At a Glance

Unique to the world, the National Aquarium’s Model Urban Waterfront demonstrates what can be done in an ultra-urban environment to improve habitat and water quality in an aesthetically enjoyable, educationally programmed space.

Project Description

The National Aquarium desired to not only reimagine its upland space on Piers 3 and 4 along Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, but to refocus attention toward the water in the canal between them. In 2014, Biohabitats developed a suite of innovative technologies that provide habitat, restore ecological functions, and improve water quality in the canal. This project, which stemmed from campus master planning efforts was initially referred to as the “Ecoslip.”

By re-envisioning its campus, the Aquarium aims to demonstrate a new model urban waterfront that not only enhances ecology but educates visitors by exhibiting the unique habitats found within the Chesapeake Bay. In 2015, Biohabitats worked with Ayers Saint Gross to further evaluate baseline conditions and develop a framework for monitoring the canal as it transforms into a Model Urban Waterfront. Biohabitats supported Ayers Saint Gross in advancing a conceptual design of the waterfront park that incorporated the innovative ecological interventions proposed with the Ecoslip.

The project builds upon advances in eco-technologies that Biohabitats and partners have already implemented on the Harbor, including floating wetlands created with the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, Biohut® suspended oyster reefs installed with Ecocean and the Aquarium, and a vertical wetland bulkhead designed with the University of Maryland. These and other technologies are being piloted at the Aquarium’s doorstep. The floating wetland prototype, which incorporates novel advances such as adjustable buoyancy and integrated aeration to optimize its service life and habitat offerings, won a 2018 Honor Award for Research from the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Visited by millions of people per year, the Aquarium demonstrates, through this project, novel approaches that are both aesthetically pleasing and functional in delivering ecological services in an ultra-urban environment.



Chesapeake/Delaware Bays

Physiographic Province

Coastal Plain


Patapsco River

Expertise Areas

Coastal, Infrastructure, Research & Development, Urban Ecology, Water


National Aquarium in Baltimore


Baltimore, Maryland, United States

Project Team
  • Ayers Saint Gross