View of the hilltop as construstion was begun.

The Stephen Birch Aquarium

Overlooking La Jolla, CA.

Photographs and text by

Matthew Kiwala


All images are copyright 1996-2000 by Matthew Kiwala & Magic Ink.


The kelp tank is the centerpiece of the aquarium. While the aquarum has amny, many interesting tanks, the kelp tank impresses with it's sheer size.


Looking up from within.
Looking up from inside the form for the tank.
View from the top, looking down.
Looking down from what was to become the drain at the top of the tank.
Pouring the cement.
Pouring the cement for the tank. It was done in stages, with a special tool that forced all the air bubbles out of the cement.
Pouring the gallerie floor.
The floor being poured. The bars sticking up in the backround became the seats, and the ramp is a walkway behind the tanks, now hidden by walls and tanks.
Inside the tank.
Inside the tank looking out. The blue color is an epoxy coating applied before the rockwork was done.
Arrival of the glass.
The arrival of the acrylic pane for the kelp tank. It was manufactured in L.A. and shipped down this special cradle.
Bringing the pane in.
The pane being brought in over the back of the buliding. It was a big day for everyone.
Placing the acrylic.
The pane being placed, oh so carefully into the sill of the tank.
Seating the pane.
The pane being seated and sealed. The size of the workers inside give you an idea of the size of the tank.
Checking for leaks.
After the pane was installed, the tank was filled for several days and carefully checked for leaks.
Making rocks.
The tank was then 'rocked'. A group specializing in artificial rocks came in and made the tank look like the La Jolla canyon offshore.
Divers in tank.
Even before the tank was planted, divers needed to go in every few days and carefully clean the acrylic, so algie wouldn't coat it.


The Construction

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All images and designs are 1996-2000 Matthew Kiwala & Magic Ink.