Museo Soumaya

Museo Soumaya

Art Galleries and Museums
Mexico City, Mexico - Build completed in 2011

Museo Soumaya

Geometrica as Manufacturers

Museo Soumaya has a Secret

By Denise Allen Zwicker.

Free-style structure, invisible now, made its unique façade a reality The new Museo Soumaya in Mexico City has been described as “dazzling,” “a trapezoid in motion,” “a shiny silver cloud-like structure reminiscent of a Rodin sculpture,” and “the world’s flashiest museum.” Designed by maverick young architect Fernando Romero, it also was called “impossible to build.” The façade, in particular, presented huge challenges. If anyone could make it happen, it was owner Carlos Slim Helú, the world’s wealthiest man. Slim constructed the museum in 2008-2011 as part of the Plaza Carso, his distinctive multi-use development in Mexico City's Polanco. Slim has noted that, since many Mexicans cannot afford to travel overseas to view art collections, he believed it was important to house a prestigious collection of international art in Mexico. Free to the public, the Soumaya houses more than 60,000 pieces of art on six floors that offer 6,000 square meters of exhibition space. The top-floor sculpture garden, dominated by a spectacular skylight, displays numerous Rodins. Museo Soumaya, named for Slim’s late wife, also contains a 350-seat auditorium, a public library, a gift shop and a café. Each of the floor plans in the museum is distinct in its shape, and the weight of the building is upheld by a skeleton of 28 curved-steel vertical columns and seven floor slabs that frame the whimsical form. The complex, "impossible to build" façade consists of 16,000 shiny aluminum hexagons that appear to “float” on its surface, separated by just millimeters from each other.

"Impossible" must, in this case, take a little shorter

Fernando Romero retained Gehry Technologies (GT), founded by famed architect Frank Gehry, to coordinate the complex 3-D engineering of the building. The firm is known for its Digital Project™ software, a suite of powerful building-information modeling and management tools. “This software enables engineers to visualize all construction disciplines in one tridimensional model, preventing conflict and allowing real-time changes,” said Roel Castaño, Geometrica vice president. “Its use permits a structure as arbitrary as this one to be combined with detailed ground-level design, elevator cubes, electricity, hydraulics, lighting and even finishes." Using its software, GT developed most of the engineering verification requested by Romero. Yet, even for GT, the façade was a daunting challenge. “GT, with its virtual model, demonstrated that it could visualize the hexagons in the right position,” noted Castaño. “However, it is not always apparent how to transform the graphics into solid construction." The surface orientation and curvature varied at every point, sometimes minimally, which complicated the design of the façade. This and other difficulties made a secondary structure necessary—one based on seemingly impossible requirements: Adapt to the true form of the construction without significantly changing the spatial model created by Gehry Technologies. Shape both the exterior and the interior walls of the museum, which must be no more than a few millimeters from the column surfaces. Smooth out any surface irregularities and remain continuous from ground to roof as well as all around the entire envelope of the building. Precisely define the position and orientation of each of thousands of different hexagons. Adapt to variations in structural shape due to the generous construction tolerances of the steel and concrete superstructure. Design, fabricate and erect on a fast-track, short schedule, simultaneously with the construction of the rest of the building. Geometrica proposes a free-style structure At the beginning of 2010, already two years into the three-year construction schedule, the Romero and Gehry team was still searching for a solution. Among several responses to proposal requests, it was the one presented by Houston-based Geometrica, Inc. that met every one of the "impossible" requirements, and was selected for the job in February 2010.

Geometrica used its own custom software to design the 10,000 m2 façade. To adapt the secondary structure to the real form of the primary one, Geometrica used laser topography to feed the real shape to the reticular structural model, enabling its engineers to modify the GT geometry only in the required locations. This topography and associated design took place in five gradual stages, in tandem with the main construction process. The structural components for each stage were only manufactured after the adaptations were fed into Geometrica's software, which then fed the final work orders into its manufacturing line. Meeting the construction deadline was another serious concern and required sophisticated logistics. Each of the five stages required independent, detailed engineering not only for fabrication but also for the erection sequence, staged in coordination with other trades working in the building. Another complicating factor was that the secondary structure had to be installed without support on the ground, but instead by hanging it from the main structure. Installation of nearly 100,000 distinct tube parts took place using local, unskilled crews working around the building -- and around the clock. Geometrica produced 16,000 galvanized-steel panels, in the shape of rhombuses, to form the deck of the façade. A two-layer waterproofing membrane was applied on top of these rhombuses. The structure connectors provided supports for the fittings to which the 16,000 aluminum hexagons would attach at their centers, giving Romero's desired “floating” look over the building envelope. The secret is out... and "in" The result was amazing. Each element fit just as predicted on the computer screen. Today, the museum’s galvanized elements shine, accentuating its playful shape. The façade’s precision makes the surface look like snug lace, obscuring the 28 supporting columns. In the finished building, the beautiful, secret, secondary structure cannot be seen beneath the hexagons; it sacrifices its personality to achieve Romero's architectural goal. "The Geometrica team demonstrated its capabilities in engineering the complex envelope-façade and enabling innovative architectural solutions", said the Architect. A Wall Street Journal article described the result this way: “Encased in glimmering aluminum, the building rises up 150 feet, before it canopies like an oversize mushroom thought up by Magritte. The façade is a honeycomb of shiny silver hexagons. The structure is top-heavy, almost threatening to tip itself over in this city of earthquakes. Passersby look up, half curious, half concerned.” Passersby perhaps cannot appreciate the paradigm-shattering technology that made this building a reality. However, this "secret" structure will enable architects worldwide to play with shapes and forms that seemed impossible before. Today, Museo Soumaya is a reality and the secret is . . . actually . . . in.

