Immersive 3D Dome Theater Under Construction at Hawaiian Aquarium

Rendering of Maui Ocean Center dome theater.

Rendering of the Monolithic Dome theater currently under construction at the Maui Ocean Center.

Maui Ocean Center

The Maui Ocean Center on the island of Maui will soon be the home of a Monolithic Dome functioning as a theater for the center. Ground was broken in April 2018 and construction is underway.

The dome will function as a 3D theater for the center, highlighting a film on humpback whales. Elyse Ditzel, Director of Marketing for the Maui Ocean Center, spoke about the formulation of the film and theater. “When planning a new exhibit featuring humpback whales, the team brought together a multi-disciplinary group of scientists, marine naturalists, cinematographers, designers and educators,” she stated. “Their collaboration was the impetus for the development of an film highlighting the behavior of a humpbacks in Hawaii.”

Ditzel stated this structure will be “the first immersive 3D dome theater of its kind in the State of Hawai'i.” As to how the dome will serve as a theater Ditzel elaborated by saying “the dome theater will provide the platform for a film where Humpback whales will come to life by combining leading edge 3D with active-response glasses projected into a spherical environment can create more of a dimensional illusion.”

When planning and researching the theater, a Monolithic Dome was selected as the solution because of “creating a seamless platform that could provide an intimate yet virtual diving encounter with Hawai'i’s most iconic animals, the humpback whale,” Ditzel stated.

Construction Site.

Construction is on-going at the site.

Dan Hildebrand

Dan Hildebrand, a consultant to Kahe Construction, was contracted to build the dome. Hildebrand went out to the site a year ago and has been involved in the process. He stated that the original idea was the build an insulated ecoshell, to get the interior surface as spherical as possible. However, that idea was soon scrapped in favor of a Monolithic Dome because of the proximity to fish tanks. Insulation on the outside of an ecoshell could blow off and land in the tanks. A Monolithic Dome encapsulates the foam insulation between the airform membrane and the concrete, thus eliminating the risk of blowing off and landing in nearby tanks. “The wind here is unbelievable,” Hildebrand stated.

Since the center is a working facility, it has created a challenge for Hildebrand to build the structure. “It’s quite a tight space,” he stated while pointing out that between 1,500 and 3,000 people go through the facility a day. “We are aware of the demands of building in a working facility.”

Kahe Construction is the lead contractor on the project, with an Airform from Monolithic Constructors, Inc. Chris Zweifel is the engineer. The dome will be built as a 2/3 sphere dome. Hildebrand stated this has been a challenging but exciting project. “I’m excited by this project because it will be striking and garner a lot of attention,” he stated.

The target for the opening of the theater if late fall of 2018, according to Ditzel. “Work is progressing well and excitement continues to build,” she stated.

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