Could You be Integrator for New Miami Science Museum?

Published: August 28, 2012

Visual Acuity is leading the search for systems integrators to take the helm on the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, an innovative, partially open-air 250,000-plus-square-foot structure set to open in 2015 that will replace the Miami Science Museum.

Museum board members agreed with city and county officials that the small regional museum should morph into an international attraction, with the focus on local biodiversity that will help to educate students of all ages in the region, says Blair Parkin, managing director at Visual Acuity.

“You can’t design something that’s opening in 2015 with the technology of today,” Parkin says. “But it’s not just about 2015; it’s about the 10 years after that. If we get the infrastructure in by 2015, they’ll be able to add more to it later that hasn’t even been thought about yet.

“When you’re working with scientists, it certainly keeps you on your toes. It’s a very interesting project, one that’s going to be extremely diverse in a lot of ways.”

The new building, designed by Grimshaw Architects, will be home to science galleries, a learning center, a planetarium, energy playground and a ‘living core’ aquarium and wildlife center containing a microcosm of South Florida’s animal, fish and plant species.

The core design concept is the ‘building as exhibit’, and Grimshaw’s design is a ‘living building’ – one that changes physically and visibly in response to the environment, events and the mood of Miami. The 4-acre site in a waterfront park is provided by the city of Miami.

Designers are wrapping up construction documents this week, including the technology they expect will be needed to achieve their vision, Parkin says. This fall, they expect to talk to integrators about design ideas, delivery times, procurement and more, he says.

Visual Acuity has been working on the design and development of the building’s core technologies for more than a year, says Parkin, drawing up specifications for IT networks, WiFi, a distributed antenna system, ticketing, digital signage and more. Also working with Visual Acuity on the project is Oakland, California based Teecom, a consultancy that specializes in the creation of built environments that are socially and technologically compelling for the people that work in them and use them.

“We’re going to have an extremely advanced network to be able to do everything we want to do,” Parkin says. There are 11 integration packages on the table, he says, with Visual Acuity overseeing the coordination of products that will be used. The company is looking for a specialized integrator for each area, noting some companies are “experts” in multiple areas.

They haven’t defined all of the procurement requirements with the city yet, but with a project of this magnitude, companies with some sort of presence or partnership in the south Florida area could have some level of advantage.

“The number one thing is to be an expert in a particular area, being able to handle the job,” Parkin says.

One of the unique features of the project is what Parkin describes as a gulfstream tank that starts at the roof and goes to the floor. The design is similar to a martini glass with a broken stem, he says. In the virtual museum, visitors will be able to engage digitally, with people who opt in to the network able to get a customized experience.

All told, the museum will feature animals, plants and science found from the Everglades to the Gulf Stream, Parkin says, in an effort to tell the story of south Florida.

Officials are aiming for a LEED Platinum rating when the project is complete, with high-performance ventilation and air-conditioning systems and a vegetated roof. A newly constructed wetland is being developed next to the building to ensure efficient control of stormwater runoff and to enhance the biodiversity of the site.

For more information on the project and how you can get involved, email

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