Coralarium, Maldives

The Coralarium: An Immersive Sculptural Installation Semi-Submerged in the Indian Ocean


The devastating effects of climate change might be most pronounced in places like the Maldives, which may ultimately be swallowed up by rising sea levels caused by climate change within a hundred years. To top it off, the coral reefs around the tiny island nation is facing threats from bleaching brought on by rising sea temperatures.

It's all pretty heavy and important stuff that has to dovetail with the Maldives' largest economic sector, tourism. Aiming to create a place that brings all these ecological and economic realities to bear, British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor (previously) has constructed the Coralarium, a tidal art gallery that is designed to be submerged.

The Coralarium is only reachable by visitors after crossing about 500 feet (150 meters) of shallow water off the Fairmont hotel, which feature plantings of underwater poplars and native corals. Measuring 20 feet (6 meters) tall, the cube-like Coralarium is made out of marine-grade stainless steel, and its patterning is inspired by that found naturally in corals. The openings in the structure allow for sea creatures to pass and water to ebb and flow through it.

While some may wonder how an underwater art gallery is going to reduce the environmental impacts of tourism, it's actually something that deCaires Taylor has done before in other locales, with the intent of shepherding tourists to designated spots, to take the pressure off other areas.

“Within the Coralarium are several of deCaires Taylor's signature sculptures, made out of pH-neutral concrete and which range from human forms, to plants and sea animals and corals alike. DeCaires Taylor talks about how the work combines all these different components to create something that's almost like a "mirage on the horizon":

It exists in three different elements. A set of sculptures that interact with the sky and the atmosphere. There's a set of works that are in the tidal area. They live both above the water and below the water. And then there a set of submerged works. The idea is that it's about taking all the elements of our planet and showing that everything is connected.”

It's a pretty compelling idea: not only offering a destination, but to also raise awareness of local issues and to provide a habitat for plant life and corals to take hold, and hopefully to let them completely take over someday. To see more, visit Jason deCaires Taylor.

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