A Visual Trip to the Academy of Sciences

Last summer, Bill Brennan, AIA, LEED AP took a trip to San Francisco to visit the California Academy of Sciences and today our office got a virtual tour! During a lunchtime presentation, Bill showed the staff photographs from his journey. The Academy, located in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, is one of the world’s largest museums of natural history. It reopened in 2008 after a $500 million renovation and addition designed by Renzo Piano, which earned LEED™ Platinum certification. The 400,000 SF building houses an aquarium, a planetarium and a 4-story rainforest!

We were most impressed with how the Academy truly puts “science on display.” This is a concept that drives many of our designs of undergraduate science facilities. Science on Display is the celebration of science through showcasing student projects, scientific art, scientific collections, as well as the actual work going on inside the laboratories, throughout the building. We thought the Academy did it particularly well at their Birds and Mammals exhibit. Outside of the door, there was a flat screen TV showing a live video of a scientist dissecting a bird inside. You can’t get too much closer to the real thing!

We were also fascinated by the building’s many sustainable design features, including its green roof which, to me, looks like the landscape for a Smurfs show. Bulbous rolling hills cross the expanse of the roof and circular skylights steal views to the interior.

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