Meet the Museum’s New Construction Management Firm

Posted on May 19th, 2014

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By: MiaSci

The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science announced on Friday, May 16, 2014 that Skanska USA has come on board as the new museum’s construction management firm.

Skanska has significant experience building museums and public institutions around the world, including the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Liberty Science Center in New Jersey, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum in New York City, and the Patricia Louise Frost Music Studios at University of Miami. “We are honored to work with the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science and Miami-Dade County to help bring this world-class cultural institution to reality in downtown Miami. Skanska is proud to be part of the team that will deliver this unique and innovative science museum to the community.” said  Skanska Executive Vice President Fred Hames.

The Venus Orbit “All About Venus” Event

Posted on May 6th, 2014

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By: MiaSci

Trish Bell, Julia Rea Bianchi and Swanee DiMare

On Wednesday, April 23, over 100 guests gathered at the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science for “All About Venus,” a celebration in honor of the museum’s Venus Orbit women’s initiative, hosted by Venus Orbit Chair and Trustee Julia Rea Bianchi.

Attendees enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, including the “Orbit-tini,” the signature purple libation of the night, before making their way into the planetarium for the main program. Julia then awarded Crystal Stars to the Venus Orbit galactic team captains who had fulfilled their “Orbit” by making a minimum donation of $1,000 and recruiting nine additional members to join the Venus Orbit initiative. Crystal Star recipients included museum board Co-chair Trish Bell, board member Taffy Gould, Maria Schwedel, Julee Akselrad, Barbara Goldin and Liz Hogan.

Julia Rea Bianchi, Taffy Gould, Julee Akselrad, Maria Schwedel, Trish Bell and Gillian Thomas

A special honor was bestowed upon Julia for her creation of, and dedication to, Venus Orbit. Julia received a personalized construction hat in purple, the Venus Orbit signature color, to be worn when she is at the construction site of the new Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science.

Julia Rea Bianchi

Following the ceremony, the group was treated to an engaging demonstration by a member of the planetarium team, Claudia Hernandez, who showed the audience how to find Venus in the Miami sky before taking them on a virtual voyage to Venus utilizing the planetarium’s technology. Afterward, Caroline Simpson, Ph.D., associate professor at Florida International University, shared a presentation about historical women in astronomy, including an anecdote about the beauty of Venus in the night sky being her personal inspiration for becoming an astronomer.

Additional notable attendees included Honorary Chair and Trustee Swanee DiMare and Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science President & CEO Gillian Thomas.

Gillian Thomas and Swanee DiMare

Venus Orbit is an initiative to bring together 1,000 “out-of-this-world” women to donate $1,000 each in support of the construction of the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science’s new state of the art planetarium, currently under construction in downtown Miami at Museum Park. The group will collectively raise $1 million dollars to be matched by a Knight Foundation 1:2 Challenge Grant, for a total of $1.5 million dollars.

For more information on Venus Orbit and to learn more about joining, please visit the Venus Orbit website or call Edson Pires at 305.646.4224.

Elena Luca, Gloria Danovitz, Pam Garrison, Trish Bell and Barbara Resse

Maria Schwedel and Julee Akselrad

Marta Hutson and Dr. Eldredge Bermingham

For more photos from the “All About Venus” event, click here.

Our Story in Concrete

Posted on April 23rd, 2014

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By: MiaSci

Concrete. The word itself may not initially excite much inspiration – unless you’re one of those who knows something about it. Then the word transforms into a series of interrelated things – Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (“STEAM” in museum-speak). For the construction of the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, the precise science, engineering, and art of concrete becomes even more critical, and more interesting, due to the sheer complexity of the building itself. Baker Concrete Construction is responsible for making it all happen, and Ken Hover, an independent concrete consultant and Professor of Engineering at Cornell University now also assigned to the project, sat down with us to tell us all about it. Dr. Hover began his career as a military engineer, repairing deteriorating structures, but soon was more interested to know just what had caused the deterioration in the first place. This motivation led to a long career working on a multitude of construction projects, ensuring that structures are built to the highest standards. In regards to the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science project, he started the conversation with two statements that were amazing and inspiring in and of themselves.

