Rolling in the Deep

by Becky Hoh in Bespoke stories

Aquarium Architecture create underwater worlds for high end homes.

A well designed and cleverly presented luxury aquarium can add a truly awe inspiring touch to a high end interior. With engineering demands and delicate underwater eco-systems to consider as well as aesthetics, this is definitely where you need to go bespoke, and you need to go with the professionals. This is where Aquarium Architecture come in.

With offices in London and New York, the specialists in international luxury aquarium design, installation and maintenance was founded in 2006 by creative director Roland Horne and operations director Jeremy Clark.


‘Quirky and artistic challenges are pretty cool, but nothing really beats finishing a commission which is based upon something you would see naturally in the wild!’

Originally from Ireland, Horne studied Economics at LSE (London School of Economics) and during his Masters he started working part-time in an aquatic shop in Hampstead.  ‘After seeing a niche in the market for luxury aquaria, my keen interest in fish and enthusiasm for design drove me in an entirely new direction,’ describes Horne, of his move into the aquarium design world.

There is now a team of thirteen that includes five field engineers,  a structural engineer, an installation engineer, and an aquascaper who specialises in the arranging of aquatic plants, cavework, rocks and of course the housing of the correct sort of creatures with all their corresponding requirements. There are no ‘standard, off the shelf’ aquariums,  all of the commissions are done on a made to measure basis.

The team have created many beautiful underwater worlds for both residential and commercial clients, working alongside interior designers and architects for the most part.

Favourite residential projects so far include a Hampstead townhouse. ‘This client is a keen diver and goes diving in the Far East regularly,’ Horne explains. ‘When in London he wanted to try and recreate what he sees when diving with his family.’ The team built a special optically clear glass installation that holds over 5000 litres of water and 200 marine fish, in high grade steel and Italian granite, housed in the basement area, overlooking the Japanese style garden.

Horne also describes their work in the Nettleton Villa in Cape Town, SA. ‘The South African client wanted to recreate a lake environment of his native Malawi and East African background. It’s stunning and unique because of the absolute attention to detail in the aquascape. It is filled with fish from Malawi, special sand from Kenya and rock sourced from Kilimanjaro.’

They also took a part in a collaborative project with French artist Pierre Huyghe, showcased at the Frieze Art Fair 2010. Huyghe was to present an aquarium for a marine ecosystem performance.

‘He created a fictional narrative for crabs to enact by filling this aquarium with Mars-like red rock and assorted crabs, including a giant hermit crab that had taken a bronze cast of Brancusi’s Sleeping Muse as its new home,’ describes Horne of the rather conceptual undertaking. ‘The crab took on a curious and almost comical quality as it scurried around the aquarium. A Japanese art collector bought this aquarium for £250,000.’

The process starts with a consultation, where Horne and Clark try to get a sense of the client’s vision, and will then suggest species that might be suitable for them and the environment. They then attend site and design meetings to ‘bottom out’ the practical solution to what the client is looking for. Often this will involve value engineering the original idea to make the commission as cost effective as possible.

They are currently working on a huge residential aquarium in Lagos, Nigeria, a large commercial installation for Bloomberg the New York based financial news agency and in St Petersburg, Russia which comprises two large aquaria housing black tipped reef sharks. Another residential scheme involves an interior designer who has opted to put a Damien Hurst style diamond studded skull in an aquarium which they are to light from above.

‘It’s quite a concept!’ Horne laughs.  ‘But actually, quirky and artistic challenges are pretty cool, but nothing really beats finishing a commission which is based upon something you would see naturally in the wild!’

Technically challenging and with care of living creatures part of the package,  Aquarium Architecture have definitely rolled both an art and a skill into one, while keeping it slick, contemporary and reflective of the luxury world their client’s inhabit.

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