The Greenest Museum on Earth

The California Academy of Sciences consists of 12 different buildings such as the planetarium, aquarium and natural history museum. It is located in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park and is seeking to become the city's greenest building. They hired the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano who is famous for collaborating the Centre Georges Pompidou (Pompidou Center) in Paris, 1977. Renzo unified the 12 buildings to create a single 410,000 square foot building to provide more space but on less land, and return one acre to the park. The main aspect of this project is the two acre undulating "green" roof which is just one of many sustainable qualities that has been implemented on this building.

"It is like cutting a piece out of the park, lifting it up, and then putting the museum under so we wouldn’t lose any green space,” says Olaf de Nooyer, an RPBW partner. With the natural history museum as a client, de Nooyer says, “the green idea was something that we thought had to be integrated into the design.”

The building also houses a spherical (rain forest) biosphere. It heats/cools/ventilates itself and recycled 100% of the materials from the demolition of the old (earthquake damaged) building. It cost $488 million to renovate it. But I guess that's the cost of going green. Renzo also retained the facade of the original academy which appeased san francisco’s perpetually problematic “preservationists.”

Few, if any, buildings of this stature come close to making their sustainability programs comprehensible as well as visually inspiring components of their design. Green buildings often look much like other buildings, though they feature low-flow toilets, off-putting fluorescent lighting, and some recycled steel. The elegance, explicitness, and brio of the academy building’s green agenda—and its powerful execution—will not only bring it accolades and world fame but also serve as a spark for important dialogue about design’s role in addressing the crucial environmental concerns of this century.

I would talk about it in more detail but I believe this video walk-through will describe it better than I ever can. There is so much within one building I wouldn't want to bore you with the "green" details.

Museum Walk-Through on Wired.com

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