aquarium
A sustainable, high-performing floating wetland aims to educate the public while expanding habitat.
A rendering of National Aquarium's Harbor Wetlands exhibit
Baltimore, MD
10,000 GSF

The National Aquarium has an ambitious mission to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures. With a prime location in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and a goal of transforming their campus into a Chesapeake Bay demonstration landscape, the aquarium worked with Ayers Saint Gross to produce a sustainable and high-performing floating wetland to expand habitat on their campus. 

Opening in 2024 between Piers 3 and 4, the Harbor Wetland will open to the public as a free exhibit on the National Aquarium campus. The 10,000 square foot habitat will allow visitors to immerse themselves in a salt marsh habitat like those that existed in this space hundreds of years ago.

The Harbor Wetland project was born out of an earlier Waterfront Campus Plan, also completed by Ayers Saint Gross. That project led to the design of a Floating Wetland Prototype, on which Ayers Saint Gross worked with the National Aquarium and Biohabitats, McLaren Engineering Group, and Kovacs, Whitney & Associates in continuation of Studio Gang’s EcoSlip concept. The knowledge gained from years of studying and refining the prototype became the basis for the design process of the implementation of the full-scale Harbor Wetland.

The learning dock will act as a new civic anchor in the Inner Harbor, drawing visitors in to experience the wildlife that fills the harbor. In addition to being a social space, the wetland utilizes over 30,000 grasses and shrubs combined with water aeration technology. Once the plants mature, the exhibit will act as green infrastructure to promote healthy clean waters, attract native species, and provide a variety of habitats to support a strong ecosystem. 

The project provides a free outdoor exhibit in which the National Aquarium can educate the public and study the harbor. The innovative construction ensures that this investment will far outlast conventional floating wetlands and become a landmark in the Inner Harbor.

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