California Academy of Sciences
The Museum, in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, extends green, sustainable architecture in unprecedented ways. Pritzker laureate Renzo Piano's airy, luminous building replaces the original 150-year-old San Francisco institution, damaged in the 1989 earthquake, but preserves an original Neoclassical limestone façade from the beloved African Hall (where South African penguins now cavort) within a sleek glass-and-concrete building. The innovative plan combines energy-efficient technology - a "living roof" of native California plants provides the building with natural insulation and prevents 3 million gallons of rainwater runoff annually - with state-of-the-art exhibitions. The largest of the seven undulating "hills" on the roof form the skylight-studded tops of two 90-food domes. One houses the biggest all-digital planetarium in the world, which employs real-time data from NASA to show spectators cosmic events as they take place in space. Under the other, visitors explore rain-forest habitats, from the canoby (butterflies, macaws, and fruit bats) down to ponds filled with fish (piranhas and electric eels) from the Amazon. The watery world is a centerpiece of the Academy's Steinhart Aquarium, whihc now contains a wave-shaped tank wall filled with exotic sea creatures. Piano has also recast other elements of the original Academy, including coffered ceilings and the former aquarium's Doric colonnade - seamlessly integrating the museum's past and its earth-friendly future.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.