Posted by laura on Nov 16 2008 | Awesome, Fun

Saturday morning we finally checked out the recently re-opened Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. We’d heard it was absolutely amazing. What we hadn’t heard was that they actually built it in Teletubby land.


Ok seriously – this living roof is absolutely phenomenal. Approximately 1.7 million plants over a 2.5 acre roof provide wildlife habitats and insulation for the building. On their website, they claim that the academy is the greenest museum in the world, and there’s an impressive outline of all the “Green Building Features” in the newsroom section. 

Let’s just have a moment on the architecture, if we can. I say ‘if’ because the architecture is so mind boggling to me that (to pull out an old saw) I’m not sure I have enough time to make this brief.

The new museum was designed by Renzo Piano, and there’s a great review in the New York Times that’s worth checking out, and it includes a slide show which gives some beautiful shots where you can actually see the building. The day we went the museum was breathtakingly crowded, which made me slow to take in the shape of the place in all the noise and distraction and fear of losing one of the kids. I really thought we had a good chance of losing one of them. There were people everywhere.

There’s a lot to say about the museum, so I’ll just focus on one of the aspects I admired most. It seemed that different elements in the architecture were interacting with each other in a lifelike way. For example – the overall impression of the building as I entered was long, strong and rectangular. Inside this huge long box are two spheres, 90 feet tall, that are buildings within the building. One is the planetarium and the other houses a rain forest. When you go up to the roof, you can see the forms of these spheres pushing up into the roof, like they’re rising or lifting the blanket of plants overhead. There are some areas with a distinctly classical feel to them, but the pristine white rows of columns and arches are interrupted by the occasional tree bursting out between them. The floor in places seems carved away by a river, and stingrays glide underfoot.

These are just a few examples, but whole effect of the building is that it’s bursting and teeming with life. The museum doesn’t just contain and display science; it is science. It’s a breathing, growing, perspiring, saving, thinking building. The architecture and the exhibit design demonstrate it by pushing and pulling into each other, and I find myself asking questions, which I believe is what it is all about.

Have a look at the rain forest sphere:


You can see the people inside looking out.

Here are some shots from the aquarium:

The kids had a terrific time looking around at everyth-WATCH OUT, HONEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



The past three days have been sunny, 75 degrees, warm and lovely. Here are two De Young museum shots – one from the roof of the Academy of Sciences and one from the tower of the De Young. Check out the crystal clear day.

It was a remarkable, fascinating visit. I’ll leave you with one more shot of the De Young, on our way out.

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