It has been announced that Basel Ozeanium on the Heuwaage site is set to open its doors in 2020.
Basel Zoo’s aim as project organiser is clear: to create a centre for environmental education, which will set a clear example in relation to natural protection and sustainability: “The Ozeanium should give citizens of landlocked countries the chance to enjoy fascinating encounters with live animals and introduce them to the sea as an unknown habitat well worthy of protection”, stated Oliver Pagan, Director of Basel Zoo, at a media conference. It was also made clear that Basel Zoo will finance and operate the venture without any government support.
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Spectacular aquaria with coral reefs, a fascinating succession of habitats, each with its own story, an endless swimming lane for penguins, shoals of lightfish, sharks, sea otters and a spectacular giant octopus: the planned Ozeanium will have plenty of attractions.
Environmental Education Before Commerce
Director Oliver Pagan made it immediately clear: “Here at Basel Zoo, we put the emphasis on our expertise in the fields of research and education and not the show or the commercial side of things.” Basel Zoo’s professional structure makes it duty bound to support environmental education and ecological aspects. “The Ozeanium perfectly complements the Kleinod vivarium”, added Pagan, rhetorically asking: “Who, if not us, is going to build such an Ozeanium?”
Teach, Learn, Experience, Research
Thomas Jermann, the project manager and marine biologist in charge of the Ozeanium’s contents, highlighted the central aspect of education: “We want to show how people use marine resources and how they interfere with the natural cycles of the ocean – sometimes damaging these in a manner that changes or even destroys them.” The planned extracurricular learning environment will take visitors past 30 stations, 30 aquaria and 30 topics along a spiral-shaped route. This will be set up as a kind of thought-provoking hike “from Basel to the sea”. In the tidal aquarium, visitors will even experience the rhythm of the sea – the ebb and flow of the tide will be felt through a synchronous circuit with a location in the English Channel. The notion of sustainability will be clear throughout the entire building. Thomas Jermann: “The Ozeanium will use as little energy as possible; all resources will be reused multiple times.” In addition to solar cells and the waste heat from pumps, the heat produced by visitors will also be recycled.
Not a Centime from the State
Basel Zoo’s Head of Finance, Jean-Nicolas Fahrenberg, spoke about financial matters and the operating concept. “Thanks to their attractiveness and their compact size, large-scale aquaria can be operated profitably”, he stated. In a feasibility study, comparisons were made with other large-scare aquaria and calculations were made on the basis of various minimum and maximum scenarios. “We won’t need a single centime of state support”, stated Fahrenberg with conviction. Basel Zoo’s calculation is based on between 500,000 and 700,000 visitors per year and an entry price of around 20 euros. The costs of creating the Ozeanium will amount to just over 100 million francs. The money is to be primarily raised through donations. The fact that it will be possible to obtain such funds is based on certainty rather than simple confidence: in the last 20 years, Basel Zoo has received 125 million francs for animal enclosures from patrons, sponsors and donors.
A Piece of Wasteland Gains a Purpose
Lukas Stutz, Member of the Basel Zoo Administrative Board, is delighted about the project: “The Ozeanium will convert a piece of urban wasteland into somewhere that people can spend quality time”. The project is a great opportunity for Basel and the region as a whole. The unique visitor magnet will attract more tourists to the area, create new jobs and generally promote Basel as a city. “The Ozeanium is a place of education for pupils, students and adults alike and raises the awareness of all sections of the population to matters concerning animals and nature”, Stutz continued, emphasizing:“The Ozeanium is perfectly integrated into the urban environment”.
A Project that Unites
Cantonal architect Fritz Schumacher is confident: “The project has become even stronger as it has progressed. It represents added value for the site and the city.” In particular, the Heuwaage area will be rejuvenated and the previously divested viaduct will be incorporated. “The next step will be to create the development plan while also preparing the necessary changes to the transport infrastructure”, Schumacher explained. The development plan will be created by the Bau- und Verkehrsdepartement (Construction and Transport Department – BVD) on the basis of the pre-project. The earliest that construction is expected to begin is 2018.