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  • designer whose
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  • elevates custom
  • aquarium installations
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Excerpt from New York Magazine

  • May 9, 2006
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  • Posted By Justin @ 3:14 PM

By Arianne Cohen

Even magicians need their marine biologists. In early March, Justin Muir, the city’s preeminent luxury-aquarium designer, got a call from David Blaine’s people. It was about Blaine’s next televised municipal stunt: two weeks in a shark tank on the plaza in front of the Lincoln Center! “It was kind of cool,” says Muir. “How often does a marine biologist get to put David Blaine in a tank?”

This isn’t Muir’s first man-tank. His company, City Aquarium, designed the 10,000-gallon, 30-foot fish-filled tank in the now-shut Coral Room (go-go “mermaids” cavorted within). He also built the 30-foot-tall cylindrical shark tank in Vikram Chatwal’s Dream Hotel. But none of those required logging this many hours of conference-calling among Blaine’s mask people, tank people, scuba people, medical people, Lincoln Center people, and ABC people. Plans changed quickly. The medical people realized that Blaine’s skin might not survive two weeks in water and dropped the time period to one week. The shark idea sank, too. “There are fish that are better suited,” says Muir. “And no one wanted to sacrifice any animals.” Two weeks ago, a compromise floated: Lower the temperature for several hours daily and insert fish. Then remove fish. The fish would be flown in daily from Miami and quarantined for a few days to relax them after the shock of travel, before the shock of Blaine. “It’s something we really wanted to do, because it would be really beautiful,” says Muir. But fish have their own agenda. “They know what a net is. It would be a battle getting fish in the tank and out every day. So we decided to scratch the idea”

What’s left is a ten-foot tank with 1.5-inch-thick insulating acrylic walls, filled with 2,000 gallons of spring water, to be trucked in from upstate. They’re adding salt, to help Blaine’s skin. Blaine will spend his week attached to a custom mask supplied with compressed air. He has trained by meditation and extended time underwater. “He is human, and he does need to survive,” says Muir. “The core body temperature is the most important issue we’re dealing with.” Muir will have a staffer on call around the clock, managing power heaters that can raise the temperature one degree per minute. The other issues are more minor. Will Blaine get knocked around? “Well, the bigger the tank, the stronger the return water pump,” says Muir, who often enters larger tanks to clean them. “It’s like a Jacuzzi jet stream. You can get blown to the other side of the tank.” Muir is also charged with maintaining the “pristine clarity of the water…No algae blooms, no bacterial blooms.” What about urine blooms? “It’s the same thing for fish,” says Muir. “The filtration system removes urea, ammonia, and hormones.”


Excerpt from Fortune

  • May 7, 2006
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  • Posted By Justin @ 3:16 PM

By Matthew Boyle

The latest must-have hedge fund accessory weighs a ton (literally), contains up to ten living creatures, and costs $600 a month – just for upkeep. Aquariums, which were popular in the 1970s, are back. But forget the fish tanks in your dentist’s office - these "installations," as they’re called, take six months to complete and cost as much as $600,000. The tanks feature specialized glass for better viewing, custom-made furniture crafted to accentuate the colors of the fish, live coral, and rare creatures like angelfish from new Caledonia, which sell for $3,000 each. Angelfish "grunt and have very distinct personalities," said Justin Muir, co-owner and principal designer of New York—based City Aquarium. "They’re more like pets."

Aqua-entrepreneur Muir has made a specialty of catering to the hedge of fund crowd, who he says continually try to outdo one another. A native of the Massachusetts coastal town of Cohasset, Muir was a licensed lobsterman at age 8, studied marine biology in Hawaii, and previously raised eels in South Carolina. City Aquarium, which he founded in 1999, now has a client roster that includes sultan, supermodels, Russian heiresses, Broadway producers, and an increasing number of hedge funds like SAC Capital Advisors and Sandell Asset Management (both declined to comment on their expensive toys). "Aquariums are status symbols," says Muir, who has also designed aquariums for hedge fund managers’ homes. "These guys say, 'Okay, if we are going to do [an aquarium], it has to be hot.'" So what’s the hottest thing right now in hedgie tanks? Sharks, natch. The price: around $2,000 each.


Sydney Morning Herald: Finding Nemo in your lounge room.

  • May 6, 2006
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  • Posted By Justin @ 12:52 PM