A First Look Into Renzo Piano’s Temple of Green: the New California Academy of Sciences Building


Ready yourself for the next big architectural story to explode in the coming weeks (at least for the critic circles), as Renzo Piano‘s already much discussed California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco opens its doors to the public on Saturday the 27th. The local press, The Mercury News, is one of the first to flock to the building, and they sent Alan Hess to give a full review of this most green of green buildings. Surprising to both Hess and to likely every writer itching to critique the place, as well as us, he discovers that the most discussed element of the new building, the gigantic meadow growing on top of Piano’s creation, “is virtually invisible.” In fact, he finds the whole building, while beautiful and functional, very simple and lacking in the pomp found in the work of other starchitect’s high-profile projects (but isn’t that sort of Piano’s “thing” to begin with?). Here’s a bit:

…The Academy’s vivid symbol of commitment to saving the planet’s resources through green design is almost thrown away.

Underplaying the design may have been a better decision than to create another slouching, lumbering show-stopper like the new de Young, by architects Herzog and deMeuron, who recently gained international attention for their design of the Olympic Stadium in Beijing. San Francisco’s insistence on choosing name-brand architects has not paid off at the de Young, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art by Mario Botta, or the recent Jewish Museum by Daniel Libeskind.

In the end, Hess seems to think this is something of a positive, showing that green building doesn’t have to scream “Look at me! I’m green!” The most important thing, after all, is for the term “green” to be replaced with the phrase “normal,” which something we should probably all start moving toward.

If you’re interested in hitting up the Academy on opening day, the LA Times has a nice rundown on all the details, including what bus you should take to get there (because who wants to show up driving a Hummer to a place like this?).