Renzo Piano's new green museum, the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco is almost finished and what a natural phenomenon it is. Located in famous Golden Gate Park, and housing an aquarium, planetarium, and natural-history museum under two "hills" which are really a two-and-a-half-acre "living roof", the building looks like a part of the park from some views.
As Piano says: "The building had to be green and sustainable to go with its purpose—study of the earth and science. It is also in a very unusual place, the middle of one of the most beautiful parks in the world. You almost never get a chance to build something in the middle of a great park, so it needed to be transparent. You needed to see where you are. Normally, a museum of natural science is created like a theater, so that you can have the exhibits inside. All museums normally are opaque; they are closed, like a kingdom of darkness, and you are trapped inside. But here you need to know about the connection with nature, so almost anywhere you are in this building you can see through to the outside."
In his efforts to make the greenest museum possible Piano is very concerned with energy efficiency and the building has a number of energy saving devices. The 2.5 acres of living roof will absorb nearly two million gallons of rainwater per year that would otherwise go down the drain. During heavy downpours when the living rooftop is at maximum capacity, water will be siphoned off the roof to an underground water table system that will siphon it back into the park.
Piano was determined to build it without air conditioning. Through a complicated system of weather sensors that tell a central computer what motorized windows to open and close, the entire museum is cooled with untreated outside air. Even the skylights automatically pop open to vent hot air. The undulating roofline brings cool air into the open courtyard at the centre of the building, naturally ventilating the surrounding exhibit spaces. The official opening is September 27, 2008. This building is sure to become an essential architectural and environmental stop for anyone looking for good green design. :: Vanity Fair Via :: archnewsnow.com