P2S Engineering team brings Frank Gehry’s Biomuseo to life in Panama

September 24th, 2014 |


The awe-inspiring Biomuseo/Museum of Diversity in Panama, designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, will open to the public on October 2 after 11 years of construction. P2S provided mechanical/electrical/plumbing (MEP) and commissioning support for the colorfully elaborate structure, which features curved, jutting and angular spaces as diverse as the life system it represents.

The Biomuseo tells the story of how the isthmus of Panama rose from the sea, uniting two continents, separating an ocean, and changing the planet’s biodiversity in dramatic ways. It is located at a preeminent location: the entrance to the Panama Canal.

Architect Frank Gehry is best known for his work on world-famous buildings like the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain. He’s also working on the high-profile design of the new Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, California. P2S mechanical and plumbing engineer Michael Gilmore, LEED AP, was connected to him via a mutual engineering friend and has been visiting the Panama site since design began back in 2000.

“The structure is the culmination of much hard work by many people – both here and in Panama,” Gilmore said. “It was an honor to work on a project designed by Frank Gehry, especially knowing how iconic the building will likely become for the country of Panama.”

Construction on the 4,000-square-meter building took such a long time because of the intricacy of the Gehry design, Gilmore says. The curves and shapes of his buildings often present unique design challenges, and Gilmore and his team were up for the task.

Throughout the process, Gilmore worked with scaled models to determine possible design issues, and adjusted the models until proper engineering solutions were found. In addition to the challenges presented by the unique building design, Gilmore says the climate in Panama also presented its own unique set of concerns.

“Humidity control was key to many of our design decisions,” Gilmore says. “This is a building with eight galleries and many important exhibits and displays. It was important to ensure that the surrounding environment did not interfere with the quality of those investments.”

Over the years, Gilmore and his team had the chance to work with many world-class consultants as part of the project, including Ted Maranda, who engineered the Biomuseo’s 300,000-gallon aquarium and has worked on other high-profile projects such as the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work on what is absolutely a once-in-a-lifetime building,” Gilmore says. “I was proud to represent P2S as part of this project.”

A ceremonial dedication for the building will take place September 30, ahead of the public opening on October 2.