A 'glacier' at Aquatis © Aquatis.
A 'glacier' at Aquatis © Aquatis.
Exterior 'scales' of Aquatis © Aquatis.
Exterior 'scales' of Aquatis © Aquatis.
The grounds of the Olympic Museum © Rhonda Carrier.
The grounds of the Olympic Museum © Rhonda Carrier.

A Review of Aquatis, Lausanne, Switzerland

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Our commissioning editor Rhonda Carrier tours a new aquarium-vivarium that takes museography to new levels.

These are interesting times for those who love to visit museums and other cultural venues, with technology opening up whole new ways of presenting material and bringing their subjects alive for audiences young and old.

I was reminded of this, this week when visiting the brand-new aquarium-vivarium Aquatis. It lies on the outskirts of pretty Lausanne, on the north shore of Lake Geneva in the French-speaking part of Switzerland.

Here, incredible creativity and ingenuity have gone into creating an immersive journey through five continents of aquatic environments in a series of ‘sets’ combining inspirations from the movies with high-tech gadgetry to stunning effect.

The fun starts with the very exterior of this modern building, which is covered with metallic silver fish-like scales that move in the breeze and shimmer in the sunshine or in the night-time illuminations.

Inside, while the animals themselves – including a Komodo dragon, Nile crocodiles, and piranhas – are something to marvel at, it’s the scenography that really sets this place apart from your regular sea-life centre.

The use of mirrors is particularly clever and apt – after all, water was the world’s original mirror. Set into the floor of many rooms, these mirrors reflect theatrical sets built into the ceilings, creating the feeling that you are looking down at moving scenes – Asian rice terraces busy with workers and cyclists, for instance, or a boat chugging across Lake Geneva.

Of course, as with all good animal attractions these days, the emphasis is on education and conservation, and regular family activities mean you can see behind the scenes to learn about animal care and so on.

There’s light relief too, though, with charming shadow-animals racing across the ceiling of one room and even a roaring animatronic spinosaurus amidst the modern representatives of fish families who lived in the age of the dinosaurs.

To complete the experience, Aquatis even has its own hotel, with rooms with views over the glittering building – fronted by fountains by night – and a restaurant serving great seafood but also other dishes for those who can’t bring themselves to order fish after what they’ve just admired in the tanks.

Tickets CHF29 (CHF19 children 5–15, CHF69 two adults and one child then CHF15 per extra child).
Route de Berne 144, 1010 Lausanne.

Other Lausanne Museums with Kids:
Olympic Museum: Best with older kids, with lovely grounds complete with their own exhibits plus to-die-for lake views.
Musée de l’Elysée: Changing photography exhibitions, currently focusing on US filmmaker Gus Van Sant and on representations of Switzerland by outsiders.
Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts: An eclectic fine arts museum with family and kids’ activities, workshops and trails.
Le MUDAC: A museum of contemporary design and applied arts, with colourful displays and children’s activities.

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