The Salvador Dalí Museum

29 May 2012

Autodesk products enable dramatic glass protrusions on robust Salvador Dalí­ Museum

We have spoken to HOK in the past regarding the practice’s use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Autodesk products, such as Revit, that have helped to push the firm's design and constructional ambitions. The use of Revit and BIM in this case study has enabled the team at HOK's Tampa office to design intricate and structurally challenging elements in the Salvador Dalí Museum, efficiently and most importantly, successfully.

The Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, was completed in January 2011 and pays homage to Dalí’s surrealist style, a style that is difficult to translate into an architectural language. As well as the aesthetic approach to the building, it also needed to double as a protective shelter for the invaluable artwork that is housed inside, as the West coast of Florida is susceptible to extreme weather conditions. The challenges presented in designing a building that met these two very important criteria were made possible through HOK’s utilisation of BIM and Autodesk’s Revit.

The complex geometries in the building, such as the glass structure that interrupts the concrete volume (known as the ‘Enigma’) or the impressive helical staircase that dominates the atrium, were designed through multiple programmes. However its exportation into Revit and the use of Navisworks allowed HOK to use BIM and turn these concepts into realisable and buildable entities. Not only was HOK able to turn these difficult and organic forms in to a buildable reality through Revit, the use of BIM also allowed them to design these forms and meet the protective standards required to shelter the artwork.

The Enigma made extensive use of the BIM and MEP (Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing) tools that Revit offers. The fluid glass form was designed in various programmes; in Revit these forms were then turned into a technical model with framing members and glass panels. Each connection node and triangular glass panel is unique however this was easily achieved from BIM modelling and allowed each component to be designed, modelled and then translated into the manufacturers programmes that fabricated the pieces overseas, which could then be coded and constructed on site.

Yann Weymouth, AIA, LEED AP, director of design for HOK's Florida practice explains: "The flowing, free-form use of geodesic triangulation is a recent innovation enabled by modern computer analysis and digitally controlled fabrication that allows each component to be unique,"

The helical stair drew its influence from Dalí’s fascination with ‘spiral forms in nature and the double helix of DNA’ and is a piece of structural ingenuity. Through extensive testing and modelling, BIM and MEP systems were used to determine the structural behaviour of the stairs and aided the decisions for the steel reinforcing systems that allow the stairs to work. The balustrade system and the risers were quickly and efficiently designed using the BIM systems in Revit, and allowed easy fabrication with manufacturers that also used the BIM models for fully integrated computer aided manufacture.

Revit and the BIM systems weren’t only used in the process of designing these complex and challenging elements of the building. What HOK were able to do is create these complex geometries with 3D models that could be shown on 2D platforms, helping them to communicate the design concepts at an early stage, with reasonable resolution. Later on BIM allowed them to easily integrate the complex MEP systems required for a museum, saving time and costs.

Through the use of Revit and BIM as key tools in the design and construction process, HOK were able to complete this highly complex building on time and under budget, and produce a stunning piece of architecture.

Matthew Goodwill

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