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Exhibits currently on display

California Academy of Sciences

Companies: Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Arup, Stantec Architecture, SWA

Industry: Architecture, Engineering & Construction

A natural science museum goes to great heights to showcase the fragile ecosystems it houses.

Conceptual design

Renzo Piano Building Workshop set out to create a museum that would be the epitome of nature meeting science.

Design development

A team of more than 20 engineers from Arup handled all of the structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, lighting, and facade systems. The 3D design tools in AutoCAD software helped structural engineers model the geometry of the 2.5-acre living roof to ensure precise construction of systems for water conservation, power generation, wind and ventilation dynamics, and sunlight penetration to support a coral reef and a rain forest.


Structural experts used 3D models to test the steel frame’s capability to support the sodden soil, and engineers created precise simulations to ensure that the skylight domes optimize the flow of natural light into the building’s core.


With the largest living roof in the world, 7 structural domes, glass skylights, and a photovoltaic canopy, the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park was made sustainable from the top down by Renzo Piano Building Workshop (in collaboration with Stantec Architecture, Arup, and SWA).