Located in downtown Miami, Florida, the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science offers to their visitors the opportunity to experience the well-known WOW effect (fascinate, excite, and shock) in a single building. Unique for its architecture with 250,000 Sq.Ft, it combines technology and balance with the environment; without leaving aside beauty and harmony, where it enriches the curious minds of its visitors.
Ensuring a multi-sensory experience, the Frost Museum of Science is a complex of four buildings, located in a position of open arms. Consequently, giving the sensation of the museum offering a warmly welcome to its visitors.
Thanks to a 35-million-dollar donation by Phillip and Patricia Frost, the construction of this fascinating structure became a reality. Furthermore, this generous contribution allowed the architects to base their design around environmental standards.
Something I find very cool about the Frost Museum of Science is the three-floor aquarium in a conical form. Not to mention the dome-shaped planetarium as the reflection of the greatest expression of its design. If you have not been to this museum, you should definitely check it out ! Designed by Grimshaw Architects, this iconic structure aims to create an innovative layout; along with respecting, and taking care of the ecosystem of the place. Which by the way, is my favorite part of their creation !
An Aquarium of Astounding Dimensions Challenges its Construction
The aquarium of the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science is visible from various angles. From the inside, it is possible to see a conical figure which ends in a huge 31-foot circular-looking window. This with the intention of offering visitors the opportunity to witness a dramatic and unforgettable panoramic view of the aquarium. I find this very unique !
The development of the aquarium was an engineering and construction challenge overall. For example, to support and contain the weight of the water, the engineers decided to use monolithically cast and compressed tensioned cables.
On the other hand, it was necessary for the contractors to apply four different types of concrete mixes with different types of additives. This with the objective of curing the material, and making it flow over the entire reinforcing steel structure. This was a big milestone because the contractors completed the process in one single pour. Crazy, right?! On the interview we had with Grimshaw Architects, they mentioned this was one of the most incredible things they have ever witnessed, and we certainly believe it !
The Design and Spaces are the Main Features of the Planetarium
Making the design of this unique museum a reality was a very interesting process. Spaces such as the dome-shaped planetarium have an attractive and contemporary design. The absence of corners and columns allows for better use of the space. While also transmitting a feeling of spaciousness and lightness when comparing the heavy structural elements. Imagine how challenging this was for the structural engineers ! However, the end product is so amazing it was worth it.
Furthermore, in order to build the lower half of the planetarium, the contracting team used cast concrete that resembled an “orange peel” type material, according to the site 360 in Concrete. I read that they used 32 pre-cast sections to complete this structure, and they placed them in a specific way to form a perfect dome. WOW !
With this in mind, the planetarium contrasts with the rigidity of the adjacent buildings. The bar-shaped structures on the north and west wings denote concave, convex, and glass hole textures. They are designed in such a way that different combinations are achieved on the surface of the building.
Likewise, the texture of the facade connotes patterns within science. For example, the appearance suggests plant cells, computer codes, or the structure of DNA cells. This geometric pixelated texture allows the sun to pass through. Thus, taking advantage of filtered light and the breeze as part of the building’s environment. This causes a reduction in the energy needed to condition the space. Something I personally never thought possible in a city as hot as Miami !
Frost Museum of Science – Behind the Scenes of the Design Process
Eastern Engineering Group is currently hosting a student initiative called What’s the Scope? , where students are able to speak to professionals they admire. As a result, we had the opportunity to speak to Grimshaw architects, which is the firm that worked on the design for the Frost Museum. This was a very unique experience for the students, as well as for us as professionals ! We invite you to watch the interview below !
In this case, we had the pleasure to interview Christian Hoenigschmid-Grossich (Associate principal) and Aron Vaden-Youmans (Associate). It was such an awesome experience to talk with them and to understand the point of view before and during the construction process. It was also cool to hear about the challenges they needed to resolve for us to be able to enjoy this fantastic structure.
In the first place, it was interesting to hear the way the architects managed such a large team throughout seven years. This is approximately how long this project took to be completed. Insane, right? This shows how much love and effort they put into this building, not only for the monumental structure but also for its environmental innovations. In effect, their design takes advantage of the combination of green spaces and closed spaces. This with the objective of creating a place that changes the perception of the environment and also makes all the visitors comfortable.
Fun Facts !
The museum embodies several wonderful characteristics that makes this one of the most unique structures in Miami. Something we find interesting is that even though the Museum is located in one of the hottest cities in the US, the air passes between the spaces, and air conditioning is not needed. It was designed to use its own structure as a way of facilitating natural ventilation within the establishment. For these reasons, visitors are fresh, which makes this design impressive.
Other important things to emphasize about this construction, are the solar panels that provide part of the energy that the building needs, especially for the aquarium. Also, they collect the rainwater and then treat it so this one can be used again, which is definitely something you don’t see every day.
All of these factors make this building self-sustaining and allowed for its design to win the LEED Gold Certification 2018. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a building certification program used worldwide. This council recognizes structures that are friendly to the environment and human health in the way they are maintained and operated.
Gold is the second-highest score a specific design is able to obtain, and this is one of the many reasons we admire its architecture. The use of materials respects the environment in its construction. Thus, complying with sustainability requirements and efficiency standards, where water and energy are well optimized.
Breaking Traditional Patterns in Architecture
The non-traditional architecture of this museum shows a clear use of the best technologies that respect the environment. Nature is one of the main features of its design, thanks to the open-air atrium, located between the building. This enhances a feeling of freedom and enjoyment of its surroundings, which becomes very relevant to the world we live in today.
It is admirable and grounding to know big firms such as Grimshaw are following this eco-friendly approach. This special museum offers unique experiences based on its innovative infrastructure, with unique spaces that highlight the beauty and peculiarity of its construction; making this a must-see for tourists and residents of Florida.