California Academy of Sciences
by Rachel Grossman
Renzo Piano demonstrates a mastery of light throughout his work. At the new California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, he exhibits the same care lighting a museum of the natural world as he has in lighting some of the world's finest art collections.
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In addition to demonstrating Piano's aesthetic and technical artistry, the new Academy building exemplifies deep sensitivity to site and environment. This great building recently received LEED Platinum certification, and won a silver-level Holcim Award for Sustainable Construction in 2005.
In the 1970s, Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers revolutionized how people viewed museums with the Centre George Pompidou in Paris.
Piano again sets a precedent in the museum world with a large-scale project that emphasizes "green" design. This 410,000-square-foot (38,000-square-meter) building, designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop with local partner Stantec Architecture (formerly Chong Partners Architecture), provides a new home for the California Academy of Sciences — a combined aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum, and scientific research institution.
The new Academy building is an elegant pavilion structure with a living roof that appears to float over skinny steel supports. At the building's center is a glass-roofed piazza. The overall design is marked by open, flexible exhibit spaces with sight lines to the surrounding park.
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