reynolds polymer

The Great Divide

An elliptical aquarium partitions a space with almost 3,000 gallons of water and 201 living inhabitants.

Lisa Marie Hart Current Digital, Home & Design, Real Estate

reynolds polymer
PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVID BLANK

When a homeowner hits upon a beautiful idea, a strong team will take his concept and swim with it. At least that’s what happened at The Madison Club when Mike Gray envisioned adding an aquatic environment to create greater separation between a sitting area and the billiards room. It needed to make a splash, as it would be visible from the great room.

“The scale of the house required that the aquarium be substantial enough to appear to be part of the original structure, rather than look like a fish tank that was just added,” says Kristi Hanson of KHA Architects. “My concept was to include the column/wall element at the rear of the tank so it appeared as if the tank grew out of the structure. We clad the interior with similar-colored stone to enhance the effect. The tank then appears to sit on a stone plinth,” which adds heft to its impressive stature.

Towering 10 feet high, the custom-designed room divider weighs 26,000 pounds (13 tons) when full. (That’s more than a killer whale.) Its three-inch-thick acrylic walls hold almost 3,000 gallons of water — a comfortable home for 200 monochromatic yellow tang fish from Hawaii and one very large, and very outnumbered, cowfish from the Philippines.

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Reynolds Polymer, the engineering and fabricating firm whose work appears in zoos and public aquariums across the globe, manufactured the tank. Mark Bradshaw of Mark Bradshaw Construction managed and plumbed the project, and Rick Barboza of Reef Systems installed and maintains the piece.

Craning the Reynolds Polymer aquarium over the house and into the backyard for install was a lesser challenge than housing its necessary equipment on the other side of the property, 260 feet away, in the basement of the guest house. “There, the skimmer return of the water is gravity-fed to the filters, pumps, and chillers,” Bradshaw explains. “Once filtered and chilled, the water is pumped back to begin the process over.

The basement provided plenty of space, a wet area conducive to any saltwater from routine maintenance, noise containment, and easy access. Just outside, a 1,100-gallon saltwater mixing tank is fully plumbed to the aquarium equipment, making water changes simple. A dedicated washer and dryer are on site to launder the filter socks and wash the towels.” The yellow tang may not appreciate the design achievement on their behalf, but a goldfish bowl wasn’t going to suffice.