An underwater marine observatory resembling a huge whale surfacing from the sea will soon come up off the coast of Geographe Bay in Western Australia.

Designed by London-based architecture studio, Baca Architects for marine contractor, Subcon, the $30-million Australian Underwater Discovery Centre (AUDC) will be Australia’s largest natural marine observatory on completion. Located two hours to the south of Perth, the new marine observatory will be built at the end of Busselton Jetty, two kilometres out at sea, replacing an existing observatory that has reached capacity.

From the three designs developed by Baca Architects, the Cetacean design mimicking a whale emerging from the water was selected through a public voting process.

Construction on the AUDC is expected to begin in the middle of this year, with the underwater centre to open by December 2022. Once operational, the marine observatory is expected to draw more than 900,000 visitors annually.

The AUDC aims to become the world’s biggest natural marine observatory, complete with an underwater trail and dining facilities among others. Describing the approach to the observatory, the press statement says that guests will be taken ‘through a landscaped sequence from their moment of arrival, where they will leave their car behind in a park graced with rain gardens’.

On entry, visitors will descend to the ocean floor level observatory, passing through art gallery and exhibition spaces as they embark on a new journey of discovery underwater. Glass windows will be integrated throughout the observatory above and under the sea to provide views to visitors.

The mostly concrete structure will feature a light-framed roof. The structure will be precast at a nearby boatyard and towed to its offshore location.

“This is as authentic as it gets, because people are in the tank and the fish are looking in. By adding underwater dining, underwater sculptures, marine art and other features, this project will enhance Busselton Jetty’s 155-year-old experience,” says Busselton Jetty chairman Barry House.

The local economy will be a major beneficiary of the project, according to House, with the construction phase to create work for at least 200 people; once operational, thousands of jobs will be generated over the coming years as caf├ęs, hotels, service stations, retail stores, bus companies and trade agencies prosper, returning around $200 million in economic benefit in Western Australia.

Images: Baca Architects