Salvador Dali Museum / HOK

© Moris Moreno

This week marked the grand opening for the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, . The new building‘s 68,000 sqf doubles the size of the original one storey warehouse Dali Museum built in 1982.

Utilizing free-form geodesic geometry, the triangulated glass organically flows around and attaches to the rigid unfinished concrete box, a play of hard and soft, protecting Dali’s paintings and simultaneously providing natural daylight and openness to the adjacent bay. This is the first use of this type of free-form geodesic geometry in the United States.

Mesmerizing visitors within the museum is the coiled concrete form that greets them at the reception desk. The poured in place raw concrete spiral staircase is fitted with light cable-stayed stainless steel guardrails. The material choices provide a subtle juxtaposition along with an obvious nod to Dali’s allure with the double helix and other spiral forms in nature.

If you are a frequent ArchDaily reader you may recall our updates on the Salvador Dali Museum.   Take a minute to check our previous articles with construction photographs and a video feature.

More photographs and further project description following the break.

Architects: HOK
Location: St. Petersburg, Florida,
Programming and Master Planning: HOK
HOK Design Team: Duncan Broyd, Eva Busato, David Chason, Jenny Collins Miers, Susan Dame, Carly Debacker, Gary Erickson, Ralph Evans, Miranda Hensley, Will Hollingsworth, Scott Hughes, Laura Matson, Foard Meriwether, Eddie Pabon, Van Phrasavath, Lynn Puckett, Mary Sabel, Oliver Schwarz, Tommy Sinclair, Nicole Stearley, Izzy Torres, Anna Vasquez, Yann Weymouth, Sean Williams
General Contractor: The Beck Group
Glass Structure Consultant: Novum Structures LLC
Structural Engineer: Walter P. Moore & Associates Inc.
Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing Engineer: TLC Engineering for Architecture
Program Manager: Peter Arendt
Acoustical Consultant: Siebein Associates Inc.
Civil Engineer: WilsonMiller Stantec Inc.
Landscape Architect: Phil Graham and Company
Lighting Designer: George Sexton Associates
Code Consultant: Rolf Jensen & Associates Inc.
Food Service Consultant: Schwartz Schwartz & Associates
Graphics/Signage Consultant: Dan Meeker Design
Hardware Consultant: S.B.S. Associates, Inc.
Client: Salvador Dalí Museum
Project Area: 68,000 sqf
Project Year: 2011
Photographs: Moris Moreno, Michael Rixon

© Moris Moreno

“We constantly consider the visitor experience when we design a museum. A large number of people visiting a museum will be there for the first time. The architecture must be extremely easy to understand. It can be quite adventurous and stimulating, but the circulation pathways should be clear from the moment visitors arrive at the building, “ shared Yann Wymouth design director for HOK Florida.

© Moris Moreno

HOK’s design concept is drawn directly from the building’s purpose. It is inspired both by Dalí’s surrealist art and by the practical need to shelter the collection from the hurricanes that threaten Florida’s west coast.

“Salvador Dalí was a monumental pioneer of twentieth-century art and this is perhaps the best collection of his work in the world,” said Weymouth. “Our challenge was to discover how to resolve the technical requirements of the museum and site in a way that expresses the dynamism of the great art movement that he led. It is important that the building speak to the surreal without being trite.”

© Moris Moreno

Despite the complex processes required to construct the building, which stands more than 75 feet tall and is adorned by 1,062 unique, triangular glass panels, the $29.8 million building project was completed on time and $700,000 under budget. Construction began in December 2008.

© Moris Moreno

A 58-foot-high, right-angled, Euclidean “treasure box” with thick concrete walls protects the art.

“We deliberately exposed the unfinished faces of the concrete to reduce maintenance and to allow it to be a tough, natural foil to the more refined precision of the glass Enigma,” said Weymouth. “This contrast between the rational world of the conscious and the more intuitive, surprising natural world is a constant theme in Dalí s work.”

© Moris Moreno

Dalí was a friend and admirer of Buckminster Fuller, who helped pioneer geodesic geometries and is a hero of Weymouth’s. HOK used building information modeling (BIM) to create three-dimensional models of the glazing forms before Novum Structures imported the model into its proprietary software program and then engineered, manufactured and installed the Enigma and its glass sister, the “Igloo.”

“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,” explained Weymouth. “No glass panel, structural node or strut is precisely the same. This permitted us to create a family of shapes that, while structurally robust, more closely resembles the flow of liquids in nature.”

© Michael Rixon

In the exhibition galleries on the third floor, seven unique suspended black plaster “light cannons” funnel daylight onto the largest of the Dalí masterworks. The art exhibition spaces are connected by a sculptural gallery that appears to magically land in the center of the ‘egg’ skylight, providing ample light and sweeping vistas overlooking Tampa Bay.

© Moris Moreno

The building protects this priceless art collection from hurricane-force winds and water. The fortress-like structure is designed to withstand the 165-mph wind loads of a Category 5, 200-year hurricane. The roof is 12-inch thick, solid concrete and the cast-in-place reinforced concrete walls are 18 inches thick. Located above the flood plane on the third floor, the art is protected from a 30-foot-high hurricane storm surge. Storm doors shield the vault and galleries. Specially developed for this project, the triangulated glass panels are one-and-a-half inches thick, insulated and laminated, and were tested to resist the 135 mph winds, driven rain and missile impacts of a Category 3 hurricane.

© Moris Moreno

View this project in Google Maps

* Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
Cite: "Salvador Dali Museum / HOK" 13 Jan 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 03 Jun 2015. <>
  • brianB

    This building is fantastic and suits the artist well enough. I think that it could have been a bit more edgy and abstract, less white, more color for someone with a personality like Dali, but it looks like a great place to be.

  • nimaJ

    I hardly comment negatively on a website. But it is hard to imagine a more obvious and forced marriage between surrealism and corporate architecture. The conservative use of forms and figures in Dali’s paintings and perhaps mustache combined with normative corporate architecture detailing creates an architecture essay similar to what a polished student would write on Surrealism to get his grade. Why couldn’t the client look at the body of the work of an office an guess if what they have been doing was at best finding pleasant pragmatic solutions to architecture problems, the Salvador Dali museum is a bit more challenging than that.

  • justavisual


    dali thru corporate eyes

  • andrew

    Dali was much greater than this…i don’t see this building representing his work

  • Alessandro

    Hard to tell what’s tackier – Dali’s work or this building. Certainly they were meant to be together.

  • Alex

    Alessandro obviously prefers a Thomas Kinkade collection.

    As much as I hate Ghery’s work, I think he would have designed a more appropriate, melty looking building for Dali’s work to live.

    • Alex

      Oh and why is this in Florida?

  • Victor

    I don’t quite see the relationship between the artist and this building. Its certainly not beautiful.

  • mhash

    Would have been more interesting if they had differenced the transparent solid from the opaque solid.

  • toty

    Kitch, terrible, ridiculous, this building represents the work of not there in Dali!

  • jb

    This is a really cheap looking building… but congratulations on being under budget I guess? And why is it so colorless?

  • David

    When diagrams go wrong.

  • Rembo

    For the first time, a building has made me laugh. Looks like a Sunday morning rat brain.

  • SD

    Love Dali,
    Hate the building,
    looks ridiculous.

  • part

    Starting from the name of the place (St.Petersburg in Florida?!), to the building itself – it’s all no more than a great pap.
    if it really must belong somewhere, it should be located between two casino buildings in Las Vegas, Nevada.