The Aquarium of the Pacific Showcases World-Class Partnerships Formed with Giroux Glass

View of the interior wall of the Aquarium of the Pacific Gift Shop prior to merchandise set up.

The Aquarium of the Pacific is the fourth most-attended aquarium in the nation. With over 11,000 animals (representing over 500 species) in more than 50 exhibits, it presents the diversity of the Pacific Ocean – from the temperate waters of Southern California and Baja; to the icy Northern Pacific off the coasts of Alaska, Russia, and Japan; to the warm tropical Pacific – like no other aquarium, anywhere. Three football fields could fit into its expansive, three-story, 353,685 square-feet facility, with exhibits ranging in size and capacity from about 5,000 to 350,000 gallons of water.

In addition to these world-class animal exhibits, the Aquarium of the Pacific offers educational programs for people of all ages, from hands-on activities to lectures by leading scientists. Through these programs and a variety of multimedia experiences, it provides opportunities for visitors to delve deeper into ocean science and learn more about our planet.

PHOTO: Giroux Glass workers installing the 26 5-foot-by-12-foot glass panels into place.

Within the structure is a recently added 6,000-sq. ft. retail gift shop, featuring a glass wall consisting of a high-resolution, underwater, digital image of an actual kelp forest taken off the San Clemente, CA coast. Comprised of 26, 12-foot tall/5-foot wide bent-glass and metal panels, the wall features a panoramic view of marine life in its natural environment and spans some 100-feet.

Mike Rotolo, president of TG Construction (, a regional general contractor in the Los Angeles area and the first construction company in the United States to successfully complete a LEED Platinum project, asked Giroux Glass to bid on installing the wall.

After going through many design question-and-answer sessions with the Aquarium, Giroux was awarded the retail build-out project, not because we were the lowest bidder, but because those involved in the decision felt Giroux Glass was the right company for the project.

The Aquarium staff worked closely with prominent San Francisco architectural firm EHDD ( to come up with the Gift Shop design. With concern for the environment central to all of its designs, AIA National Firm of the Year award-winner EHDD’s net-zero energy portfolio includes more projects – either designed, under construction, or built – than anyone in the world.

Noted Blue Ocean Art ( underwater photographer and digital imaging specialist Jim Hellemn created the 2400-megapixel image. He and his team made over 100 dives, taking over 1200 photos to achieve the resulting master-photo composite image.

PHOTO: Interior view of the completed glass wall with merchandise in place at the Aquarium of the Pacific Gift Shop.

For the scene to look as realistic as possible, giving observers the feeling of actually being in the middle of a coral reef, the right type of glass would be required. Joe Green, president of Glaspro (, specialists in producing high-quality structural, architectural, and design glass, provided numerous samples. After much deliberation, one was chosen that also met the Green Globe Requirement for local fabrication as well as Title 24.

Glaspro provided a small mockup as well as a full-size piece of glass to allow the Aquarium staff to put their trained eyes to the test and make any necessary final adjustments.

Lighting was another critical challenge, and required multiple trips and various samples of outdoor lighting to see what the wall image would look like from the inside at night. Without any outdoor lighting, the image appears to be a full-height mirror or reflective image. With the proper outside lighting, the coral reef comes to life.

Throughout the build-out, from demo to actual completion, it took a great deal of coordination between Giroux Glass and all of the other involved trades to make sure the radius was accurate while maintaining the correct layout in all facets of the job. Since the glass and metal was ordered prior to completion of the concrete being poured and the soffit being completed, there wasn’t any room for error. The Giroux crew did an outstanding job from beginning to end to ensure everything went smoothly.

The job was a challenge. But how much fun would a job be if it were not a challenge? It was an honor to be involved in such an undertaking. We truly thank the Aquarium and everyone involved for allowing Giroux Glass to be a part of such an incredible, memorable project.

PHOTO: Dramatic nighttime view of the exterior side of the Aquarium of the Pacific Gift Shop glass wall.

And just how incredible and memorable was it? Well, it won the Glass Magazine 2013 Most Innovative Decorative Glass Project, Commercial Interior award.

More than 1.5 million people of all ages visit the Aquarium of the Pacific every year, savoring this truly unique journey through the three main regions of the vast Pacific Ocean. It is located on an over- six-acre site on Rainbow Harbor in Long Beach, CA – across the water from the Long Beach Convention Center, Shoreline Village, and the Queen Mary. For more information regarding it, visit

Without a doubt, the Aquarium of the Pacific – with some help from Giroux Glass – has redefined the modern aquarium.

by  Tom Molinaro, Giroux Glass Estimator and Project Manager

Tom Molinaro has worked at Giroux Glass for over 20 years and has worked in the glazing industry for over 35 years. He invites your thoughts, which may be emailed directly to him at [email protected]