Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, Miami, United States of America


Patricia and Philip Frost Museum in Miami, Florida, US.

The Patricia and Philip Frost Museum of Science is a new, state-of-the-art museum currently under development in downtown Miami, Florida, US. Formerly known as the Miami Science Museum, it is being relocated and expanded to a four-acre site overlooking the Biscayne Bay within the 28-acre Museum Park.

The expansion of the waterfront museum complex designed by Grimshaw Architects broke ground in February 2012. The $275m project is scheduled to be completed in 2015.

The world-class science museum will feature 250,000ft² of dedicated space for health and food, technology and communications, basic physics and living species. It will comprise a revolutionary three-story aquarium, a 10,000ft² travelling gallery, a vegetated roof, a 3D multimedia digital planetarium, an observatory, a learning centre and an outdoor playground.

More than 600,000 visitors are expected to visit the museum a year. The construction phase is expected to generate 400 jobs, while a total of 914 jobs will be created upon the museum's opening.

Design of the museum complex

The partly open-air museum complex is five-level high and comprises four separate structures, including a spherical planetarium dome, two rectangular bar-shaped buildings and a vessel-shaped 'living core'. These buildings will be connected by balconies and breezeways, which will provide views of the Biscayne Bay and the Port of Miami.

"The construction phase is expected to generate 400 jobs, while a total of 914 jobs will be created upon the museum's opening."

The East and West Bar buildings will contain the exhibition space, learning centre and cafes. The common vegetated rooftop will hold a Wildlife Centre with hanging gardens and animals.

The centrepiece of the museum is the 'living core' that houses a microcosm of South Florida's flora and fauna. It will consist of exhibits such as an aviary with diving birds, a living Indo-Pacific coral reef tank, an Atlantic reef fish tank, a mangrove nursery, a ray touch pool and a Gulf Stream Aquarium.

The Gulf Stream Aquarium will be an elliptical tank with a 100ft diameter and an open top. It will contain nearly 500,000gal of natural seawater and house aquatic species such as stingrays, tuna, sea turtles and sharks. Its controlled environment will simulate the flow of water in the Gulf of Mexico.

The aquarium will be suspended from the fourth level and will be visible from all levels of the museum. A rooftop observation deck will allow visitors to look down into the tank. A 30ft-wide oculus emerging from the ceiling on the lower level of the museum will provide an underwater view of the aquarium and a glimpse of the open sky through the water. Visitors in the interior galleries can view the aquarium through multiple portholes.

The planetarium dome will hold approximately 250 stadium-style seats and feature surround sound system along with an ultra high-resolution full dome video projection system containing 16 million colour lasers. The dome screen will tilt 23.5% to correspond with the tilt of the earth. It will also be externally illuminated, making it visible during the night.

Construction details of the Gulf Stream Aquarium tank

The Gulf Stream Aquarium tank has a conic-section design and is being built on an axis. The wall of the tank is constructed using cast-in-place reinforced concrete that is compressed with tensioned cables to support approximately five million pounds of water. Its thickness will range from 28in to 56in.

Approximately 9.5 miles of post-tensioning cables will be held in the concrete walls to prevent it from cracking. The concrete in the wall will act as a barrier and minimise the interference between the reinforcing steel and the shark's sensory system.

Building facade details

The facade of the two bar-shaped buildings is made up of pre-cast concrete panels, each weighing 25t and measuring approximately 32ft tall, 12ft wide and 10.5in thick. The panels are made up of 4ft square tiles or pixels that are concave, convex, flat or have a hole built out for a window. These pixels form a random pattern on the exterior of the building.

Sustainable features of the museum building

The green roof of the building is equipped with a rainwater-reclamation system that will irrigate its indigenous plants, edible gardens and green walls. Solar photovoltaic panels will generate on-site power for the complex.



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The building features a climate responsive design with optimised glazing and shading. Ventilation will be provided through natural open air circulation and by using low-energy air conditioning systems. A man-made wetland will be built next to the building for control of storm water runoff. The project aims for a LEED Gold Certification.

Contractors involved with the project

Rodriguez and Quiroga Architects are the executive architects for the project while Thinc Design served as the exhibition designer.
Arup was selected as the structural engineers and is also responsible for the lighting design and acoustics. ADA Engineering is providing civil engineering services for the museum, while Syska Hennessy Group is the HVAC engineer.

ArquitectonicaGEO was hired as the landscape architect for the green roof. Atelier Ten is the environmental design consultant.
Lord Cultural Resources was involved with the museum planning and concept development, as well as acted as the management consultants for the project.

Hill International signed a three-year, $3m contract in November 2013 to provide project management services during construction of the museum. Skanska USA is responsible for the construction management.

CW Keller created the concrete formwork for the Gulf Stream Aquarium tank, while Baker Concrete Construction is providing the concrete for all the building structures.