The new $305 million Frost Science Museum in Miami will open in the spring. This is despite the project being threatened with closure just last month.
Michael Spring is a senior adviser for cultural affairs to Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez. He says, “We’re going to have one of the best science and technology museums in the nation. These kinds of projects are all challenges to get done. It’s worth it when people see the result.”
After spending $165 million in county money for construction, the museum board was struggling to find the additional $80 million. Some promised private pledges hadn’t materialised. Spring says, “They told us their only alternative would be to shutter the building and close down construction. That was a fairly dramatic moment.”
Thankfully, the county found around $45 million (a hotel bed tax earmarked for tourism and cultural projects) and the museum accessed a further $25 million by tweaking construction costs.
Pharmaceutical billionaire couple Patricia and Phillip Frost, the museum’s princicpal backers, also contributed another $4 million of their own money.
“This is an important personal project for us. We are committed to ensuring the success of the museum in the hope that it will inspire generations of children and adults, ” the Frosts said.
Neighbours in Museum Park
The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science is one of the two museums in Miami’s new 20 acre Museum Park on the Biscayne Bay waterfront.
The other is the The Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), a contemporary art museum. Although originally founded in 1984, as the Center for the Fine Arts, it subsequently became the Miami Art Museum from 1996 until it was renamed in 2013 upon the move to its new building in Museum Park. The move has proved a huge success, with visitor numbers more than quadrupling.
Herzog & de Meuron’s award-winning design for PAAM’s building (below) has been critically acclaimed. The Wall Street Journal suggested that design alone could be instrumental in making the museum “a destination”.
The Frost Science Museum
The Frost Science Museum has a footprint of four acres and comprises four interconnected buildings. These will showcase a series of interactive exhibits utilising highly sustainable, technologically advanced aquaria and terraria.
On its website, the museums says, “With its real-life marvels, interactive exhibits, and exciting learning adventures in a state-of-the-art, energy-efficient building, the new Frost Science will introduce the basic concepts of science and technology. It also will be a unique educational resource for people of all ages, cultures and economic backgrounds.”
A highlight of The Frost Science Museum will be the 500, 000-gallon aquarium. This will be home to sharks, barracuda, tuna and sea turtles. Another will be the Everglades exhibit, “River of Grass”. In addition, there will be a planetarium and an exhibit on the evolution of flight, “Feathers to the Stars”. Furthermore, the site will house a variety of laboratories, conference rooms and hands-on visitor experiences.
The two main draws are expected to be the cone-shaped aquarium and state-of-the-art planetarium. The former has three levels descending from an open-air upper deck to a view from the bottom. On open-air deck visitors will see exhibits of corals, a mangrove forest and a stingray tank.
Frost Science President Frank Steslow said, “We didn’t want to be a black box that is competing with the outside air and the sun. We wanted people to experience the rain.”
At the bottom of the aquarium, visitors will view the marine life from underneath. This will be through the medium of a huge glass oculus. Built in Rome, the glass is 13 inches thick and weighs 80, 000 pounds.
A Downtown Cluster
The 250, 000-square-foot Frost Science Museum is adjacent to the Perez Art Museum Miami in Museum Park. Next to Museum Park is the American Airlines Arena, where basketball team Miami Heat play. Florida’s biggest fine arts center, the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, is just across the street. All these attractions are a short causeway drive from the famous Miami Beach.
Steslow said the Frost Science Museum brings another cultural option to the downtown cluster of attractions. He hopes they will each benefit from the proximity. “We think we’ll complement each other really well.”
The museum expects around 725, 000 visitors in its first year. They estimate that 62% will be local and 38% tourists. The figure includes 100, 000 children with school groups.
Spring said, “It’s always tough opening something brand new and making it go perfectly. But I think all of the pieces are in place to give us a shot at doing that.”