After bike-lurking by month after month, year after three years, watching the wildflowers grow on the rolling roof hills and imagining what lies within, the wait for the California Academy of Sciences museum to open is finally, Finally! (close to) over. This weekend, behold the world’s only aquarium/planetarium/natural history museum under one very gorgeous living roof.
The building itself, designed by Renzo Piano, is a masterwork of green architecture, with glass walls looking out onto the park, trapping all the passive heat their little panes can allow and lighting up 90% of the interior office space. Then it’s got 60,000 photovoltaic cells producing 10% of its electricity, walls insulated with shredded blue jeans, and special sensors to adjust the lights and ventilating skylights according to the time of day and weather. Visually, it manages to seamlessly combine the existing OG temple-like facade with all the glass and steel we’ve come to expect and love from a proper modern museum.
Inside, word has reached us fervent snoopers that we’ll find a 65-foot tall rain forest fed by actual misting rain, a 300-seat planetarium, 20 live penguins hobbling about the African Hall, an living coral reef, and an indoor swamp complete with snapping turtles and an albino alligator named Claude. Also, there is a whole team of resident *human* naturalists ready to play show-and-tell and willing to identify all the backyard specimens you can throw their way.
The somewhat understandable bummer is that all this comes with a whopping $24.95 price tag for adult entry. So I suggest you take advantage of the free admission offer going on this opening weekend. I’m sure it’ll be packed, but then there will also be kid-friendly pop from the Sippy Cups, outdoor climbing walls, and performances by the SF Opera and ODC.
Down the line, the museum will be instituting a really good idea which is that they will offer neighborhood free days when locals can visit free of cost on a rotating schedule according to your zip code. For Mission dwellers, that means that October 23, 24 and 25 and May 1, 2, and 3 are our days to descend, awkward pegged jeans, neon, ironic 80’s T-shirts worn with strictest seriousness, and all.
For a sneak peak of the wonders within, get the low down on sea horses, the incredible, man-mothering creatures of the deep, from Academy researcher Healy Hamilton.