Bechtel Family Center for Ocean Education and Leadership - Monterey Bay Aquarium

Bechtel Family Center for Ocean Education and Leadership - Monterey Bay Aquarium, Mark Cavagnero Associates for Monterey Bay Aquarium

With growing demand for its one-of-a-kind educational offerings, the Monterey Bay Aquarium spearheaded a new Education Center, marking the largest physical expansion to-date of the nearly 35-year-old institution. Continuing the mission to cultivate and inspire the next generation of ocean conservation leaders, the Aquarium is now able to provide hands-on educational offerings at no cost to the 80,000 students who visit annually, as well as double their teen and teacher programming to serve more than 110,000 annually. Completed in 2019, the facility is a new addition to the historic Cannery Row and offers an immersive educational experience with expansive ocean views throughout.

In a nod to the district’s industrial history and vernacular, the new 25,500 sq. ft. four-story facility is designed as an infill concrete-frame structure with corrugated fiber-cement panels that echo the composition of the Aquarium’s main building a few blocks away. Large expanses of glass connect activities within to the streetscape and Pacific Ocean beyond. An open staircase unites three floors of work and educational spaces including the heart of the project: four STEM learning labs with live animal exhibits supported by a closed loop seawater life support system. 

The main entry cuts into the building at a dramatic angle, diverting passersby to a new public exhibit. The aquarium-curated exhibit gallery, envisioned as a public amenity, sits front-and-center in the building’s presence along the street. Currently, the space projects dynamic ocean imagery across six LED screens that engage and inform passersby of the center’s activities and mission.