I ventured with the family to the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park the day after Thanksgiving. No one else, other than the two quarter-mile lines of folks that put Disneyland to shame, had similar ideas.
I had read so much about the largest public LEED Platinum-rated facility on Earth that I wanted to check it out. The green roof, straight out of the “Teletubbies,” is absolutely stunning and it contains over 1.7 million native plants and can capture up to 3.6 million gallons of rainwater.
The other visible main green features that leap out are the reliance on sunlight as the primary illumination source for the museum and the 60,000 photovoltaic cells that integrate so well with the design of the building.
The museum itself was amazing, featuring a pervasive green education ethic, rotating exhibits on climate change and the biodiversity of the Galapagos and Madagascar, and a new take on the old African wildlife diorama exhibit with a live South African penguin exhibit as the crowd favorite.
The new Steinhart Aquarium has a wonderful Philippine reef exhibit, lots of jellies (including the upside down variety), a rainforest aquarium with my favorite freshwater fish (the leaping Arawana), and a good cross section of local marine species. The old Steinhart favorite, the albino alligator, still has an exhibit, but the massive shark roundabout and the aquarium’s amazing African cichlids of Lake Tanganyika were casualties of the new museum.
All in all, the academy is a must-see for green building, environmental education, aquarium and natural history museum fans. But you need to target off hours or wait for the buzz to die down.