Frost Science

The Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science is one of two projects located in Downtown Miami’s waterfront Museum Park. Frost Science is adjacent to the Perez Art Museum completed by GATE Precast in 2013.  The museum’s robust program includes a number of science galleries, a planetarium, a “Living Core” aquarium and wildlife center providing a range of entertaining educational activities for children and adults.  The first of its kind, Frost Science provides one of the most diverse learning opportunities for visitors of all ages.

Christian Honigschmid-Grossich, Grimshaw Architects, describes the unique building program.

Frost Science is comprised of four distinct structures, which are connected through outdoor spaces making use of shade and the breeze off of Biscayne Bay. The orientation of the building on the site was optimized during the early design stages to maximize this effect as well as to assess wind loading for the façade systems.  These outdoor spaces create areas comfortable for visitors to congregate and enjoy the surroundings and architecture.

Frost Science Site Map
Frost Science Wind Study

One of the museum’s key architectural features is the planetarium, which is the main focal point as you approach by road or public transportation.  At 67-foot in diameter, the self-supporting sphere loads to a precast dome cap, referred to by the architect as the Artic Circle, which was supported by a temporary custom-engineered shoring tower.

In turn, the 32 separate sections of precast concrete concave “peels” were placed conversely to ensure the dome cap would be loaded equally during installation.

Photo: Miami In Focus

Designers had not initially considered architectural precast concrete for the design of the planetarium, but early research and collaboration resulted in the selection of precast concrete because it provided the key attributes of enhanced structural resiliency desired. Additionally, precast could be cast in spherical shapes and be the finished surface as well as blending with the balance of the campus.

“After looking at a steel structure to support cladding panels of different materials, and considering a shotcrete dome, self-supporting spherical precast concrete structural panels proved to be the most cost effective solution. It provided the density required for acoustics, the durable structure, and a light sandblast finish that was the perfect projection surface.”

— James Palma, Rodriguez and Quiroga Architects

The large scale façade that frames the planetarium takes advantage of a module system developed during the design-assist phase of the Perot Museum, which allows for a single form to produce large façade panels with random features.

Christian Hoenigschmid-Grossich of Grimshaw took full advantage of this type of forming system to provide movement across this entire façade in the form of geodesic shapes inspired by shapes found in nature. One of these natural phenomena is the Giant’s Causeway located in Northern Ireland, a world heritage site established by UNESCO in 1986.

The planetarium as well as the six-story bar building features panels cast using a concrete mix known in the design community as “Miami White”.

North Facade Diagram
Photo: Miami In Focus
Photo: Miami In Focus

The BAR building is comprised of 95 panels featuring 16 versions of geodesic shapes, creating a “living building” with a wide variety of angles that react with light during the day as well as during the evening when illuminated. The design team focused heavily on the forming tolerances as in many cases, light would be hitting the shapes with acute angles.  This is one of the most difficult conditions for façade materials as any imperfection is pronounced.

Museum projects have a tendency to push construction materials to new heights due to the concentration that is placed on resilience, finish and fitment. Frost Science, which was five years in design, was not an exception due to a high degree of focus placed on each of these aspects. From casting, finishing, and installation, only the highest level of performance would suffice.

The partnerships and collaborative environment created early in the life of the project resulted in a finished product that pleased the design team, owner and ultimately, the museum visitors.

 

Awards

2019

LEED Gold

 

LEED Gold Scorecard

2018

PCI Design Award

Harry H. Edwards Industry Advancement Award
and Best Government and Public Building

2015

Sidney Freedman Craftsmanship Award

Gate Precast, Kissimmee, FL, was recognized for excellence in manufacturing and craftsmanship of architectural and structural elements fabricated for Frost Science.

2014

Britweek Business Innovation Award for Innovation in Sustainability

British Consulate-General, Florida and UK Trade and Investment honored the Frost Science for sustainable design during construction.