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Oculus forms centrepiece of Grimshaw’s Frost Science Museum in Miami

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Frost Science Museum in Miami, Florida has opened to the public, a 23,000m² facility combining a science museum with an aquarium and planetarium

The complex of four new museum buildings, all contrasting in shape, together form a sculptural ensemble on a single campus in Miami’s Museum Park, close to Biscayne Bay and with views of the city skyline.

The campus is laid out in what the architect describes as an ’open-armed stance’, connected by an open-air atrium that threads between them, enabling visitors to walk among the buildings and underlining the museum’s science focus – open to the world around it, as well as visually linking it to both the city and nearby marine habitats. 

The vista in aquarium at frost science photo by world red eye

The vista in aquarium at frost science photo by world red eye

Source: World Red Eye

The buildings’ façades are clad in a variety of textures and materials, but are united by a soft white colour palette, which serves to provide a heightened contrast for patterns and shadows to animate their surfaces. The bar-shaped buildings of the north and west wings are clad in a faceted, geometrical texture, in contrast to the smoother sphere of the planetarium, which creates a distinctive landmark for the campus. The aquarium meanwhile has a more organic shape, akin to a water droplet or the prow of a ship. 

The aquarium is at the heart of the site, between the two north and west wings, and has been designed to create a dramatic, vertically-oriented experience, allowing visitors to encounter aquatic ecosystems at various depths from its ’surface’, opening onto an open-air rooftop/deck to more intimate galleries and viewing points ’below the waterline’.

This section is dominated by the three-storey, 500,000-gallon Gulf Stream Aquarium, which stretches vertically in cone shape over three floors with, at its base, a massive, 9.4m circular viewing window, offering visitors a dramatic view up.

The museum’s design incorporates a variety of environmental strategies to reduce energy use, including a rooftop solar farm and rainwater cisterns, while it is sited to be accessible to public transport systems and to link in with the city’s programme.

Gulf stream aquarium oculus at frost science photo by world red eye

Gulf stream aquarium at frost science photo by world red eye

Source: World Red Eye

Architect’s view

Grimshaw took the opportunity to use the architecture and design of the Frost Science Museum to reflect and extend the lessons within to the building’s form. The indoor/outdoor nature of the museum reminds visitors of the natural worlds around them as well as the intimate connection between humans and the environment. Walkways that connect exhibit rooms offer views to Biscayne Bay; children can peer into the museum’s largest tank from an outdoor terrace and native flora fill the landscape. The architecture subtly reminds visitors of the natural and scientific worlds we engage every day as we go about our lives.

The museum is composed of unique shapes and positioned prominently within Museum Park. The forms of the museum, from the spherical planetarium to the curved walls of the core building, are unusual and finished in materials that play with sunlight through reflections and casting shadows that create textures which change throughout the day. The building is placed in order to take advantage of breezes off Biscayne Bay and views to the water. As the landscape in and around the museum matures, the building will appear settled within the park landscape and complementary to the adjacent art museum.

One of the highlights of the museum is the Gulf Stream Aquarium. The unique ‘martini glass’ form of the tank allows visitors to view the fish and creatures within from a number of angles, including from an outdoor deck that overlooks the tank, portholes in the tank’s sides, and, finally, through a large oculus that will allow guests to look up into an immersive view of the water from below. The unique form allows for a variety of views, and draws attention to the diversity of the ocean from shoreline to greater depths.

Vincent Chang, partner, Grimshaw

Fmos colored floor plans 2017 update new[8] page 2

floor plans 2017 update new[8] page 2


First floor plan

Project data

Start on site February 2012
Completion May 2017
Gross internal floor area 17,040m² interior 9,490m² exterior
Form of contract Design-build
Project cost $305 million
Concept architect Grimshaw
Executive architect Rodriguez & Quiroga
Client Frost Museum of Science
Structural engineer Arup, DDA Engineers
M&E consultant Syska Hennessy Group & Arup, Fraga Engineers 

Façade engineer Arup, Heitmann & Associates
Life support systems Syska Hennessy Group, MWH Americas
Landscape design Arquitectonica Geo
Vertical transportation Barker Mohandas
Wind tunnel engineering RWDI
Sustainability design Atelier 10
Lighting design Arup, Studio 321
Museum planning Lord Cultural Resources
Civil engineering ADA Engineering
Quantity surveyor OLI (Oppenheim Lewis)
Project manager 
 OLI (Oppenheim Lewis), Hill International
Exhibit designers Lyons/Zaremba, THinc Design, Ralph Appelbaum Associates, Casson Mann, Formula D interactive
AV & ICT Visual Acuity Limited
Signage/wayfinding Pentagram Design
Commissioning agent Sequil Systems
Main contractor/construction manager Suffolk, Skanska
Concrete contractor Baker Concrete
Precast contractor Gate Precast
Aquarium envelope (tile façade) Kenpat
Approved building inspector 
 MTCI Private Provider Services
Threshold inspector DDA Engineers
CAD software used 
 Autodesk Revit, Rhino w/Grasshopper

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