With the months trickling down to days until the planned August opening, the race is on to prepare the building for the public at what will undoubtedly become one of Toronto’s busiest attractions. Once complete, the much talked-about Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada at the base of the world-famous CN Tower will contain over 45 exhibits, featuring 13,500+ marine animals comprising more than 450 different species.

Ripley's Aquarium of Canada B+H Architects CN Tower KDA TorontoRipley's Aquarium of Canada under construction, image by Jack Landau

Located directly adjacent to two of Toronto’s largest and most iconic structures, the B+H Architects-designed aquarium sets itself apart from its outsized Rogers Centre-CN Tower surroundings with unique prism-like angles, a design which also stands in stark contrast to the architecturally conservative office towers now going up in the Southcore district, eschewing solemnity for a bit of fun.

While one often associates the Ripley’s brand with gaudy tourist trap districts like Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls, the nearly complete 135,000-square-foot facility in Downtown Toronto will cater to more than just tourists. Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada has clearly stated its intention to “foster environmental education, conservation, and research, while simultaneously providing entertainment for visitors of all ages”. Online reviews of Ripley’s Aquarium locations in the United States seems to back up that statement, showing overwhelmingly positive feedback and a notable absence of tourist trap cheese.

Ripley's Aquarium of Canada B+H Architects CN Tower KDA TorontoRipley's Aquarium of Canada, image courtesy of B+H Architects

In recent months we have seen many of the cladding details coming together, including the addition of window glazing and a unique shark pattern on the building’s roof, an unexpected treat for visitors of the CN Tower’s glass floor high above. With the opening date creeping closer, the final white and grey aluminum cladding panels are now being applied to the aquarium’s exterior surfaces.

Ripley's Aquarium of Canada B+H Architects CN Tower KDA TorontoFinal cladding being applied to Ripley's Aquarium of Canada, image by Jack Landau

Ripley's Aquarium of Canada B+H Architects CN Tower KDA TorontoFinal cladding being applied to Ripley's Aquarium of Canada, image by Jack Landau

To improve the nearby pedestrian experience, local firm KDA was selected to redesign the surrounding pedestrian infrastructure. New wayfinding signage with LCD video displays and unique new paving at Front and John invite pedestrians to cross the suspension bridge over the rail tracks and check out the new Aquarium.

Ripley's Aquarium of Canada B+H Architects CN Tower KDA TorontoNew signage at Front and John, image by Jack Landau

Ripley's Aquarium of Canada B+H Architects CN Tower KDA TorontoNew paving at Front and John, image by Jack Landau

Once over the bridge, pedestrians are welcomed by the new CN Tower Entry Pavilion, designed by IBI Group Architects, and courtyard at the base of the CN Tower, another KDA collaboration. Though construction on the entry pavilion continues, visitors to the Rogers Centre and CN Tower are already enjoying the improved courtyard area. 

Ripley's Aquarium of Canada B+H Architects CN Tower KDA TorontoCN Tower Entry Pavilion and courtyard, image by Jack Landau

Are you anticipating the new aquarium? To join in the discussion, voice your opinion in the comments section provided below, or head on over to one of the related forum threads. Additional facts and renderings can be found in the related UrbanToronto dataBase pages, linked below.