Aquarium Building: Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science

12/12/2017, by ETG, in Radius Track | Video, 0 comments

Paul Wolmarans: I think the fact that this is such a unique facility demanded the unique architecture as well. Demanded an architecture that has never been built before, and that is certainly what we accomplished. The Aquarium building at a level of complexity that exceeded probably anything that we had done before. Even though we had been involved with complex, curved buildings in the past, this one had a constantly changing curvature with a linear pattern superimposed on that, which makes it extremely difficult.

Christian H-G: We understood that designing the façade for the Aquarium with it’s geometry and scale is a challenge. It’s not only about a design idea, it’s always linked to, “Okay, how is this actually constructed?”

Paul Wolmarans: The exterior wall of the Aquarium is a complex, wall system consisting out of multiple layers, with a primary feature being the fact that it is a ventilated wall system. Meaning that there’s an airflow within the cavity of the wall system, and that any water that penetrates through the exterior layer also has a path to get out of the wall system.

Due to our past collaboration with Radius Track, we approached them to assist us with the design and fabrication of the metal profiles.

Chuck Mears: For this Aquarium building, their biggest concern was that the surface be made exactly and smoothly, so it looked perfect, like it came out of a mold. That was their biggest concern. When we first got involved with the Aquarium building, there was a design put forth by the engineers for a façade construction method. We looked at it a little bit differently in the effort of trying to eliminate a lot of the structural steel that was there, that was going to be very difficult to attach to, was going to be difficult to install, would have required a bit of crane time as well, quite a bit of that. And eliminated all of the steel structurally that was replaced with cold form steel frame.

Once our systems are installed, they’re much easier to attach to the building, much easier to attach all the layers to, easier to make adjustments if some are necessary, and overall, a much better package economically and cost-effectively.

Jeff Montague: We developed a process on this project where we were able to take the two dimensional details, deploy them three dimensionally, and begin to create a feedback loop where we were able to gain exposure on the project all the way around.

James Kotronis: We have borrowed tools from the Aerospace industry. Those tools allow us to, not only model the geometry, but the complex sets of relationships between building systems. How does the skin relate to the concrete? How does the pattern relate to the skin? And how do the tiles relate to that pattern?

Christian H-G: We had a limited number of sessions together where they showed, “Okay, here we learned this has build condition. We would change this changed layout slightly adjusted. Is this still as you envisaged?” And in most cases, they did a fantastic job. We could just nodded off and said, “Yeah. The design intent is still there.”

Paul Wolmarans: The ability to build the exterior wall of the Aquarium is something that we probably couldn’t have done as a company even as little as 10 years ago. The fact that we’ve got tools such as 3D modeling available to us, and the ability to translate that model practically into the field, is what makes the difference.

Trevor Powers: Well, when I first saw the design, to be honest I was a little worried, “How are they gonna build this?” But the right team came together, they got all the knowledge together, they did their shop drawings, we built the mock-ups to make sure it could be done. And then when they were out here in the field, it was quite incredible to see just how everything progressed in such a way that it just alleviated everyone’s concerns.

Andy Allen: From my observation, KENPAT working very closely with Radius Track and James Kotronis and his team, they took all those various parts and pieces, the building structure, the plaza elevations, the dorm window openings that went into it, the Aquarium’s at the top level, and integrated all those into their thinking about “How do we approach putting together a skin that will not only be watertight, absolutely watertight with all the different kinda components that come together, but also have the look and the fit and the feel that the design team asked for? And at the same time, engineer it to get the [i NOA required for the hurricane resistance.

Paul Wolmarans: Delivering a project as complicated as the Aquarium building is only possible by a collaborative effort. This team was put together because they’re the experts in their field and were focused on what needed to be done to create a project that’s the best for the owner and the building, and that is the future of architecture.