The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science is not just your everyday concrete building - it is destined for the covers of science and design publications.

The only commodity in the world used in greater capacity than concrete is water.


The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science from the live feed camera, April 2014

What makes the structure of the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science so special? Many building are made up of a series of rectangles, each story the same as the one below it. The Museum on the other hand, is made up of four separate buildings – each one is a different shape, each level is a different size, shape, height, or configuration from the one below it, and many parts of the structure are visible from every angle. From a concrete construction perspective, all of that means there is no repetition. Each story, column, beam, and floor needs to be individually considered in terms of engineering and aesthetics (remember, concrete is all about “STEAM”).


The uniquely shaped molds that will become the concrete columns supporting the Museum’s Gulf Stream tank

A central feature of the Museum will be the 500,000 gallon Gulf Stream aquarium tank, which will be supported by six unique concrete columns. What goes into making a single concrete column? First, you make the concrete itself, mixing cement powder, water, sand, and stone. (This recipe has not changed since Julius Caesar’s chief architect wrote it down over 2,000 years ago, but for this project, there are lots of additional additives to this concrete which make our mix special.) Then you test the consistency by pouring some out onto a flat board. As the concrete spreads, you check that it spreads evenly, and swirl it around to make sure that there isn’t any excess water. You create a mold for the column using wooden forms and steel beams, and then, you do not pour the concrete in to the top of the form mold. Instead, you pump it in from the bottom of the form, letting the concrete push itself up as it fills (this method minimizes air bubbles). After curing and another round of quality control for structure and aesthetics, the column is ready to serve its purpose.


Pouring a small amount of concrete to test consistency and quality


The arm of the concrete truck, pumping concrete into the column form


The concrete being pumped into the bottom of the form (by the white arm on the right, which connects the concrete truck and the column)

It takes a mindboggling amount of concrete to construct any building, and there is a “carbon footprint” associated with making cement powder. But the Museum is taking every possible measure to be “green,” even in the construction process. We are using a material called “blast furnace slag” to minimize the amount of cement needed for the structure. This byproduct in the production of iron and steel had historically been discarded as waste, but when it was found to be chemically similar to cement and just as strong, it began to be used in the construction of environmentally friendly building projects, like the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science. This concrete technology is just one of the many reasons why the Museum is earning a Gold-Level LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.


Dr. Hover (left) with Ezra Garcia (Project Manager, of Hill International)

At the end of the conversation, Dr. Hover summed up the job of a concrete consultant and construction firm like this:

Our job is to bridge the initial dream, the architectural drawings, and the reality of a building for everyone to enjoy.

From the beautiful rendering of the finished Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science below, that seems like a big job.

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The initial dream and end state of the new Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, bridged by concrete construction

Galaxy Gala and Big Bang 2014

Posted on April 1st, 2014

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By: MiaSci

Building a new museum facility that will become a cultural icon of a vibrant city is by nature a team effort of Museum staff and community support. The Museum’s annual Galaxy Gala and Big Bang event is the showpiece of this team effort, as proceeds from the event support the Museum’s new state-of-the-art facility currently under construction in downtown Miami’s Museum Park.

Over 700 of Miami’s business, civic, philanthropic, and young professional leaders recently gathered at the 2014 Galaxy Gala and Big Bang event. Founded by Museum Board of Trustees Co-Chairs Trish and Dan Bell, this 12th annual Galaxy Gala was the most out-of-this-world experience yet. The Bells were joined by Museum naming donors Patricia and Phillip Frost, Museum President & CEO Gillian Thomas, and other Museum Board of Trustee members, in a spectacular winter wonderland designed by WowFactor. Hosted by WPLG Channel 10′s Laurie Jennings, the Gala festivities were led by Co-Chairs Nancy Batchelor and Nicole Lozano, Philantropic Chairs Trish and Dan Bell, and Host Chairs Alicia Cervera Lamadrid and Alberto Lamadrid. “With our new home in Museum Park now going vertical, this year’s Galaxy Gala was an opportunity for individual and corporate supporters to come together for a spectacular evening of entertainment, fine dining and dancing – all in support of what will be among the world’s most innovative and educational museums,” said Nancy Batchelor.

