This article was originally published in October of 2011.
Earlier this year we reported on the opening of the stunning Salvador Dalí Museum located in St. Petersburg, Florida. The museum is home to the world’s largest collection of Dalí works, and since its debut this past April, the dazzling venue has already welcomed over 300,000 visitors. With its clean minimalist lines juxtaposed against a sparkling geodesic glass atrium, the spectacular structure designed by HOK stands as a work of art in its own right, while still paying homage to the spirit of Salvador Dalí. The building also brings more to the table than just its looks. Housing over 2,000 pieces of Dalí’s most important works, the museum is sited within a corner of the country that often finds itself battered by severe storms with catastrophic results. To prepare for the worst, HOK designed the shell of the structure to withstand a Category 5 hurricane. The design also features numerous green systems, including a solar hot water powered dehumidification system, high efficiency HVAC and ventilation systems, and strategic daylighting to illuminate the interiors. We recently sat down with principal architect and Senior Vice President of HOK Yann Weymouth who enlightened us on the intricacies of the design, and what it took to get the museum built. Jump ahead for our exclusive interview with Yann as he explains the design, and how his team of architects and engineers used Building Information Modeling to build a space that’s not only beautiful and sustainable, but disaster-proof.
INHABITAT: How did you get started with HOK?
YANN: I joined HOK ten years ago, because of the firm’s commitment to sustainable design. HOK was about to publish the first edition of the Guide to Sustainable Design, and I had a bootleg copy. Since my days as a student, and reading and meeting Buckminster Fuller, I had been convinced this was a crucial aspect of making buildings. HOK was helping break new ground, and I wanted to be part of that effort.
INHABITAT: How did your/HOK’s involvement in the Salvador Dali Museum come about?
YANN: We were invited to submit a concept design in a competition. The museum’s brief called for an addition to the existing building. We won because we broke the brief with a design for an entirely new structure. Our research showed convincingly that it would be as expensive to add to the original old and frail structure as it would be to create an entirely new one, with a far better results.
INHABITAT: The museum houses the world’s largest collection of works by Dali, how did this influence your design of the building?
YANN: Dali is the best known of the surrealist artists, and as an explorer of the subconscious, but he was also fascinated by the forms and the mathematics of nature. His art plays consistently with the difference between Euclidean reality and surprising organic forms. We wanted to avoid the kitsch of melting clocks and “themed” surrealism, but sought, in a frank and abstract way, to make a reference to that contrast between Cartesian geometry and organic shape. Dali and Buckminster Fuller were longtime friends, both fascinated by the intrinsic geometries of nature; it seemed natural to make a strong contrast between the stark raw concrete box that protects and shelters the collection and the almost liquid, transparent and facetted form of the glass “enigma”.