Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science

Location: Miami, Florida   Client: Radius Track
Services: Structural   Expertise: Structural

Project Overview

Viewed from above, the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science Aquarium resembles the organic shape of a water droplet. The four-level structure contains the Gulf Stream Aquarium vessel, a 100-foot wide 500,000-gallon cone-shaped aquarium.

The façade is a one-of-a-kind doubly curving stucco and tile fully vented cavity structure with graceful lines reminiscent of the bow of a seafaring vessel. 

The tiled skin of this building has a constantly changing curvature with a linear pattern superimposed onto it and a 3/16” tolerance. The three-inch round tiles are flat, convex, or concave. Aesthetic and robust, the façade was required to demonstrate compliance with Miami-Dade NOA.

The team developed a process that enabled them to take the two-dimensional details, deploy them three-dimensionally and create a feedback loop to gain exposure on the project all the way around.

Project Highlights

  • The 3/16” linear pattern tolerance required investigation of the finished surface in real time using parametric modeling to elucidate impacts of connections to the concrete superstructure
  • Each framing adjustment required an iteration of the linear parallelogram surface around the entire building to ensure the pattern connected precisely
  • Through this process, the team identified clashes, possible engineering problems, highlighted them and redesigned to maintain the 3/16” linear pattern tolerance
  • Structurally, the façade assembly hangs like a curtain from the aquarium’s fourth-floor slab.
  • Studs stand off from the slab at grade where metal clips stay their location
  • The finished tile surface rearward assembly is backed by metal sheathing lapped uniquely to direct errant water in the system rear to a vented cavity formed by a lattice of curved hat-channel
  • The entire façade system is engineered to withstand standards, category 5 hurricane forces, and high impact projectiles
  • Frost Science is an example of a high-risk project with complex geometry and extremely tight tolerances, where through collaboration the team delivered on the design intent
  • McClure is the cold-formed steel specialty engineer of record

Project Manager

Patrick Earney, PE, SE