John G. Shedd Aquarium
Rotunda Skylight Restoration
Berglund restored the skylight on one of Chicago’s most iconic historical structures without disrupting the public visiting or wildlife swimming in the aquarium below.
Project Overview

The domed skylight that sits above the rotunda has been a distinctive feature of the neoclassical structure since the Shedd Aquarium opened its doors in 1930. Berglund was entrusted with dismantling, restoring and replacing the entire skylight system. Throughout the duration of the eight-month project, the Shedd Aquarium remained fully open for visitors.

Approach

It was important that the space below remain fully occupied as the skylight underwent restoration; the 5,800 sqft rotunda encompasses one of the Shedd's highest revenue areas. Berglund’s innovative access solution included an exterior scaffolding system that led up to the roof and snaked around the rotunda. Berglund’s tradespeople climbed 150 steps and over 300 linear feet of scaffolding to complete work with minimal disruption to the aquarium, the animals and the public. While tradespeople carefully reset 900-pound slabs of cresting waves on top of the rotunda, visitors could still enjoy the complete experience of the 90,000-gallon Caribbean Reef exhibit directly below.

Restoring the rotunda also presented an opportunity to use modern materials that would improve the energy efficiency and long-term sustainability of Shedd Aquarium. Taking care to maintain the original historic fabric of the building, we restored the skylight to its original splendor. Berglund worked with Landmarks of Illinois to ensure the final result looked and felt authentic to the original 1929 design.

Outcomes

"It was very clear that they were the best company for the job,” said Suzi Reinhold, the project architect. “Their creative thinking outside of the box to get access to the top of the rotunda was a fantastic idea.” With close communication and collaboration between all project partners, Berglund stuck closely to the agreed-upon timeline and budget. Just eight months after kickoff, the new rotunda its gleaming skylight — complete with all five sections of intricate cresting ornamentation — was fully complete.

While trades­peo­ple carefully reset 900-pound slabs of cresting on top of the rotunda, visitors could still enjoy the complete expe­ri­ence of the 90,000-gallon Caribbean Reef exhibit directly below.

From the Team
Eric Dexter

We worked closely with the aquarium’s key stake­hold­ers to develop a creative access and logistics plan that made the project suc­cess­ful for everyone.

Project Manager Restoration