HOK embraced prominent features of the Surrealist art movement with its design for the Salvador Dalí Museum on Florida’s Gulf coast in St. Petersburg, which opened in January 2011. Home to the world’s largest collection of the artist’s work outside his native Spain, the museum incorporates unusual juxtapositions, translating the early 20th century painting style into three dimensions.
In response to inadequate protection and a lack of space at the old site, the new museum replaces its predecessor just eight blocks north of the former location, offering twice the square footage and the ability to withstand up to a Category 5 hurricane. The 68,000-square-foot volume comprises a three-story concrete box cleaved by an amorphous geodesic atrium made of 1,062 unique triangular glass panels.
"The concrete box is very tough, raw, geometric, and rational, and [the atrium] is more naturalistic, an almost irrational form of glass," says Yann Weymouth, AIA, design director for HOK in Tampa, Florida. "We called [the large glass form] the ‘enigma’ because it bursts out of the box, giving views to the natural world." The tessellated "enigma," its smaller glass sidekick "igloo," and seven plaster "light cannons" funnel Florida daylight to nearly 90 percent of the functional interior space.
Deliberately hulking, the cube, aptly nicknamed the "treasure chest," satisfies an important key objective. Tucked behind solid 18-inch thick walls and a 12-inch thick roof lay the exhibition spaces, the world-class 2,000-plus piece collection is safeguarded against surges and winds from potentially damaging storms.
Another architectural feat for the design team was the grand staircase inside the museum’s lobby. The sculptural steps form a single-helix rising 60-feet high, and embody an artistic expression inspired by Dalí’s fascination with spiral patterns found in nature.
Sustainability measures were utilized during design and construction, including the use of building information modeling (BIM) to achieve structural integrity for the atrium’s distinguished geometry. Ficus trees salvaged from previous hurricanes were incorporated into the landscape alongside reused limestone boulders retained from the original site. The design also features a reflective white roof, as well as concrete and other neutral-colored materials, which aid in heat reduction. Low-VOC paints, adhesives, and sealants were used throughout the interior. Weymouth furnished the space with low-flow plumbing fixtures along with a condensation collection system, saving 30 percent in water usage and 750,000 gallons each year.
"After we won the [design] competition with our concept, we were given a directive to do four things," explains Weymouth. "First, protect the collection from potential danger. Second, be wise in how we allocate space and solve pragmatic issues. Third, manage the budget carefully. And fourth, make it spectacular, world-class, and iconic." Despite complex construction processes, the $36 million project was completed on time, coming in $700,000 under budget.