Making Waves

Aluminum Fins Give Miami Beach Convention Center a Striking Entrance

By Jordan Scott

The redesigned Miami Beach Convention Center opened to the public in 2018 after undergoing major façade changes. The updated convention center exterior features 507 fins with approximately 32 different profiles made of angled aluminum linear forms that resemble the nearby ocean waves.

The $620 million transformation of the original 1989 façade was designed by lead architect Fentress Architects, based in Denver; façade design and associate architect Arquitectonica, based in Miami; and landscape architect West 8, based in New York.

The aluminum fins create a curtainwall screen that responds to the solar orientation of each façade to maximize shading from the sun. The fins also provide a dynamic movement and curvilinear undulation reminiscent of waves on the Miami beaches.

“The architectural aluminum and stainless steel used in the construction of the iconic façade of Miami Beach Convention Center allowed a flowing expression of the building surroundings. These metals provided the perfect solution for a hurricane-resistant system in this salt rich environment,” says John Kudrycki, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, principal at Fentress Architects. “Building information modeling allowed the design team to communicate directly with the fabricator, saving time and expense for both.”

Kudrycki says the architecture firms combined the idea of a wave motion with an element that would shade the building façade and reduce heating loads on the building. This led to the fin approach, which involves 507 fins in a number of different orientations: angled, vertical and horizontal.

“Once we looked at a number of different options in regard to spacing, angles and materials, we came up with a 3-D model that we did in Revit …,” says Kudrycki. “We tried to pick the one that Projectswas the most effective and cost-effective. We were thinking all along that this would be an aluminum system similar to the face of the curtainwall, with the same kind of finish.”

The custom parametric software automated the convention center’s design and the fins’ production to form an efficient exchange of information between the architect and fabricator. The fins were custom fabricated by Sentech Architectural Systems, based in Austin, Texas, and installed by glazing contractor Harmon Inc., based in Bloomington, Minn. Fentress Architects worked with Sentech and Harmon to bring the complicated design of the fins to life. According to Kudrycki, trading electronic files, including Revit, Rhinoceros and even Excel files, made documentation much simpler.

“We tried to standardize them as much as possible but obviously it was a random approach. The transfer of information there where they could use our files for the beginning of their fabrication was a significant savings,” he says.

Hurricane Resistance

Located in Miami-Dade County, hurricane resistance was vital to the Miami Beach Convention Center. The project team conducted a wind tunnel study which tested the façade’s ability to withstand windloads without creating objectionable noises during standard wind events so there wouldn’t be disturbances for the building occupants.

“We did both of those and, working with Sentech, we can up with thickness of material and also configurations,” says Kudrycki.

The project team segmented the curtainwall so that structural members were able to poke through the curtainwall to carry the fin system. It is carried from column to outriggers to rails, which Kudrycki says attach to the fins in at least three points horizontally. The fins include stain-less steel and a Kynar-finished aluminum, giving the team the flexibility to use a number of different mounting methods such as stainless steel struts, cables and connectors, to stabilize the fins so they act as a unit.

With the project located two blocks from the ocean, stainless steel and aluminum were chosen for their corrosion resistance, which is a requirement in that region.

Jordan Scott is the editor of Architects’ Guide to Glass & Metal. She can be reached at

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