Mike Chino

The New Green California Academy of Sciences Unveiled!

by , 09/22/08

california academy of sciences, san francisco california academy of sciences, renzo piano, sustainable architecture, green building, leed platinum museum, green roof, solar panels

After nearly a decade in the making, Renzo Piano’s California Academy of Sciences is set to open this week – and Inhabitat recently took a sneak peak inside the incredible new institution! A crowning achievement of sustainable architecture, the Academy will house 38,000 live animals and is on track to receive LEED platinum. It is currently the only institution in the world to feature an aquarium, a natural history museum, a living rainforest, a planetarium, and world-class research and education programs – all housed under a 2.5 acre green roof. Read on for a tour of the museum’s many splendors!


california academy of sciences, san francisco california academy of sciences, renzo piano, sustainable architecture, green building, leed platinum museum, green roof, solar panels

california academy of sciences, san francisco california academy of sciences, renzo piano, sustainable architecture, green building, leed platinum museum, green roof, solar panelsphoto by Peter Kaminski

In designing the revitalized Academy, Renzo Piano sought to distance it from traditional museums, which he saw as “kingdoms of darkness”. This effort is immediately evident upon entering the Academy’s doors, where one is presented with an immense inner courtyard that suffuses the entire structure with light. An undulating skylight ceiling boasts complex concavities and hanging panels that distribute daylight, while an extremely efficient natural ventilation system effectively balances the entire structure’s disparate climate zones.

california academy of sciences, san francisco california academy of sciences, renzo piano, sustainable architecture, green building, leed platinum museum, green roof, solar panels

From the foyer we ascended several staircases and were presented with the Academy’s expansive 2.5 acre green roof. Its rolling series of hills and valleys are modeled upon San Francisco’s natural landscape, and the roof’s native plants absorb 90-98% of the building’s rainfall. All around the roof’s edges runs an encircling halo of photovoltaic cells, providing 60kW of electricity – enough to supply 5-10% of the structure’s energy needs.

california academy of sciences, san francisco california academy of sciences, renzo piano, sustainable architecture, green building, leed platinum museum, green roof, solar panels

california academy of sciences, san francisco california academy of sciences, renzo piano, sustainable architecture, green building, leed platinum museum, green roof, solar panels

A transparent four-story dome in the Museum’s east wing houses the Academy’s stunning “Rainforests of the World” exhibit, complete with flying birds, insects, butterflies, and frogs hidden amidst the verdant green vegetation. Conceived as a “celebration of life”, the exhibit will grow and change as its ecosystem develops – in three to five years the dome’s flora will enshroud it beneath an ethereal rainforest canopy.

california academy of sciences, san francisco california academy of sciences, renzo piano, sustainable architecture, green building, leed platinum museum, green roof, solar panels

From the peak of the rainforest one descends down a glass elevator into the Academy’s extensive aquatic exhibits. An incredible acrylic tunnel serves as the gateway, exposing the inner workings of the Amazonian flooded forest.

california academy of sciences, san francisco california academy of sciences, renzo piano, sustainable architecture, green building, leed platinum museum, green roof, solar panels

The Academy’s Philippine aquarium is home to the largest indoor coral reef exhibit in the world. The 212,000 gallon tank is flush with over two thousand species of fish, and the reef was grown entirely from pieces of coral that were either cultivated or purchased from other aquariums.

california academy of sciences, san francisco california academy of sciences, renzo piano, sustainable architecture, green building, leed platinum museum, green roof, solar panels

Incredible architecture aside, perhaps the most stunning aspect of the revitalized institution is it’s steadfast commitment to a vital, living, and changing study of life. The California Academy of Sciences is a “natural future institution” that looks forward and embraces life rather than cataloging it away in the dark halls of distant history. As executive director Greg Farrington remarked, the museum seeks to explore “how we got here, and how are we going to find a way to stay”.

Photos by Mike Chino. For more, check out Inhabitat’s Flickr feed >

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12 Comments

  1. youcef December 6, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    merciiii

  2. Natural Science Center ... October 28, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    [...] Architects, who won the award to design the science center in 2007, created a building that caters to students, children and the various programs that take [...]

  3. Tamara Hisham October 20, 2010 at 6:41 am

    The best project to show the combination between the inside and outside beauty, I agree how each of the 3 main hills of the roof encloses the 3 main things: aquarium, planetarium, and rain forest is a successful approach. Beautiful complex announce the complexity of function, represented by a very simple exterior, applying the architect vision when he said: “I try to get at the fundamental emotion of a site,” The roof design “is like lifting up a piece of the park and putting a building under it.”

  4. Architect Magazine Unve... July 28, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    [...] survey for the G-List announced the California Academy of Sciences by Renzo Piano Workshop as the top green building of the 21st century. What do you think about the [...]

  5. TONY QUIYOU November 24, 2009 at 9:02 am

    I FIRST SAW THIS PROJECT ON A DOCUMENTRY SOME YEARS BACK AND I WAS TOTALLY BLOWN AWAY. SINCE THEN I THINKERED WITH THE IDEA OF A GREEN BUILDING FOR A VERY LARGE PROJECT I AM TRYING TO PUT TOGETHER. THE PROJECT IS AN AQUATIC PARK, THE BUILDING IN QUESTION WOULD THE AQUARIUM.
    PS. I WONDER IF WE CAN AFFORD THE SERVICES OF MR. RENZO PIANO.

  6. CadeRageous September 23, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    I am so excited that such a cool thing is being built within blocks of where I live! I knew it was being built, but I had no idea what was going into it.

    I love the architecture, and how each of the 3 main hills of the roof enclose the 3 main things: aquarium, planetarium, and rain forest. Wow… I’m so impressed. I never allowed myself to watch the Teletubbies for more than 3 minutes total ever, and fortunately this will outlast that horrid show and only be a faint and horrible dream for those of you scarred. I think if you ever visit this place you’ll never remember the reference because it will become forgotten.

  7. steamfire September 23, 2008 at 10:27 am

    Why didn’t you show us any pictures relating to the Planetarium? You seem a little biased toward the local habitat, there’s a little more out there to be concerned with than just your own planetary backyard you know.

  8. Sunlei September 22, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    I pray those are live horses standing next to the pond, in the picture above?

  9. PaTrond PaTrond September 22, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    Wow :( I really really really really really wished I studied on a academy with an architecture and interior like that *crying of jellausy* Got to be a very good indoorclimate in that building at the day, plants making O2 at day, unfortantly using its glucosis (don’t know what (Photosyntesis??) and “the simlar word to sugar is”) =S BUT: This is how a lot more places should been inspired by, I could easily relased in that climate and enjoyed looking at it, it’s a beatiful complex.

    Haha, the exterior aint that nice I agree =D Yep, it reminds me about Teletubbies too.

  10. Inhabitat » Crist... September 22, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    [...] blends in with its geography while allowing it to take advantage of the region’s winds for passive ventilation. Underground pipes provide access to geothermal heat for chilly winters. Guillermo Hevia’s [...]

  11. schmack September 22, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    Beautiful building, but am I crazy that the roof looks inspired by the Teletubbies home?

  12. Fair Trade Fair Trade September 22, 2008 at 11:03 am

    What an absolutely incredible building – inspiringly beautiful.

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