Karlovac Freshwater Aquarium and River Museum
The Karlovac freshwater aquarium is located by the river Korana. The building volume is partially dug into the ground and covered with earthen embankments and greenery from its outer edges. The design concept was inspired by the city’s historic center “Karlovac star” surrounded by “Šanci” – defensive earthen walls and mounds. The goal was to form a new city focal point and to validate the promenade by the river. Three walking routes were formed: towards the city center and the river; towards the south and the sports and recreational center; and towards the east and the road access. A new point is located at the junction of the walking routes – a square around which all of the aquarium facilities are located: entrance spaces, souvenir shop, cafe bar, library, and offices.
The aquarium exhibition displays the flora and fauna of Croatian rivers and their ecosystems. The display layout follows the flow of a karst river – together with its flora, fauna, and biodiversity. The exhibition starts outside, with a water surface of the square. It continues inside the building with a system of ramps that wind like a river down into the basement level because specific plant and animal species require complete control of lighting conditions in order to survive. Aquariums are placed along, above and below the visitor paths. Along the pedestrian ramps the fish are first observed from above, as they are when walking along the river; and then from the sides – they can be seen below the water surface. After the headwaters (upper part of a river) the sounds quiet down, visitors plunge into caves that feature endemic species which are often found in subterranean streams.
The space expands, lighting comes from the tanks, and visitors can take a break in the central area, listen to the sounds recorded in caves, and observe the exhibited endemic species. After the cave, the visitors arrive at an aquarium with larger specimens of rare species that have disappeared from their natural habitats in Croatia. The visitors can observe the fish and aquatic plants that live in warmer parts of the riverbed. The aquariums are seen from the side, and then from underneath, as the visitors walk into a tunnel that evokes immersion into a river. After the tunnel, visitors pass through a series of aquariums with water lilies and rushes usually present downstream, in the marshy habitats of a river. The exhibition ends with a system of cascading aquariums whose biotopes display waterfalls and a travertine barrier.
Finally, a stairway and an elevator return the visitors to the entrance hall through the gift shop. A space for analysis of the technological parameters of water, a scientific research center, and fish acclimatization spaces are located in the center of the layout.
Karlovac freshwater aquarium is co-financed from the European Regional Development Fund under the “Regional Competitiveness” 2007-20013 Operational Programme. The total value of the project is 36.691.939,28 Kuna’s, of which the grant from the European Regional Development Fund is 36,222,282.45 Kuna’s.