The scheme also includes a business centre and footbridge, and will be built where the River Hull meets the River Humber.
The glacial-looking building will comprise a visitor centre, including aquaria, and exhibition and learning spaces on 7500m2 over four floors. It may be rendered in stone, metal or acrylic, and will be veined with translucent glass to look like fissures and crevices. Project director Julian Tollast said: 'Shafts of light will pierce through the building like light in the ocean. The effect will be similar to that in Liverpool's Catholic cathedral.' The building is entered from the third floor to enhance the impression of a journey into the deep. The council has described the scheme as pioneering, and hopes it will achieve the iconic status of Frank Gehry's Bilbao Guggenheim.
Tollast said that the building was a metaphor for plate tectonics 250 million years ago when geological faults caused the land to buckle and form a depression of low ground. The building also resembled a shark's fin, said Tollast.
A detailed planning permission application for The Deep, awarded £18.4 million from the Millennium Commission, goes in this week. Building work is expected to start in July for an Easter 2001 opening.