To build a nest for braxen

By on March 11, 2019
Eva Malm

Mikael Malm runs the family company Konstgjorda Naturmiljöer together with his wife Eva since 1990. They have created the interiors of all aquariums, and surface-treated, sealed and built a good environment for all animals living, and people working under and over the surface, at Baltic Sea Science Center.

Artificial natural environments are something you encounter especially in zoos. Mikael Malm has been involved in many projects at Skansen such as the new seal basin that was completed in 2012 and Lill-Skansen’s animal environments, and for so many he has started his career at Skansen.

– I worked as a coachman here as a 15-year-old, Mikael says, and I had as a hobby to build environments for my own reptiles. Then I met Holger, a man who then worked at the Skansen Aquarium and I got to help him build new.

After that, Mikael got to work with Sune Holm, a pioneer in the field, and after that he started his own. Now he is back at Skansen and builds the environments at the new knowledge center on the Baltic Sea, the Baltic Sea Science Center.

In the ground floor there are the aquariums, both the giant aquariums for predatory fish, shoal fish and what shows life on shallower water – Under the bridge.

The challenge is to make environments that are attractive to the visitors and are good for the animals. The environment will provide protection, be a good biotope and an interesting environment for the animals. In the predatory aquarium, which shows a biotope deeper water, there is a large shipwreck that the butter bolts enjoy lying around and sleeping on.

Under the bridge is an environment that shows shallower water with pike and pike-perch. There, the aquarium is divided into two by a glass wall that allows one to show species that do not normally coexist.

The company builds all parts in its workshop and then transports everything in large parts to be mounted in place. It may look quite odd with a man who comes carrying a rock wall.

– It has happened that we have been stopped by the police when we bring a mountain on a wagon, Mikael says. At zoos you are more used to seeing us with big chunks of nature but in other places it can create quite a lot of attention.

– We work with a molding technique that we ourselves developed. With it we cast of real rock walls but we also work with an artistic technique for creating surfaces. The environments are often a combination of real details and designed.

The rock walls in the knowledge center’s aquariums are made of polyurethane, a thermosetting plastic that is approved for use with foods that can withstand salt and which are not dangerous to the animals. The habitat aquariums are designed from tanks constructed of cellular plastic and carbon fiber and sealed with polyurea, a very tough and strong thermosetting plastic which is also harmless to the environment.

– We have also made the sealing layers on all the concrete surfaces of the pools with Polyurea. It is an extremely durable and tough hard plastic that hardener in seconds. In addition to waterproofing, it is used as wear protection on slipways for cars, such as splitting protection of military vehicles and buildings. One has used it as a bomb protection in the Pentagon. Over the years we have tried several types of different waterproofing in animal facilities. It is often complicated constructions where there may be difficult forms, several meters of water depth, waterfall etc. It must be able to withstand salt water, the animals’ wear and no dangerous substances.

– The most fun has also been the most difficult, to solve the problems that arise. All projects are unique and we still learn after all the 28 years we have been doing.

Helena Olofsson, Culture & Music | Djurgården