Soumaya Museum,

FR-EE Fernando Romero Enterprise as Architects

containers for art – or as iconic structures that represent a city at a particular historic moment. The Museo Soumaya was designed as both: a sculptural building that is unique and contemporary, yet one able to house a collection of international paintings, sculptures, and decorative objects dating from the fourteenth century to the present. The exterior of the building is an amorphous shape perceived differently from every angle, reflecting the diversity of the collection inside. The building’s distinctive façade is made of hexagonal aluminum modules facilitating its preservation and durability. The shell is constructed with steel columns of different diameters, each with its own geometry and shape, creating non-linear circulation paths for the visitor. The building encompasses 20,000 square meters of exhibition space divided among five floors, as well as an auditorium, café, offices, gift shop, and multipurpose lobby. The top floor is the largest space in the museum, with its roof suspended from a cantilever that allows in natural daylight.

Museo Soumaya

ypasa as Sub-Contractor

Ypasa involvement begins immediately after the construction of the structure of the museum, which is wrapped with a 3D surface to hold the elements of both the front and interior. Outside: the galvanized clamped tridilosa, which was waterproofed and placed a tripod which is anchored hexagonal panels.

How to solve the problem within? The first requirement is that of a monolithic wall with irregular curves Can not be used on drywall tridilosa by the characteristics of the surface and the material itself. The first problem that arose was the displacement of tridilosa down as a skirt. Was that resolving thermal, since multiple layers of conductive materials such as metal and the sheet structures, and color space would waterproofing hot.

Gypsum panels are placed with EIFS (Exterior Insulation Finishing System), whose operation is described below:


To solve the problem, we needed a flexible panel quality that the traditional drywall did not provide, however, based on the EIFS system, together with Panel Ypasa Rey latter Ypasa trading partner for just over 40 years develop PERMAFLEX panel or FLEX PERMABASE whose substrate containing polystyrene particles that make it flexible to respond to all requests.

To place the wall was required structural channels and channels tridilosa fastened to each 30 or 40 cm, upon which the panel is put PERMAFLEX. Then he adds a cementitious paste called Basecoat adhering polystyrene which is given an accommodation cuatrapeado. Once done, the sandpaper to refine polystyrene boards and there are no edges that can affect the final result, it is noteworthy that Ypasa also handled the thermal calculation for the thickness of polystyrene. above polystyrene because sanding is placed another layer of basecoat along with a mesh with 200 ° of elasticity, ready for finishing. Before this process, spraying a spray that is embedded and expands inside the tridilosa, this thermal insulation purposes. It is worth mentioning that Ypasa originally proposed this system to be applied on the facade, this, before the development of PERMAFLEX, solution was used inside the museum.

It should be emphasized that this technology was developed by two companies whose engineering is 100% Mexican.


La participación de Ypasa comienza inmediatamente después de la construcción de la estructura del museo, la cual se envuelve con una “tridilosa” para sujetar los elementos tanto de la fachada como del interior. Al exterior: de la tridilosa se sujetó lámina galvanizada, la cual fue impermeabilizada y se colocaron unos trípodes de los que se anclaron los paneles hexagonales.

¿Cómo resolver el problema al interior? El primer requerimiento es el de un muro monolítico con curvas irregulares No se puede usar panel de yeso sobre la tridilosa por las características de la superficie y del material mismo. El primer problema que se presentó fue el desplazamiento de la tridilosa hacia abajo, tal como una falda. Había que resolver la cuestión térmica, ya que las múltiples capas de materiales conductores como el metal de las estructuras y la lámina, y el color del impermeabilizante harían el espacio muy caliente.

Los paneles de yeso se colocan con el sistema EIFS (Exterior Insulation Finishing System), cuyo funcionamiento se describe a continuación:


Para resolver el problema, se necesitaba de un panel flexible, cualidad que el panel de yeso tradicional no brindaba, no obstante, basados en el sistema EIFS, Ypasa en conjunto con Panel Rey, este último aliado comercial de Ypasa durante poco más de 40 años desarrollan el panel PERMAFLEX o PERMABASE FLEX cuyo sustrato contiene partículas de poliestireno que lo hacen flexible para poder dar respuesta a todos los requerimientos.

Para colocar el muro fue necesario disponer canales y canaletas estructurales sujetadas a la tridilosa a cada 30 o 40 cm, sobre las que se pone el panel PERMAFLEX. Posteriormente se le agrega una pasta cementosa llamada Basecoat que adhiere el poliestireno al que se le da un acomodo cuatrapeado. Una vez hecho esto, el poliestireno se lija para afinar las juntas y que no queden bordes que puedan afectar al acabado final, cabe mencionar que Ypasa también se encargó del cálculo térmico para el espesor del poliestireno. encima del poliestireno, ya lijado se coloca otra capa de Basecoat junto con una malla con 200° de elasticidad, listo para recibir el acabado final. Antes de todo este proceso, se rocía un spray que se incrusta y expande al interior de la tridilosa, esto con fines de aislamiento térmico. Merece la pena mencionar que originalmente Ypasa propuso este sistema para aplicarse en la fachada, esto, anterior al desarrollo de PERMAFLEX, solución que fue utilizada en el interior del museo.

Resulta necesario resaltar que esta tecnología fue desarrollada por dos empresas cuya ingeniería es 100% mexicana.

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