According to its architect, the 'cloud-like' transparent roofs of the distinctive canopy at the £375 million project achieve structural integrity through undulations.
The centre, provisionally called 'Nirah - the Freshwater Experience' will consist of aquaria, education facilities and a water park when it is completed in 2011.
It will aim to accommodate some 2 million people every year when operational.
Nicholas Grimshaw said the aim of the centre (the National Institute for Research into Aquatic Habitats)is the conservation of freshwater habitats and 'their support through research and education'.
He said: 'Nirah is the kind of project that not only excites me, but gets the whole of the office buzzing.
'Issues of sustainability are at the forefront of our thinking, and Nirah embodies these issues admirably.'
An application for outline planning permission is expected to be lodged within the next few months.