At Miami's New Science Museum, You Will Literally Be Able to Jump the Shark(s)
From high above Biscayne Boulevard, Frank Steslow peers down into what looks like the world's largest punch bowl. Grown men crawl like insects inside the massive martini-glass-shaped structure. Rebar pokes out at odd angles. Construction cranes swirl. Concrete settles into place.
Michael E. Miller A view of the science museum's central 500,000-gallon aquarium, which will be filled with sharks and (maybe) topped with a zipline. View more photos of the science museum's construction.
Steslow is showing off his baby: the brand-new, half-built Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science. As chief operating officer, Steslow knows more about this place than anyone. The punch bowl, for instance, is actually a 500,000-gallon aquarium that will be filled with sharks and other large marine animals, he explains. Naturally, the 10-year-old boy trapped inside this New Times reporter's body can't help but ask: Will visitors really be able to dangle themselves above the open shark pit?
"Gillian keeps talking about that," Steslow says with an uncomfortable smile, referring to the science museum's president, Gillian Thomas. "We are exploring whether or not there is an opportunity to have a zipline over the tank."
One thing is immediately clear here: This is not your childhood science museum.
Founded in 1950 as the Junior Museum of Miami, the museum was originally confined to a house on the corner of Biscayne Boulevard and 26th Street. A decade later, it moved to its current headquarters near Vizcaya. Thanks largely to Jack Horkheimer and his trippy Child of the Universe planetarium productions, the Miami Museum of Science became one of the city's most beloved institutions.
By the time Horkheimer retired in 2008, however, the Vizcaya location was falling apart. New Times uncovered asbestos in the building in 2010. And two years later, the museum broke ground on its new building in Bicentennial Park.
Like its neighbor Pérez Art Museum Miami, the science museum is seeking to reinvent itself radically. The new museum consists of four buildings connected by balconies and breezeways. The huge aquarium will be the central showpiece. It will be flanked by two high-tech gallery spaces. A giant, globular planetarium will greet passersby on Biscayne Boulevard.
"We have looked into anything where we have an opportunity to break the mold and do something different," Steslow says. "The shape of the tank alone has never been done before."