Science Museum Plans for $275 Million Building

Zaha Hadid, the famed Iraqi-born architect and 2004 Pritzker Prize (the Pulitzer of architecture) winner, pulled up to the Miami Museum of Science in a black stretch limo Tuesday.

She was there to speak at a selection panel hearing for the museum’s planned $275 million building in Bicentennial Park (a.k.a. Museum Park). Hadid’s competition included Steven Holl Architects and Polshek Partnership, two firms with less rock star appeal, but monumental projects under their belts (e.g., Simmons Hall at MIT for Holl and the Rose Center for Earth and Space at New York’s American Museum of Natural History for Polshek).

The London-based Hadid didn’t look nervous in her electric green coat and psychedelic purple shoes.

Science museum officials have stated their intention to build a unique, interactive and environmentally-conscious structure four times the size of the current building on South Miami Avenue. The new museum, which will feature a massive aquarium, a planetarium and a rooftop zoo and garden, is slated to open in 2011 next to the new Miami Art Museum.

“It’s going to be a signature building in Miami in a signature site,” Michael Ritus of Leo Daly Architects said by way of explaining his firm’s hunger to be the project’s architect of record.

'As if to highlight the need for a new building, the hearing was held in a room accessed through an emergency escape door and featuring black linoleum, cottage cheese ceiling and mismatched chairs. A phone on a back wall inexplicably rang several times during the proceedings.

Hadid and her bespoke team of Brits seemed amused by how panel chairman Walter Revell, CEO of Revell Investments, peppered his introduction with “y’all” this and “y’all” that.

When her time came, Hadid quickly got down to business. It was a strange and oddly magical kind of business, her PowerPoint presentation full of swirls and bubbles, images of coral, schools of fish and wind-blown leaves. She talked of building something spherical, related to nature, illuminated by non-direct natural light, channeling bay breezes and harnessing the sun for energy. Her initial structural concepts, not intended to be taken as literal plans, looked more like lava lamp goo than anything made of concrete.

The panel will make final selections Thursday, May 3.--Rob Jordan

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