Thea Awards Recipients

Thea Awards 2021

Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement - Entrance Experience, Limited Budget

Entrance Experience, St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station , St. Louis, Missouri, USA

The St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station is a 120,000 square-ft attraction built into the former Train Shed of a 19th century National Historic Landmark: St. Louis Union Station. The two-story project houses exhibits and aquatic environments for approximately 13,000 aquatic animals from the world’s rivers and oceans in 1.3 million gallons of water.

The awe-inspiring historic architecture was preserved as an integral part of the theming that carries through the entire experience. But there are unexpected wonders here for aquarium visitors. Entering the “Grand Lobby,” guests are greeted with an immersive LED curved ceiling, and integrated circular clock tank that immediately submerges guests in a fantastic display of art, imagery, color, motion, and music, while hundreds of colorful discus fish swim among the gears of the working clock. Ten original vignettes celebrate the incredible beauty found beneath the surface of our blue water planet. With incredible artistry, vignettes are choreographed to a beautiful original score, creating a visual ballet that captures the moment in the most magical way.


Next, visitors board the “Union Station Express,” an immersive simulated Train Ride where guests feel the motion and view a breathtaking panoramic 38400 x 4420 re solution film as they are wondrously “transported” to the Aquarium. The ride features the voice talents of John
Goodman as the conductor whose inventions allow the train to depart historic Union Station, fly above the developing city of St. Louis, then startlingly dive beneath the surface of the Mississippi River, then transport beyond to the ocean depths. The experience creates a unique
transition from the Train Shed’s history to the arrival at the new Aquarium… it's difficult to know where reality ends and fantasy begins.

The Entrance Experience at St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station represents a new generation of Aquarium Design. By combining an inspiring National Historic Landmark with outstanding aquatic exhibits, state-of-the-art technology and immersive visual effects that transports guests
to the natural wonders beneath the surface, the Aquarium creates unique, one-of-a-kind experiences for each and every guest. The utilization of immersive LED imagery, original music and a simulated train ride that transports guests from past to present makes this incredible new aquarium entrance experience cross the threshold into entertainment design in new and unexpected ways. The fact that it was all done on a limited budget simply qualifies it as a crowning achievement.


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