Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Fla., designed by HOK

Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Fla., designed by HOK
Feb 17, 2011 The new Dali Museum, designed by HOK, in St. Petersburg, Fla., houses more of Salvador Dalí's masterworks than any other world collection

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Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Fla., designed by HOK_01 According to Yann Weymouth, AIA, LEED AP, director of design and senior vice president of HOK, Dalí himself courageously balanced on the line between vulgar and tasteful. It was this careful stability that the designers yearned to artfully master, while designing a means to protect the collection from Florida’s sometimes destructive weather and give the space an iconic presence.
Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Fla., designed by HOK_02 “I think our toughest challenge throughout the project was to steer a line between incorporating Dalí’s definitive style while avoiding the trite, kitsch, and obvious cliché,” says Weymouth, whose uncle fortunately was a photographer and friend of Dalí’s in the 1940s and ’50s. Additionally, to gain further insight into background on the artist, Weymouth traveled with the Dalí Museum director to visit Dalí’s hometown in Figureres, Spain, where Weymouth relays how he spent time with a man who had known Dalí in his childhood.


Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Fla., designed by HOK_03 The result of Weymouth’s historical investigation ultimately paid off in the abstract museum, whose exterior seems to “melt” into a massed enigma of contrasting concrete and glass. The building itself is a “Treasure Fortress,” defined as a 58-ft.-high, right-angled box. The walls are formed from 18-ft.-thick, reinforced concrete and engineered to withstand the 165-mph winds of a Category 5, 200-year hurricane.
Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Fla., designed by HOK_04 The facility’s otherwise plain structure drastically gives way to bursts of triangulated glass panels connected by steel joints, dubbed the Igloo and Enigma. Both boast a transparent, organic form, inspired by the work of Buckminster Fuller, a friend of Dalí’s who created a geodesic dome for the artist’s museum in Figueres. Most prominent of the two glass extrusions is the Enigma, which encompasses a 75-ft.-high, interior atrium and aligns inside with a spiraling, concrete staircase that mimics the shape of a double helix.
Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Fla., designed by HOK_05 Thanks to these glass features, sufficient natural light enters the building to work with the artificial light and highlight the museum’s details architecture and art, as the museum’s temporary and permanent galleries rest on the third floor. “We elected, with the permission of the museum, to use natural light on seven of the large paintings, because we feel that oil paintings come to life when shown in the same natural light in which they were created,” says Weymouth. HOK created “light cannons” that focus light from the ceiling down into a “chapel,” giving a soft, ethereal glow, he says. “I am pleased that the paintings now have a wonderful vitality that was absent in the old museum, where only artificial lighting was employed.”
Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Fla., designed by HOK_06 Other features of the museum include a 5,000-sq.-ft. museum store, 90-seat auditiorium, 120-seat multipurpose room, private plaza, and café on the first floor, as well as administrative offices, board room, research library, and exterior balcony on the second floor.

Inside, all materials also center around the use of concrete, glass, tile flooring in various finishes, selected for their intrinsic functionality and durability to withstand constant use. All colorways blend seamlessly in a naturally muted palette, boasting dark grey, Italian tile; warm, grey carpeting; wood panel veneers, concrete, and white-hued, acoustic plaster on the walls and ceilings.

Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Fla., designed by HOK_07 “I have always been and will always be a modernist, looking for ways to do things better, leaner, greener, abstract and avoiding architecture that is referential, while caring about scale, climate, and context,” Weymouth says. “But I love so much of the great architecture created by generations before us. Among my heroes are Brunelleschi, Balthasar von Neumann, and Buckminster Fuller. I would like to think each of them would understand what we were trying to accomplish here.”