Joetsu Aquarium Umigatari

Artificial rocks which accentuate nature

Joetsu Aquarium Umigatari

Joetsu-city, Niigata
Nihon Sekkei, inc.
Artificial rocks have a long history; the monkey enclosure opened in Ueno Zoo in 1931 was the first artifical rock installation in Japan. Its free-from shape menats that being on the same page from an early stage of the project was very important, and as such this was a field where the use of 3D imaging preceded architecture in general. At Joetsu aquarium, the seabed of the neighbouring seas was recreated on a 1:10000 scale. As the geological form had very steep gradients, a decision was made to scale the height to 1/250. Nihon Sekkei produced a detailed layout using the overall layout made from 3D CG. As the viewers will experience spatial distortions when looking into the aquarium displays, the form of the rocks was adjusted for the benefit of the viewer. As the main characters of the aquarium were living creatures, ensuring the environment was livable for marine organisms was more important than the aesthetics, such that we had to consult the designers, the aquarium keepers, and maintenance personnel repeatedly.
A clay model was produced based on CG data, with which the architect’s approval was secured, it was then 3D-scanned again to digitalise it. Using that digital data, 2D data was outputted for each level. Based on the 2D lines so derived, the mould was sculpted, FRP resin was applied, forming the artificial rock itself. After checking for form, the intricate details were sculpted manually by artisans. The FRP resin, completed in the fabrication plant, would then be divided into panels, and shipped to the installation site.
At the installtation, the pieces were put together with reference to the pre-approved clay model. The panel seams were covered by overlaying them with FRP to achieve a natural look. The rocks were finished with aging coating, chosen not only for its look, but also for considering the health of the aquatic life. The artificial rocks were deemed a photo frame of sorts to accentuate the main characters, and it was important it remained part of the scenery without standing out. This is the result of a marriage between 3D technology imitating nature and the masterful work of skilled artisans.



We welcome inquiries at
every stage of the project.