Written by Alexandra Chipperfield and Dr. Jennifer Lau, under the supervision of Dr. Gaoheng Zhang.
The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco:
The California Academy of Science is a science museum and an architectural masterpiece completed by Piano in 2008. The vision for the structure was to create a single building that would unite the academy’s principal elements: the aquarium, planetarium, natural history museums, three theaters and a rainforest. Currently this is the only building in the world that has been able to house all these features under one roof.
For Piano, the project centers around nature which acts as “the main inspiration for the building”. The roof on the building is described as a “living roof”, it holds 1.7 million native plants that were specifically chosen for being indigenous to California. The plants are to flourish and grow and to provide ventilation for the structure. Interestingly, the plants keep the interior of the building an average 10 degrees fahrenheit cooler than a standard roof would.1
The Piano design team was inspired to create a “web of life” to reflect the identity of the academy. For this reason, different colours and materials were chosen for different structures within the building. The result is an organic building that links the purpose of the facility to the natural world.
As a proponent for beginning every project with a communal space, Piano has carried out this very goal by creating a 183 square meter glass-covered piazza that connects the two museum lobbies. The piazza, in a true Italian sense, acts as a point of convergence among all the unique museum pavilions. Upon entering the building, people immediately find themselves within this multi-function space where they can gather, dine, and participate in community events.