Perot Museum of Nature and Science

During the schematic design of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, the design team from Morphosis, led by Thom Mayne, challenged Gate Precast to think outside the box and explore innovative and unconventional methods of prefabricating precast concrete. In order to bring familiarity of precast concrete to Morphosis, who had not worked with architectural precast concrete in the past, a range of samples with different patterns and shapes were created to demonstrate the inherent plasticity of concrete. During this process, the concept that exists today was developed.

Gate Precast was brought on board as a design-assist partner and the sketches for the first mockup came in as the design team learned more about our product. Initially, Gate’s Hillsboro, TX, team produced the first mock-up with more traditional means and methods.  Once the conceptual mock-up was met with approvals from the design team, the need to develop a production methodology that would allow the façade to hit budgetary goals was required.

“The design team knew exactly what they wanted in terms of the wave/projections in the precast exterior. Gate Precast was willing to step outside of the box and try something new to take this project from conception to reality.”

— Todd Petty
Gate Precast

The concept of the exterior was built around the idea of a sedimentary geological formation.  These ideas of movement on the exterior are tied to the Texas landscape. The plinth, cube and atrium were to be shaped in a fashion that would eventually place the focus of color and texture below form.  This was a disruption in the normal processes developed over the nearly 50-year fabrication history that preceded this project.

The concentration on shape pushed the Hillsboro team to develop a new system of modules paired with the traditional master mold process.  For the cube, this system minimizes the disruption of a daily pouring schedule, by providing interchangeable components maximizing variability within a highly systematic process.  However, for the plinth and atrium, very few forms that were built were used more than four times and many were used only once.

Once the processes were developed that eventually allowed ideas to become reality, a large scale mock-up was provided to give the architect, contractor and owner an understanding of what had been achieved.

“. . . They (the owner) definitely wanted to see something tangible that they could look at and say, ‘this is it.’   . . . This is absolutely amazing.”

— Arne Emerson
Morphosis

Once the manufacturing ideology was developed, the focus turned to documentation.  At the time, BIM was still relatively new to construction and manufacturing but was essential to the success of the design.

“Morphosis conceived and drew up what they wanted and how the flow of each panel was to be constructed.  They were extremely creative in their design about where the outer and inner profiles would start and stop, how deep they would be, how tall the profile would be and the distance the profile would cover as it ran horizontally.  BIM was most helpful in locating the panels on the structure, essentially determining where that structure needed to be for the panels to connect to it.  Without BIM, this would have been an arduous task.”

— Todd Petty, Gate Precast

The project was divided into three BIM models to aid in expediting tickets for manufacturing.  These models were distinct areas of the design, the cube, atrium and plinth.

The cube provided the bulk of the square footage for the project and provided maximum casting efficiency, largely due to the ground-breaking module process.  The atrium and plinth areas were more complex from a BIM and fabrication standpoint, largely due to the inconsistent angles and multiple radius points for individual pieces.  Within the atrium, there are 100 complex 10’  by 10’ panels where 90% had a radius and many had multiple points.

“There is a transitional panel at Level 3 that provided the largest challenge geometrically with the top half goes off in the opposite direction of the bottom half. This resulted in what looks like a twisted panel; however, the top and bottom hold horizontal to the world.”

— Tony DiBella
Gate Precast

Due to the horizontal nature and free-flowing aspects of the design, a new approach to connections for the panels to structure was required in all areas.  The floors had as much as a 35’ distance separating the levels increasing the need for a solution.

“The challenge was to find a column layout that would efficiently support a grid of precast panels with the consideration of atypical window sizes, window locations and the panels ability to perform under wind loads.  The result was a basically a choice of two HSS columns per an arrangement of vertical panels that could loosely be referred to as a bay.” 

— Russ Vines, Gate Precast

In the end, the Perot Museum turned out to be one of the precast industry’s most pivotal projects. It is one of the first official design assist projects of 2008 that ultimately led to the development of a module system for use in forming for the production of precast concrete.

Museum architecture creates structures uniquely designed to house our country’s history which is of scientific and artistic importance. The design challenge is twofold: first, to ensure the collections are preserved, and secondly, to create an inspiring, educational and safe environment for the public.

Gate Precast Company is honored to have been a part of the collaborative environment for the exterior façade design for iconic museums such as Dallas’ Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Glenstone, The Pavilions, Potomac, MD; The Frost Museum in Miami, FL; and the World War II Museum Campus in New Orleans, LA. Each structure’s unique and timeless façade design utilizes architectural precast concrete and makes a permanent mark on the landscape with its 100-plus year service life.

Why Museums Are Special to Gate Precast

Awards

2012

PCI Design Award

Best Government and Public Building

The Museum was selected as the Best Government and Public Buildings in the 2012 PCI Design Awards competition, which recognizes architects, engineers and precasters for design excellence and construction quality using precast concrete.

2012

2012 Sidney Freedman Craftsmanship Award

2012

ENR Best Project

2013

CRSI Award Winner

2014

AIA Technology in Architectural Practice (TAP) Award and a citation for Stellar Architecture Using BIM Delivery Process Innovation and also received recognition for Jury’s Choice.

2016

Institute Honor Awards for Architecture