The new 66,000 square foot Salvador Dal museum will be on three floors, fronting a new site the downtown St. Petersburg waterfront. It will include the permanent collection, temporary exhibits, curatorial and administration offices, a grand public entrance though the museum shop, art vaults, library and back-of-the house facilities.
A particular challenge of the site is the need to protect the collection. Thus, all art exhibits, storage, archives, mechanical services will be on the upper floors, well above predicted Category 5 hurricane flood level, protected behind 18-thick exposed cast-in-place reinforced concrete walls. The only facilities that will be on grade are the public entry, service docks, carpentry shops and an auditorium. The museum is a highly functional concrete treasure box.
A specific request from the Client was that the museum be symbolic of Surrealism and Salvador Dals leadership of the avant-garde movement that it serve as iconic signal of the importance of the collection within. In response to this imperative, the skylight and bay window of the atrium spills out from its Cartesian concrete box, rupturing the cube, wrapping like a crystalline fluid to enclose caf and museum shop, giving birth to a second bubble that encloses and opens up the multipurpose community space on ground floor.
Dali grew up with Antonio Gaudis work in Barcelona, and was friend and admirer of Buckminster Fuller. The design for his own museum in Figueres, Spain, rife with Gaud references, is topped with a geodesic dome. The Glass Enigma is an organic counter-play to the strict cubic volume of the rationalist box it disrupts. Its geometry of the flowing, organic structure of aluminum struts and, insulating glass triangles is homage to both Fuller and Gaudi, although created using computer-generated geometries and intricate calculations that did not exist in their day.
The project, scheduled to open on 1/11/11, has already garnered international media attention through publications including Architecture Digest and World Architecture News and has been recognized by the American Institute of Architecture.