California Academy of Sciences Project Cover
Ph.: © Chuck Choi Architectural Photography

California Academy of Sciences

San Francisco, CA | USA
Business Area
Permasteelisa, Gartner
Design ArchitectRenzo Piano Building Workshop, architects
in collaboration withStantec
Ph.: © Renzo Piano
The Concept

The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco is one of the few Natural Science Institutes where the public experience is directly related to in-house scientific research, done in the same building, since its foundation. The new Academy is designed on the same site of the previous facility in Golden Gate Park. This project required the demolition of most of the 11 existing buildings, built between 1916 and 1976.


Sustainability is also part of the exhibition design, the exhibition philosophy, and its day-to-day operation. The building retains the former Academy’s location and orientation, and like the original Academy, all functions are organized around central Piazza - covered by a partly open filigree skylight -, or courtyard -. The new Academy consumes 30% less energy than required by federal code. 5,000 sqm (55,000 sq ft) of photovoltaic cells in the steel/glass roof supply almost 213,000 kWh of energy (about 5% of the new Academy’s energy needs), and prevent the release of more than 405,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. The planted roof provides a thermal insulating layer for the building that help prevent overheating during the summer months and reduce energy needs for air-conditioning.

The Bolla, a fully glazed, spherical, steel pipe dome construction - 27 m (89 ft) in diameter - contains a simulated rain forest biosphere that can be viewed by the public. The project is LEED Platinum®.

The Project
Scope of Work

Various metal and glass systems, piazza skylight, custom-made circular skylights, Bolla.

Wall System Aluminium Curtain Wall: supply of 350 no. prefabricated Aluminium wall framing units, including fixed and operable windows and motorized vents, completed with retractable exterior roller shades on site.
Wall System Steel Window Walls: the entrance areas and the walls facing the inner courtyard (Piazza) have been developed as welded steel mullion/ glass structures. Due to their size the rotating wing openings in the façade were provided with electric drives. Structurally the steel mullions are stabilized in plane by tensioned external stainless steel rods to the main structure.

Wall System Canopy: at the level of the landscape roof the building is provided with an all surrounding steel / glass Canopy. Supporting welded steel columns with trusses and beams carry a 4.800 sqm (51,700 sq ft) glazed area of which ~1/3 of all glass panes are used as modules for an integrated photovoltaic system. 

Technical Details
Ph.: © Chuck Choi Architectural Photography
Ph.: © Chuck Choi Architectural Photography
California Academy of Sciences bolla
Ph.: © Chuck Choi Architectural Photography
California Academy of Sciences skylight
Ph.: © Chuck Choi Architectural Photography
California Academy of Sciences canopy photovoltaic cells
Ph.: © Chuck Choi Architectural Photography

OWNER: California Academy of Science, Golden Gate Park

DESIGN ARCHITECT: Renzo Piano Building Workshop in collaboration with Stantec

CONTRACTOR: Webcor Builders


More Information

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