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What the buzz is all about: A round-up of what people are saying about the new California Academy of Sciences in SF

By California Beat September 26, 2008 No Comments Print Share

By Tim Jue / Beat Staff Writer

Photo: The New York Times

Read the Beat’s coverage of Saturday’s grand re-opening cremonies here. Read our original story about the grand re-opening of the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park here.

We’re seeing our hit counter go through the roof on the Beat’s posting about the grand re-opening of the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park this Saturday. Clearly, people are interested and they’re fascinated about this unique San Francisco institution moving back to a brand new eco-friendly, state-of-the-art museum complex that boasts an amazing living roof-top.

Last Thursday, the museum hosted an open-house to give members of the media a preview of the new complex. Members of the museum were given their preview day earlier this week too.

For any respectable news organization, anything labeled “sneak peak” is an instant story. So, the Beat has compiled a round-up of what’s being said about this new spectacular facility that will usher in thousands of patrons (for free) this Saturday:

Urban Design Writer John King at the San Francisco Chronicle writes that “this is a building San Francisco is lucky to have.”

In his article, he takes us through, in deep detail the architectural characteristics of the new Academy of Sciences from the 212,000-gallon coral reef exhibit in the remodeled Steinhart Aquarium to the “piazza,” the half glass encased/ half open-air courtyard in the heart of the building.

“What’s distinctive is how everything comes together: You sense an artist’s joy at applying a lifetime’s experience to a rigorous set of new demands,” King writes. “This isn’t yet another museum or corporate statement. It’s a scientific institution that displays living things in a host of overlapping realms.”

So What Do You Think?

On Sunday, The California Beat will open up their comments section so you can tell us about your opening weekend visit to the new California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. Likes, dislikes, and what caught your eye? You can post about it online on our homepage, or e-mail your story, photographs and videos to be posted up.

Even the New York Times came to town to try and interpret what the building’s architect, Renzo Piano, tried to conjure up when he drew the blueprint for the museum.

“The ethereality of the academy’s structure suggests a form of reparations for the great harm humans have done to the natural world,” Times reporter Nicolai Ouroussoff writes. “It is best to tread lightly in moving forward, he seems to say. This is not a way of avoiding hard truths; he means to shake us out of our indolence.”

Bloomberg News Architecture Critic James Russell thought much the same when he took his own stab at interpreting Piano’s curving living roof design.

The New York Times

Photo: The New York Times

“Its overarching messages are the essential role of evolution in the work of the natural sciences and the urgency of addressing global climate change,” he says. “In Piano’s design, the medium is the message.”

Writing for the Register in the United Kingdom, Burke Hansen points out that while “museums,” by nature, deal much with the past, the new Academy of Sciences makes it a point to break from the mold:

“From the undulating “living roof” of native plants that conjures the hills of the surrounding landscape to the rain forest within, the revamped Academy focuses on natural history as it plays out before us in an era of globalization, global warming, and mass extinction – forgoing the dinosaur obsession that’s the bread and butter of so many natural history museums,” he writes.

Inhabitat.com agrees. Along with an impressive photo montage of the Academy, they write: incredible architecture aside, perhaps the most stunning aspect of the revitalized institution is it’s steadfast commitment to a vital, living, and changing study of life. The California Academy of Sciences is a “natural future institution” that looks forward and embraces life rather than cataloging it away in the dark halls of distant history.

Bloggers are also calling the rebirth of the Academy of Sciences an “interesting combination of “Modern” with a more earth-based sensibility,” a place where “native San Franciscans coming back for a taste of nostalgia and leaving with a renewed sense of spellbinding wonder” and an “inspiring reflection on the Academy’s twin themes: the evolution and sustainability of life on Earth.”

And we want to hear from you too. On Sunday, the California Beat will open up a special comments section so you can tell us (and all of our readers) about your own visit to the museum. Share your stories, pictures and videos with us as well by e-mailing them to us so we can feature them on our website.

Until then, opening day is this Saturday at 9:30 a.m. Admission is free for all visitors. It stays open late too, until 9:00 p.m. And be sure to catch the one-hour ABC 7 News documentary “Under the Living Roof” on the new Academy of Sciences airing on Friday evening at 9:00 p.m on KGO-TV Channel 7 in the San Francisco Bay Area and on cable systems in the Monterey Bay.

Online Resources:

Read the Beat’s coverage of Saturday’s grand re-opening cremonies here. Read our original story about the grand re-opening of the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park here.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: You can catch an encore presentation of ‘Under the Living Roof’ in its entirety this Friday evening (Sept. 26) at 9:00 p.m. on ABC 7 (KGO-TV Channel 7 in the San Francisco Bay Area and Monterey Bay) after the Presidential Debates.

California Academy of Sciences

abc7news.com: ‘Under the Living Roof’ Special Documentary clips

On SFGate.com: Special California Academy of Sciences section

NYTimes.com: A Building That Blooms and Grows, Balancing Nature and Civilization

Bloomberg.com: Swamp Things Slither in $488 Million California Science Museum

The Register (UK): California Academy of Sciences: A new lease on life

CNet.com: Photo Gallery of the new museum

Inhabitat.comThe New Green California Academy of Sciences Unveiled!

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