The Helical Staircase and Avante Gardens of The Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida 

In a recent visit to The Dalí Museum in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, I was reminded of my nostalgia for a place I was once very close to.

I moved away from St. Pete almost ten years ago and when both my parents relocated, there was no chance to back again during the holidays.

My Dad first took me to the Dalí Museum in 2003 when we were looking into the design program at the University of South Florida. Seeing the museum and the cool downtown location, I made the decision right there to move to St. Pete and go to USF.

Three years spent there and I never even revisited the Dalí Museum once. I always figured it was so close by, there was no rush. Next thing I know, I’m living in New York some years later and I hear about a grand new Dalí Museum going up along the waterfront.

The new Dalí Museum opened in January 2011 and over Thanksgiving 2013 I went back to St. Pete for the first time in years to see the new building. My dad was living back in Florida temporarily, in Punta Gorda at the time. With that one visit it felt like my whole life had been leading up to that point.

From a social media post of mine on November 30, 2013:

“The original Dalí museum is what drew me to the USF St Pete campus back in 2003 when I was deciding between USF and UF, as the museum was part of the student campus. So I moved to St Pete, partly to be close to this museum. It’s been years since I’ve been back to see friends and get the chance to visit the new building and location along the waterfront, still close to the school. When I was there it felt like years… all of the years of my life had led up to this. Overly dramatic, but I loved this place, possibly more than I’ve ever loved New York.”

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The helical staircase and glass bubble 

A glass bubble protrudes along the exterior and interacts with the café and gift shop inside. The windows are tinted and blue, reflecting the Florida palm trees and downtown cityscape. A helical staircase is the centerpiece of its interior, swirling upwards toward the many geodesic triangles that make up glass bubble, their angles pointing in every direction of the sky. 

The mathematical sense of the golden ratio and the nautilus spiral take shape in the staircase structure. They are what help ground the surreal works of Dalí; a man obsessed with the fantastical. His talent for portraying the unreal lives on in everyone’s experience of this museum.

The Avante Gardens and the Dalí Labyrinth 

I have a new memory of sifting through seashells in the garden and walking underneath the wishing tree where entry bracelets of past visitors hang from the branches. This led to circling through the Dali Labyrinth where a single swirling pathway leads to a central point, similar to how the helical staircase inside the museum swirls up to the sky. The labyrinth is another dreamy place in this surreal setting, and I think a nice introduction for kids and families to interact with and understand Dali’s ideas.

Pictures from my 2013 trip to the Dalí Museum.
Inside the labyrinth.
Reminiscing on the persistence of memory.
Under the wishing tree.

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