The impending grand opening of the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco has been getting a lot of attention. I pass the construction site every morning as I traverse Golden Gate Park, and though progress seems slow, the copper mesh-encased tower is supposedly going to be ready in just two months. In the same location, though much farther from the public radar, the new California Academy of Sciences building is being planned under the masterful design direction of Renzo Piano.
One of the key features of the museum will be an undulating green roof that will mimic the sloping lines of the surrounding landscape. Part of the roof will be accessible to visitors and included as exhibition space, with a glass-enclosed piazza in the middle for year-round use. “Each year, the roof will prevent approximately two million gallons of rainwater from becoming storm-water runoff that carries salt, sand, soil, pesticides, fertilizers, oil, litter, and other pollutants into nearby ecosystems. The roof will provide excellent insulation, improve air quality, and require very little maintenance.” As a green building pilot project for San Francisco, the Academy will include myriad other green design features, such as floor-to-ceiling windows, water reclamation, renewable energy and a smaller footprint. There is even talk of using biofuel for the Academy’s boilers, which would tie nicely into burgeoning biofuel production in San Francisco.
San Francisco-based Gordon H. Chong and Partners will be the architectural team behind Piano’s design, executing the project over the next three years with a projected opening date of 2008. Scientific research and environmental advocacy will take on a more prominent role in the new Academy’s activities, as well as education for students, visitors and community members. The 152-year-old institution is proving that old-age is no reason to fall behind the times. The Academy is not only evolving to keep up with modern matters, it is becoming a model for the future of other scientific and cultural facilities worldwide.