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The 2014 Galaxy Gala winter wonderland (photo credit: Concord Advisory Group)


Museum Board of Trustees Co-Chairs, and Galaxy Gala Founders, Trish and Dan Bell (photo credit: Concord Advisory Group)

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Museum naming donors Patricia and Phillip Frost with Museum President & CEO Gillian Thomas (right), (photo credit: Concord Advisory Group)

Gala attendees were treated to an evening of fine dining and dancing, as well as amazing media pieces showcasing the new Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science facility, and some of the technologies that will be highlighted within. By the end of the evening, we raised more than at any previous Gala. Here are some of the many spectacular highlights!

Joseph Falk, Vice-Chair of the Museum’s Board of Trustees, with help from an alien avatar who greeted attendees via augmented reality, talked about the importance of donating as a way to collectively build the best Museum and the best community possible. Using MobileCause, attendees were able to donate by text, and with each donation, the temperature on a virtual thermometer rose and rose, culminating in a stellar gift of $100,000 from Museum Board members Swanee and Paul DiMare. In a few short minutes, this spontaneous giving spree surpassed $175,000 in all. Larry Pimentel, Museum Board of Trustees member and President of Azamara Club Cruises, also generously auctioned two cruises earlier in the evening, contributing an additional  $50,000.


Museum Board of Trustees members Paul and Swanee DiMare (photo credit: Concord Advisory Group)

During the Gala, attendees didn’t just mingle with the elite of the Miami community. In addition to the alien avatar, there were whales, penguins, and polar bears that joined in the fun via a spectacular augmented reality display from AR Video Technologies, developed by Hungarian software development company Appshaker. This brought the Gala’s winter wonderland theme to stunning 3-dimensional life on a massive 19feet by 9feet LED display screen provided by Cin City Studios. Words and images can’t quite do this justice, so if you weren’t at the Gala, and would like a preview of some of the amazing technology that you’ll see in the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, check out this link to see what the augmented reality experience at the Gala was really like.

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The augmented reality experience allowed these guests to meet this polar bear (photo credit: Concord Advisory Group)

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Guests having fun reaching out to the polar bear in the room (photo credit: Concord Advisory Group)

Awards were given during the Gala by the Museum, presented by Museum Board of Trustee Co-Chairs Trish and Dan Bell, to acknowledge those who have exhibited exceptional leadership and commitment to the development and building of our new Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science. The Vanguard Award was presented to Paula and Robert Brockway of Mercedes-Benz of Coral Gables and Mercedes-Benz of Cutler Bay, for their substantial contribution to empowering and educating the larger community by initiating change, transformation, and innovation. The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science award was given to Museum Board of Trustee member Mitchell Less to honor his outstanding dedication and support of the Museum, and the Visionary Award went to Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez, for providing leadership, initiative, and inspiration in originating and advancing the Museum’s mission and vision.

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From left to right: Dan and Trish Bell, Paula and Robert Brockway, Mitchell and Emily Less, Lourdes and Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez (photo credit: Concord Advisory Group)

Purple was a dominant color for the ambiance as well as many of the beautiful ensembles at the Gala, which was to honor the Venus Orbit project. Led by Museum Board member Julia Rea Bianchi, Venus Orbit was established as an opportunity for 1,000 dynamic women to join forces and donate $1,000 each, $1,000,000 in total, to support the construction of the new Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science facility. When the goal is reached, the Knight Foundation will donate a 50% match, making the grand total a stunning $1,500,000. Over 40 Venus Orbit members attended the Gala (representing 10% of all women in attendance), and even more fabulous women joined during the Gala.


