Shedd Aquarium Splashes Half-Billion Dollar Renovation Plan

One of Chicago’s best attractions wants to shell out big clams to lure in new visitors. The Shedd Aquarium has announced its Centennial Commitment, in which it plans to spend $500,000,000 renovating the aquatic life museum. It’s called “Centennial” because the idea is to have it done in time for the aquarium’s 100th anniversary.

Shedd Aquarium (file)
Shedd Aquarium (file)

We waded through the “advance solutions,” “authentic conversations,” “springboards to inquiry,” and “informed conservation solutions” nonsense in the Shedd’s press release about the renovation, and here’s the facts distilled in plain, non-Medill, English:

  • New exhibits
  • Modernized galleries
  • “Dedicated community spaces” — Which could be anything.
  • “Digital engagements” — Which probably means streaming video and maybe some web stuff. VR, maybe, if that really does become a thing in a decade or two.
  • “Advancements in… animal care and welfare” — This should have been first on the list.
  • Improved animal habitats for the 25,000 things that live there today.
  • Better accessibility
  • “Increase Shedd’s capacity to respond to more wildlife in crisis” — You’re gonna need a bigger boat.
  • More research
  • Better landscaping
  • Restoration of the historic galleries

We’ll be sad if any of the historic galleries are changed too much. Walking through them with wide eyes, you see more than the fish. You can discern the way that people of the Shedd’s founding era viewed wildlife and brought it to the middle west. Some of the Shedd’s interiors are as much time capsules as the exterior is.

Also of significance to building nerds like us is the promise that the Shedd is going to re-open the windows that formerly allowed skyline views of downtown Chicago, and of Lake Michigan, from the Museum Campus.

The building renovation is being designed by Valerio Dewalt Train. Thinc Design is on critter patrol.

Don’t get your flippers in a flap just yet. The renovation is expected to take six years. Or eight years. We’ve heard both from the Shedd. So mark down both 2026 and 2030 to see the shiny new Shedd.

Location: 1200 South DuSable Lake Shore Drive, South Loop

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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