Submerged: A Journey through Living Light

  • 2023

  • Architectural
    Installation Design

Designed By:

Designed In:


‘Submerge’ dives into the world of living light, in a multi-sensory digital exhibition made for Sea Life Melbourne.

From the bioluminescent shorelines of Toyama Bay, Japan, journey with the mysterious Firefly Squid to the Twilight Zone, 600m below, exploring the known and unknown parts of the ocean.

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  • As one of Melbourne's top tourist attractions, Sea Life needed an alternative, but no less engaging ocean experience while its popular Oceanarium exhibit underwent upgrades. The solely digital experience had no specimens to replace the live sharks and rays, instead relying on immersive content and lighting to create a new type of engagement. The temporary installation needed to be accessible and educational for younger audiences and those with varied abilities, maintain visitor numbers over ten months, create multiple points of interaction in a narrowed footprint - all while acting as hoarding.

  • To help make the world of bioluminescence more digestible to younger audiences, a hero creature was chosen to act as a focal point for the exhibition. Taking a moonlit deep dive through eight magical ocean locations, a six minute 360 projected story and soundscape follows the glowing Japanese Firefly Squid from a glittering neon shore in the midst of spawning season, to the depths of the bioluminescent unknown. Packed into the compact space, an additional four interactive zones helped visitors understand where, what, how and why bioluminescent exists in the oceans brightest creatures.

  • As Sea Life’s first foray into digital exhibitions, Submerged is an opportunity to explore how visitors can engage with animals normally not seen in an Aquarium context. Giant sperm whales appear in the same condensed space as minuscule creatures like leafy dragons and bioluminescent squid, giving visitors exposure to some of the ocean’s most secretive, while preventing a loss of revenue from their live equivalent. With over 30,000 interactions a month, Submerged is a window into the eventual evolution of zoos: creating meaningful experiences that educate on the importance of preserving ecosystems, with a mix of real and realistic specimens.

  • The spatial design pays homage to its tie to Japanese waters, with minimalistic graphics, textures, materials and sounds providing a point of connection between interactions. Tunnels feature silhouettes moving through simplified coral forms, with holographic markings that glow under fluorescent light. ‘Light Fantastic’ uses a neon motion-tracked wave that mimics squid in spawning season, a phenomenon shared by few locations globally. ‘Cloak and Dagger’ takes a closer look at bioluminescent camouflage. Users can control the squid's descent, while viewing it from all angles. 'Submerged': a six minute short film and custom soundscape take a deep dive into bioluminescence at each depth, from the shore, to the creatures and corals that live up to 600m below. Padded rocks and glowing bamboo create both seating and scene physicality. Beyond, 'Lured in': a dangling light draws users in to the waiting jaws below - highlighting the predatory nature of bioluminescence. 'The Great Escape' touchscreen in front adds the bioluminescent offense counterpoint, showing the ways animals defend themselves. Learn the physiology of a bioluminescent creature with 'Twilight Zone': an infrared skeleton-based interaction that projects animated bio-dots onto individuals. Finally, a look at bioluminescent research strikes a hopeful tone for the future.