Venus Orbit women (left to right): Bunny Bastian (Venus Orbit Supernova level), Swanee DiMare (Venus Orbit Honorary Chair and Museum Board member), Paula Brockway (Mercedes-Benz of Coral Gables, Mercedes-Benz of Cutler Bay (Venus Orbit Corporate Sponsor)), Julia Rea Bianchi (Venus Orbit Chair), Trish Bell (Museum Board Co-Chair, Venus orbit member), (photo credit: Concord Advisory Group)

Even though the Gala took place at the JW Marriott Marquis, guests were still able to visit our yet-to-be-completed facility, thanks to an updated animated fly-through media piece from 3D2. Even if you have flown through this video before, take another flight, and look out for brand new updates, including a visualization of the River of Grass exhibit, marine animals swimming through the Gulf Stream tank, a sneak peek of an immersive media wall experience (look for the whale swimming by), and spectacular views of Museum Park.

The new Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science facility will not only be a place to visit and learn, it will be a place to inspire the next generation. Robert Berkowitz, Museum Board of Trustee member and owner of Multivision Video & Film, generously produced a film that highlights people from around Miami who are leading their respective fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, medicine, and education, as well as young people who may fill those roles in the future. Each were asked about their inspirations and what the Museum represents to them, and the resulting video, shown at the Gala, is inspiring in and of itself.

Exceptional high school students from the Museum’s Upward Bound Math & Science program were also honored at the Gala. This program, funded by the US Department of Education, prepares high school students from underrepresented backgrounds, and who represent the first generation in their families to attend college, for postsecondary study and careers in science and technology. Miami-Dade Superintendent of Schools Alberto Carvalho met with the six Upward Bound students in attendance at the Gala, who had been chosen as finalists for a scholarship from JP Morgan Chase. Based on academic achievement, participation in the program, and a final essay, Alexander King was honored with the award, presented by JP Morgan Chase Managing Director Tony Baumer.

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From left to right: Tony Baumer (JP Morgan Chase), Alexander King (Upward Bound student and scholarship winner), and Museum President & CEO Gillian Thomas (photo credit: Concord Advisory Group)


Upward Bound students and JP Morgan Chase award finalists: Leandra Gonzalez, Aminah Angrand, Claudia Gourdet, Miami-Dade Superintendent of Schools Alberto Carvalho, Mystic Gibson, Elizabeth Dossous (photo credit: Sonia Nunez)

Following the Gala was the Big Bang, hosted by the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science’s Young Patrons under the leadership of Museum’s Thamiah Tutt. This was a chance to continue the party and dance the night away, as the winter wonderland transformed, thanks to support from Hubble Sponsor Perry Ellis and Cocktail Sponsor Bacardi, into an upscale nightclub, complete with a DJ, hors d’oeuvres, and an open cocktail bar.


At the Big Bang, from left to right: Marissa Leichter, Tori Anderson, Caressa Lanier, Estrellita Sibila, Thamiah Tutt (photo credit: Concord Advisory Group)


Partying at the Big Bang (photo credit: Concord Advisory Group)



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Thanks to our exceptional Board of Trustees!
Board members present at the Gala: Trish Bell, Dan Bell, Joseph Falk, Mitchell Less, Alexander P. Adams, Bruce Bennett, Ted Caplow, Stephen Monroe, Sergio Akselrad, Robert S. Berkowitz, Julia Rea Bianchi, Aldo C. Busot, Luis Diaz, Paul DiMare, Swanee DiMare, George Foyo, Michael L. Gerrard, Jane Gilbert, Vanessa Grout, Boris Hirmas, Angelika Hunnefeld, Alicia Cervera Lamadrid, Joseph P. Mello, Gabriel Montoya, Larry Pimentel, David A. Schwedel, Gordon Silver, Walid G. Wahab
Board members not able to be present at the Gala: Victor M. Alvarez, Greg W. Barnes, Marko Dimitrijevic, Taffy Gould, Walter L. Revell, Anne O. “Sandy” Batchelor, Isadore Hecht Havenick, Henry J. Pfleger, Jr., Michael Spring, Paul D. Weiss, and Guillermo “Willy” Gomez (Honorary Board Member)

Thanks to all of our Gold sponsors of the Gala: The Astor Companies, The Claudia and Steven Perles Family Foundation, and  The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Major Event Underwriters included Bacardi, Neiman Marcus, JW Marriott Marquis,  and Southern Wine & Spirits. Official Media sponsors of the Galaxy Gala and Big Bang were Miami Magazine, Selecta, and WPBT2.


