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Fentress and Arquitectonica worked closely with the fabricator to guarantee the undulating facade they had designed would be constructable. (Fentress Architects)

The Miami Beach Convention Center is getting redesigned into a new 1.4-million-square-foot complex that will include an exhibition hall, four new ballrooms, and a range of meeting spaces when complete. Fentress Architects collaborated with Arquitectonica on an undulating exterior envelope inspired by the curves of waves, manta rays, and coral reefs.

Each fin is braced back structure-side (Fentress Architects)

The facade consists of more than 500 angled “fins” constructed out of aluminum plates. Each fin is braced back structure-side and stainless steel struts tie them together to combat lateral loads from hurricanes as well as to account for acoustical vibrations. Behind the rolling facade, the building is clad in a high performance unitized curtain wall with a .23 solar heat gain coefficient. A structural steel backup with an aluminum enclosure supports the cantilevered fins every 15 feet along the curtain wall.

Fentress and Arquitectonica worked closely with the fabricator to guarantee the undulating facade they had designed would be constructible. Using a combination of spline-based modeling, BIM, and careful construction drawings, the team made the fabrication and installation process seamless, architect to manufacturer.

The fins act as a brise soleil and shade the glazing and interior spaces behind them at both the east and west entryways. At one particular moment on the east facade, they cantilever out an impressive 38 feet to create an exterior cover at the entry. The underside of each gap between the fins is glazed with a five-foot by ten-foot sheet of glass that slopes back towards a gutter for drainage. Each piece of glass was cold bent into place on site due to the double-curved surface it needed to achieve.

Stainless steel struts tie the fins together to combat lateral loads from hurricanes and acoustical vibrations. (Fentress Architects)

While the project team embraced the shade that the fins provide as an added benefit, they did not design the facade for energy efficiency. After the team ran models to analyze the building’s performance, it became clear that the design was conceived more intuitively rather than for the sake of optimization. This allowed the decisions on fin spacing and geometry to be primarily aesthetics-driven while still providing natural shading.