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Historic aquarium shuns radar, seeks classic weather technology


Belle Isle Aquarium, 1904 COURTESY PHOTO

Staff report

As Detroiters grapple with Belle Isle’s transition from a city asset to a state park — amid other changes in the city’s downtown and Midtown areas — Bob Dylan’s immortal lyric, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows,” may come to mind. A new contest, however, will give one talented artist/designer a chance to show which way the wind is blowing on Belle Isle, now and in the future.

When the Belle Isle Aquarium, designed by famed architect Albert Kahn, opened to the public in 1904, it was topped with an ornate weathervane — in the shape of a fish. At the time the aquarium was the world’s third largest.

As the years passed and the building fell into disrepair, the weathervane was removed and lost.

Now, the law firm of Butzel Long is sponsoring a contest to design and build a new weathervane to celebrate the aquarium’s 110th birthday. The winning designer will receive $500 and the honor of seeing their work cast in metal crowning a Detroit architectural gem for generations to come.

The competition is open from Aug. 1-29. Organizers say designs should reflect the institution’s history and aquatic theme. The winning design will be announced Sept. 19.

To see a full list of entry guidelines, visit

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