California Academy Of Sciences
The new California Academy of Sciences houses the Kimball Natural History Museum, Steinhart Aquarium and Morrison Planetarium, along with eight scientific research departments and over 20 million scientific specimens.
The design unifies the Academy’s original array of twelve buildings, which were built over eight decades, into a single modern landmark that places a visual and intellectual emphasis on the natural world.
Topped with a 2.5-acre living roof the new California Academy of Sciences employs a wide range of energy-saving materials and technologies.
With the new Academy, we have created a museum that is visually and functionally linked to its natural surroundings, metaphorically lifting up a piece of the park and putting a building underneath.
Piano’s design was inspired by the concept of metaphorically lifting up a piece of the park and sliding the museum underneath. Only one difference would exist between the plants on the roof and the surrounding vegetation: the roof plants would all be native to the northern California coast. To select the species for the new Academy roof, Academy botanist Frank Almeda worked with a team of architects and living roof experts.
Steep undulations in the roofline roll over the Academy’s domed planetarium, rainforest, and aquarium exhibits, echoing the topography of the building’s setting and evoking the interdependence of biological and earth systems.
The iconic hills on the roof were designed not only for visual impact but also for energy conservation. These hills, which feature slopes in excess of 60 degrees, will draw cool air into the open piazza at the center of the building, naturally ventilating the surrounding exhibit spaces.
Strategically placed skylights will automatically open and close to allow heat to escape through the tops of the domes. These skylights will also allow sunlight to reach the living rainforest and coral reef exhibits below, reducing the energy requirements for artificial lighting.
The dramatic four-story “Rainforests of the World exhibit will offer a vertical journey through four different rainforest habitats.
Padded with six inches of soil, the roof will provide excellent insulation, keeping interior temperatures about 10 degrees cooler than a standard roof and reducing low frequency noise by 40 decibels. It will also decrease the urban heat island effect, staying about 40 degrees cooler than a standard roof. Moreover, it will absorb about 98% of all storm water, preventing up to 3.6 million gallons of runoff from carrying pollutants into the ecosystem each year.
The roof is bordered by a glass canopy containing nearly 60,000 photo voltaic cells, which will produce over 5 percent of the Academy’s annual energy needs and prevent the release of over 405,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions each year. These photo voltaic cells, clearly visible in the glass canopy, provide both shade and visual interest for the visitors below.
Piano’s goal was to create a sense of transparency and connectedness between the building and the park through both a careful selection of materials and a thoughtful arrangement of space. Glass is used extensively in the exterior walls, allowing visitors to look through the museum to the surrounding green space of the park along both the east-west axis and the north-south axis of the building. The glass, which is manufactured in Germany, is famous for its especially clear composition.
To enhance the open, airy feeling created by the glass, Piano designed the central support columns to be extremely slender. A series of carefully configured cables will prevent these slim columns from bending. The concrete for the walls and floors is untreated, continuing the emphasis on natural materials.
Museums are not usually transparent, they are opaque, they are closed. They are like a kingdom of darkness, and you are trapped inside. You don’t see where you are. But here we are in the middle of a beautiful park, Golden Gate Park, so you want to look out and know where you are.
The site is located directly across from the new de Young museum, which opened in October 2005 and was designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron. The architectural dialogue between the two buildings and their unique responses to the environment of Golden Gate Park furthers San Francisco’s growing role in supporting groundbreaking architecture and design.
Artist Maya Lin was selected by the Academy and the San Francisco Arts Commission to create two public art installations within or around the new Academy in a publicly-accessible space.
The new Academy is one of ten pilot “green building” projects of the San Francisco Department of the Environment, part of a vanguard initiative to develop models for workable, sustainable public architecture. The new Academy will optimize use of resources, minimize environmental impacts, and serve as an educational model by demonstrating how humans can live and work in environmentally-responsible ways.
|CITY||San Francisco, California|
|LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT||SWA Group|