California Academy of Sciences

Twilight Zone: Deep Reefs Revealed

Completion Date: May 2016

Don’t scream; it’s not that kind of Twilight Zone.

While it may not be the stuff of TV nightmares, the exhibit Group Delphi fabricated at the California Academy of Sciences certainly does evoke wide eyes and rapid heartbeats. And unlike its pixelated counterpart, this experience offers live interaction with some “stranger-than-fiction” characters: the fascinating sea creatures that live in the depths where traditional scuba gear and sunlight dare not go.

The Setting

Delphi has played a role in producing captivating experiences in the California Academy of Sciences before, including the gem and mineral gallery and the Color of Life exhibit. What’s more, we have worked closely with other CAS specialty exhibit contractors to provide casework and audio-visual hardware systems integration.

But this particular installation is our first foray into an exciting new venue: CAS’s Steinhart Aquarium, home to a beautiful and interactive array of marine habitats.

Telling the Story

Scientists know more about the surface of the moon than they do about mesophotic reefs, which are nestled in the low-light transition zone between colorful shallows and pitch-black deep sea at a depth of 200 to 500 feet.

But Academy scientists are working to change that by exploring this untapped frontier, leading the field in coral reef science, conservation, and education. Indeed, each dive brings fresh discoveries that could hold the secrets to reef survival — and definitely make for an intriguing exhibit.

Group Delphi’s challenge: bring the mystery, wonder, and beauty of the Twilight Zone to a far more habitable and oxygen-rich environment: a 3,150-square-foot section of the Steinhart Aquarium. Bright accents of color draw visitors into and through the space, which features live animals, interactive experiences, compelling media, and cutting-edge science. 2D and 3D designs throughout the space are inspired by the topography and organisms of tropical reef habitats. Graphics, video, 3D components, and physical interaction blend seamlessly, creating a sense of descending into an immersive, otherworldly environment.

Replicating the Deep

To achieve this unique experience, we worked in close communication with CAS’s staff, who designed the exhibit and all of its content, along with the building’s general contractor and internal exhibit audio-visual hardware systems and integration team. These vital collaborations ensured not only an accurate exhibit but also polished fit and finish. Delphi’s proximity to CAS provided the flexibility to achieve a three-phased installation, in conjunction with public access to existing Steinhart Aquarium exhibits.

The end result: a magical journey — not to “another dimension,” but to a far more interesting Twilight Zone here on Earth — that invites visitors to discover, engage with, appreciate, and help protect some of the planet’s most amazing and important ecosystems.