It’s coming soon! This architectural model was created by Grimshaw Architects (some of the pieces were printed by a 3D printer), and presented at the Gala (photo credit: Alexandra Kuechenberg)

Boulders of Coral – 60 Tons!

Posted on March 14th, 2014

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By: MiaSci


The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science recently received a donation fo quarried coral rock to be used in the new Museum’s live coral exhibit.  The large boulders weighing anywhere from 1-3 tons each will be stacked to create a natural coral rock base to which the live coral colonies that we are currently growing will be attached.  The benefits of using coral rock is that the geological composition of the rock is the same as a real coral reef.  Much of the rock contains fossilized coral and sea shells. We will begin constructing the base formation at the current Museum and utilize a stone mason to sculpt the rock face to create niches and holes for the fish and other animals which will inhabit the live coral exhibit.  The base formation will be disassembled and transported to the new Museum exhibit when the construction is complete.

The rock was donated by Tetra Tech, a company that is providing environmental engineering and consulting services for the Port of Miami Project.   They are working on creating the artificial reef that is part of the project.  Craig Kruempel, Senior Scientist/Project Manager and Jesse Davis, Coastal Engineer, of Tetra Tech worked with the Museum’s Senior Curator of Living Collections Skip Uricchio to determine the correct composition of the rock and the total amount needed to construct the exhibit base.  The total amount of rock donated was approximately 60 tons!  The Museum is very grateful to Tetra Tech and Craig and Jesse for their expertise  and assistance with this unique phase of the exhibit construction as well as the generous donation of the rock to make our Museum reef come alive.




The Museum Wins Innovation in Sustainability Award – Even Before Opening Day

Posted on March 12th, 2014

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By: MiaSci

The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science is not simply a museum, and it’s not simply a building. It is a shining example of how innovation and sustainable methods, materials, and approaches can be an integrated into all aspects of grand new project. From the development of the exhibits and programs to the smart and green functionality of the building itself, the Museum will highlight south Florida environments in indoor and outdoor exhibits such as a 600,000 gallon Gulfstream aquarium – all within a facility designed to set the standard of environmental stewardship in energy efficiency, water conservation, sustainable materials, and more.

The Museum is already being recognized for these efforts, even before the official opening day. The British Consulate-General, Florida and UK Trade and Investment has honored the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science with a Britweek Business Innovation Award for Innovation in Sustainability.

Kevin McGurgan, HM Consul-General, Florida invited Museum President & CEO Gillian Thomas to accept the award at the GREAT Business Innovation Awards Gala dinner last week. The Gala also served as the launch for the 2nd annual BritWeek Miami, a weeklong event celebrating the economic and cultural relationship between Florida and the United Kingdom. Ms. Thomas joined Taima Jones, one of the organizers of BritWeek Miami, more than 150 other business, political, and civic leaders from across Florida, as well as British musicians and celebrity hosts, at this event which honors those individuals and organizations that have contributed to the $2.6 billion trading relationship between Florida and the UK.

The Patricia and Phillip Frost is honored to have received this Innovation in Sustainability Award, and will work to maintain these efforts through the completion of the building construction phase, making every aspect of our building a giant exhibit to enjoy when we open our doors!


Museum President & CEO Gillian Thomas (in red shirt) and BritWeek organizers, on a tour of the Museum’s construction site


Ms. Thomas (at right) with Taima Jones, co-organizer of BritWeek Miami


Ms. Thomas (in red) accepting the Innovation Award for Sustainability on behalf of the Museum, along with the night’s other awardees